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air quality

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When Saul Ruiz heard about the McKittrick oil seep, which first occurred in May and is now being cleaned up by Chevron and state agencies, his first reaction was worry: Worry for the McKittrick residents and environment nearby, but also for residents of other similar communities. “My worry was that problems like these could expand to other communities like Taft, Buttonwillow, Lost Hills,” he says in Spanish.

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.”

On this week’s Valley Edition: The Valley air district is facing scrutiny for how it manages pollution from local industries. Air quality advocates wonder: How well is the program working?

Plus, Fresno County is considering the Voter’s Choice Act Model for the 2020 election, which could mean fewer polling locations, but more days to cast your ballot. We’ll hear from one neighboring county that’s already made the switch.

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.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to monitoring air quality, we typically turn to air regulators, like the state and the local San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. But a recent state law is taking on a new strategy: Putting air quality in the hands of the community. And one person who’s excited about the opportunity is Southeast Fresno resident Lilia Becerril.

Becerril lives near the Fresno Fairgrounds and Vang Pao Elementary School. She likes it here, and she’s a kind of neighborhood career volunteer, working with local schools, and groups giving legal aid and tutoring services.

On this week's Valley Edition: The San Joaquin Valley has some of the dirtiest air in the country. In Fresno and Kern Counties, a state law has introduced a new strategy to tackle the problem: putting air monitoring in the hands of the community.

Later, we look at how some undocumented high school students are navigating college applications and applying for driver licences. Some are choosing to opt out entirely.

Flickr user Jeff Turner, CC BY 2.0

You know how newer cars are rated to drive a certain number of miles per gallon of fuel? That number is regulated by the federal government. Since 1978, the U.S. has required that cars achieve steadily better fuel economy. Earlier this year, however, the Trump Administration announced a new rule that would revoke some fuel economy standards set by the Obama administration. And a recent hearing in Fresno showed just how contentious the rule is.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It was only a few weeks ago that wildfires drove particle pollution to dangerously high levels in many parts of the San Joaquin Valley and mountain areas, and it could happen again before wildfire season is over. Particulate matter, also known as PM, is a major health risk: It’s known to cause asthma attacks and other respiratory flare-ups in the short term, and exposure over the long term has been associated with reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When buying a house, everyone’s motivation is different—maybe it’s the desire to start a family, or to start a new job in a new city. Today, we report on a people who move out of the Valley for an entirely different reason—one that’s related to the Valley’s ozone concentrations, which have been creeping higher as the temperature has risen.

Judy Eymann-Taylor is packing. She picks up a gold picture frame leaning against a wall and gingerly cushions it in bubble wrap. “This is a photo that's almost 40 years old now,” she says.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

California is the fourth largest oil producer in the country. As we speak, almost 81,000 wells across the state are churning out oil and gas or being used to inject wastewater back into the ground. For every three of those wells, however, there’s another one well that’s not doing any of those things—and yet they, too, can deteriorate and contaminate the air and water over time. Now, a new state law aims to prevent those hazards.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley has improved dramatically over the last few decades, partly thanks to a set of sweeping clean air laws passed in the early 2000s. Over the last few years, however, one major polluting practice has risen steadily. And although it’s unclear if the increase has had an impact on air quality, advocates are concerned it will if the trend continues. We report from a family farm outside Fresno on what’s being done about open agricultural burning.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The American Lung Association has released its annual State of the Air report chronicling air pollution throughout the country - and Valley cities still receive failing grades, despite some improvements.

The report ranks pollution levels for the years 2014-2016. Thanks to the Clean Air Act and lower vehicle emissions, particle pollution overall has dropped. Most cities, including those in the San Joaquin Valley, saw fewer days of unhealthy particle pollution compared to previous years.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It’s the second week of March which means burning restrictions are no longer in effect throughout the San Joaquin Valley. But though the smoggy days of winter are hopefully behind us, there’s still a lot to talk about. Later this week we’ll be hosting a panel event on the future of our air quality. That's happening Wednesday at Valley Public Radio’s broadcast center.

Valley Public Radio

This winter has been an especially bad one for air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.  With long stretches of high particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5), staying informed with accurate info about air quality forecasts and current conditions is important for your health. We took a look at some popular apps for both iOS and Android devices that provide air quality information.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

We’ve been reporting a lot these last few weeks about PurpleAir, a new brand of low-cost, wifi-enabled air monitors that are enabling concerned citizens across the world to crowd-source air quality data. After speaking with public agencies, academics and advocacy groups about the promise of these devices, we were curious: Who created PurpleAir, and how did its product become so popular?

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

A few weeks ago we told you how new high-tech, low-cost air quality sensors are helping valley residents monitor air pollution right outside their homes. But the devices aren’t just being used by homeowners, they’re also being adopted by some of the world’s top scientists. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is testing the devices here in the valley, in preparation for investigating pollutants from space.  

 

This week on Valley Edition - an exclusive report from Valley Public Radio's Kerry Klein about a secretive ICE facility hidden in plain sight in downtown Fresno, and why civil liberties groups are concerned about what goes on inside. We also talk with journalist Mark Arax about his new magazine article about billionaire valley farmers Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

The Valley Air District has issued a health cautionary statement amid a weather pattern that could contribute to another round of elevated particulate pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. The district says stagnant air conditions may result in warmer temperatures, but residents should take care to avoid heavy outdoor activities during periods of elevated particulate matter concentrations. Particulate pollution, which is also known as soot, is harmful and has been correlated with asthma attacks, bronchial infections, heart attacks and stroke.

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