air pollution

NPS / ACholo / Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Fire crews are starting to gain ground on wildfires burning in Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. But the effects are still being felt as far as Fresno County.

In Fresno, you can clearly see and smell the smoke. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality alert through Monday, all of it due to the Windy and KNP Complex fires burning for the past three weeks.

DANGEROUS AIR: As California burns, America breathes toxic smoke

Sep 28, 2021
United States Forest Service/ Art by Alison Saldanha

Western wildfires pose a much broader threat to human health than to just those forced to evacuate the path of the blazes.

Smoke from these fires, which have burned millions of acres in California alone, is choking vast swaths of the country, an analysis of federal satellite imagery by NPR’s California Newsroom and Stanford University’s Environmental Change and Human Outcomes Lab found.

US Forest Service / Inciweb

Last year, the western states were hit with a double-whammy of natural disasters: Not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a historically long and intense wildfire season that blanketed the region with plume after plume of noxious smoke.

On this week's Valley Edition: Fresno's homeless and affordable housing crisis has exploded in the wake of the pandemic. We take a closer look at the struggle to find shelter for the unhoused and the city policies in place to offer relief.

 

And a new study from Harvard explores the link between wildfire smoke and COVID deaths last year. Plus, how will the decennial process of redistricting shape politics in the Valley?   

 

And the Fresno Art Museum reopens to the public.

Data from EPA and San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

California’s 2020 wildfire season was indisputably historic: Fires burned a record-high 4.3 million acres in the state, and five of the blazes went down among the 10 largest in our recorded history. Many were touched off by widespread lightning sieges, which hadn’t occurred at such a high rate since 2008.

 

On the next Valley Edition: Rural communities throughout California lack vital healthcare infrastructure: how some local counties are grappling with vaccine deserts. 

Plus, the political fight to bring safe drinking water to San Joaquin Valley communities.

And how to prepare for yet another summer of dirty air. Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above. 

 

USFS INCIWEB

 

 In 2020, the Creek Fire and other blazes throughout California billowed so much smoke into the San Joaquin Valley that, at times, the sky turned brown and ashes accumulated on cars and sidewalks like snowflakes. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

For a decade, the Central California Asthma Collaborative (CCAC) has aimed to reduce the burden of asthma in the San Joaquin Valley, which sits in one of the country’s most polluted air basins and reports some of the highest rates of asthma and asthma-related medical encounters in the state.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Later this month, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is set to release a report detailing how well its clean air programs are meeting federal requirements for reducing emissions. It’s called an equivalency demonstration, and it’s released annually every November.

EPA AirNow

 

So far in 2020, thousands of wildfires have torched a record-setting 3.2 million acres in California. If that makes this wildfire season unprecedented, here and throughout the West Coast, so is our region’s resulting smog. In a press conference on Monday, Valley air officials said: Don’t expect the air to clear for at least a few more days, and possibly longer.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley lies underneath one of the two most polluted air basins in the country. That’s why, in 2018, two communities here – one in Shafter and one in south-central Fresno – were selected among the first to participate in Assembly Bill 617, an ambitious state law that enables local involvement in air protection.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

Tuesday night’s storm may have cleaned up the air for much of the Valley and foothills, but winter is still the season the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District limits wood burning. New changes this year to its “Check Before You Burn” program could bring more no-burn days to Fresno, Madera and Kern Counties.

EPA AirNow

On Monday, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a warning of unhealthy air conditions due to wildfire smoke from Northern California, an alert it repeated on Wednesday. Why then, for days, were online air monitors showing relatively healthy air? It’s the result of the size of the particulate matter blowing into the Valley, but also the level of information that air authorities share with the public.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has accused the state of failing to comply with federal clean air policy.

Flickr user Jeff Turner, CC BY 2.0

On Thursday, the Trump administration revoked California’s authority to set its own rules on tailpipe emissions.

The reversal of California’s nearly-50-year-old waiver means the state won’t be able to push auto makers faster than the federal government can to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that come out of cars. The decision came just a day before students and activists took to the streets in cities across the world – including Fresno – as part of the Global Climate Strike.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Air quality stole a lot of headlines this week, as the Trump Administration moved to revoke California’s ability to set its own tailpipe emissions standards distinct from those mandated federally by the Environmental Protection Agency. Not only could the move prevent future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it could also prevent gains in air quality that are much needed in the San Joaquin Valley and California’s other polluted air basins.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

Fowler Unified School District is upgrading its bus fleet, and possibly the air its students breathe. The newest bus model was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at Malaga Elementary School.

It looks like any other school bus: It’s yellow, with dark bench seats and a little stop sign that swings out into traffic. But, as San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Director Samir Sheikh announced at the press conference, it’s electric. “It’s absolutely zero emissions,” he said. “Zero air pollution coming out of that bus.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

San Joaquin Valley air still ranks the worst in the country, according to the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report released on Wednesday.

Bakersfield and the Fresno-Madera-Hanford region ranked worst in the country for particle pollution -- despite the fact that many of these cities experienced fewer unhealthy days than the previous year. Visalia also ranked second worst for ozone pollution, right behind the Los Angeles-Long Beach area.

Cal-Span

Kevin Hamilton was surprised when he learned that, for decades, industries that pollute have been able to trade emissions reductions under a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District program. It’s like a bank: If a company installs a new technology that reduces its pollution—and that’s the program's goal—the company can earn what’s called emission reduction credits, or ERCs. It means it can emit more with no penalty. “And you can trade them, they have value,” Hamilton says. “You get a certificate, it's like a stock certificate.”

CAL-SPAN

After years of delays, the state has approved a plan to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Air officials and clean air advocates celebrated Thursday as state Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols announced a unanimous vote to approve a valley-wide plan to control PM2.5. That’s the harmful particulate matter that obstructs the views of snowy Sierra Peaks and is associated with increased asthma attacks, reduced immune function and low birthweight in newborns.

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