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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.

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.

A much-anticipated plan to reduce particulate matter in the San Joaquin Valley is now up for public comment.

After years of revisions, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is seeking public comment on its latest plan to reduce PM2.5, a harmful pollutant that causes respiratory problems and is increasingly being linked to other serious health conditions.

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.

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.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

In this age of smart homes and electronic assistants, your appliances can now order refills automatically and you can manage your home security system using an app. But can the so-called “internet of things” be used to solve community problems? Some San Joaquin Valley residents think so: They're trying to address one of the region’s perennial public health problems with a new low-cost device.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

If you spent time in the San Joaquin Valley over the holidays, the recent rain probably has you breathing a sigh of relief—not just because it’s bringing much needed rain and snow, but also because it’s the first time in weeks you can safely breathe. This story looks back at one of the most severe periods of smoggy air in decades.

When James Collins isn’t studying social work at Fresno State, he drives for the rideshare company Lyft. He sees a lot of open sky and bright sun.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Now that the storm front earlier this week cleaned up the air for much of the San Joaquin Valley, many residents may be looking forward to lighting up their wood-burning fireplaces. However, you might be surprised to learn that some burning was allowed even as air pollution reached dangerously unhealthy levels.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

If you’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket, you may have been required to attend traffic school. Likewise, cause a scene at work, you may have to take anger management classes. But what if you violate burning restrictions? The local air district runs a different kind of class intended to spark good behavior.

On damp, chilly nights Patrick Smith has a tradition: He builds a fire in his fireplace. Smith lives in northwest Fresno. A gas-powered furnace heats his home, but Smith still thinks of a fire as a gathering place for his family.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

In a new bid to clean the Valley’s dirty air, the local air district is flexing its political muscles, attempting to amend a federal law and appealing to the Trump transition team for help.

Local air officials have pulled another tool out of their toolkit: federal politics. Seyed Sadredin, director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, says they’d like to see some changes to a well-known law.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Valley Air District is asking the federal government to do more to help clean up the air in Central California. 

The district has submitted a petition to the U.S. EPA asking the agency to adopt more stringent national standards for cleaner trucks and trains.

The district’s executive director Seyed Sadredin says despite on-going local efforts to reduce ozone and particulate pollution, meeting the newest federal health standards would require reducing fossil fuel emissions by another 90 percent. And that he says isn’t something the district can’t do alone.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Valley Air District says local air quality forecasts might soon get worse, even if the air  is actually getting better. FM89’s Joe Moore explains. 

The problem is summertime ozone pollution. Last year, the valley exceeded the federal, 8-hour ozone health standard 80 times. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s also the lowest level on record for the region, and it’s down over 25 percent since 2011. 

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Former Senator Dean Florez says the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District isn't doing enough to protect the health of local residents. Last week Florez was appointed to the powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB) by California Senate leader Kevin de Leon.  

Florez: "I think there's a lot more they could be doing. I think they should move quicker. There's a lot more tools in their toolbox than there were 10 years ago. Anything I can do to make this board move quicker from the state level, I'm going to do."

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

New research this week questions the connection between air pollution and asthma.

In 2011, a study by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District established a link between asthma-related ER visits and levels of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter in valley air.  But after a follow-up to that study, the Air District now reports that for a number of years, asthma-related ER visits increased even as PM2.5 levels dropped.

David Lighthall, health science advisor to the Air District, says the findings should not be interpreted as black and white.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Here in the Central Valley – in one of the most polluted air basins in the country – we know that poor air is bad for our health. We feel it in our eyes and throat, and when we struggle to breathe.

But what if air pollution is affecting us at a deeper, cellular level?

That's exactly what Dr. Kari Nadeau discovered a few years ago. She’s a Stanford School of Medicine professor with an expertise in asthma and allergies.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

In the decades-long effort to clean up the San Joaquin Valley's notoriously poor air, 2013 might be a milestone. For the first time, the air basin had zero violations of the hourly federal ozone standard.  

That news prompted the governing board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to vote Thursday to formally request that the EPA lift a required a $29 million annual penalty.