The top five smoggiest metropolitan areas in the U.S. in 2010 were all in California, according to a new report by Environment California. The top area, Riverside-San Bernardino, had 110 smog days, which means that the area had unhealthy air on one out of three days last year. Across California, there were 135 days in 2010 when at least part of the state had smog levels exceeding the health standard.
The top five smoggiest metropolitan areas in the U.S. in 2010, in order, were:
1. Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
2. Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, CA
3. Bakersfield, CA
4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
5. Fresno, CA
Why are all the smoggiest cities in California? The answer is surprisingly simple: California is the most populous state, and a state where driving a car is of prime importance, particularly in Southern California, which has the largest population.
Even though the San Joaquin Valley is one of the least populated areas in the state, its topography (it is completely land-locked) makes it particularly vulnerable to pollution. The San Joaquin Valley is home to one of the state’s main highways, Highway 99, where trucks hauling goods to other parts of the state are a routine sight. The San Joaquin Valley is also the one of the country’s main agricultural areas, and that means loads of pesticides sprayed on crops.
The public is in danger from weak standards
The report states that the public does not always learn about unhealthy air. The air was unhealthy to breathe “many more times in 2010 and in 2011 than the public was alerted to because the 2008 air standard was not set at a level to protect public health.” In 2008, the Bush administration updated the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) to 75 parts per billion (ppb) from 80 ppb. However, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), created by the Clean Air Act to provide recommendations to EPA’s periodic review of the NAAQS, unanimously recommended that the standard be set at 60 to 70 ppb.
Although current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson decided to reconsider the 2008 standard in January 2010, the Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would not update the standard until 2013. One of the report’s policy recommendations is to update the NAAQS to 60 to 70 ppb averaged over eight hours.
The report also recommends the following:
- Pollution from vehicles, which accounts for a third of nitrogen oxide emissions (which forms smog) in the U.S., be reduced through developing “more efficient vehicles and by improving and expanding public transportation systems.”
- State and federal governments need to “accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy, by passing policies to ensure we get more of our energy from clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar power.”
- Congress should eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
The report highlights the need for the Obama administration to do what is necessary to clean the air. However, it is clear that Obama will not do the right thing without pressure from the American people. Put pressure on him by signing the petition, Tell Obama To Protect U.S. Citizens From Smog Pollution.
Photo: Flickr user, AnnieGreenSprings