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Friday, July 21, 2017

VW Dieselgate fines reach $1.5 Billion in California according to CARB

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced an additional $153.8 million in fines against Volkswagen for the notorious emissions cheating scandal involving its model year 2009 - 2016, 2.0 and 3.0 liter diesel fueled passenger vehicles.

The additional penalties bring the total fines the company must pay in California to nearly $1.5 billion, the largest in history for violations of air quality rules.

“This payment to the State of California closes another chapter in the so-called ‘dieselgate’ case against Volkswagen, but it is not the end of the story,” said CARB Chair Mary Nichols. “There are still consumers waiting to find out the future of their cars. CARB is working with U.S. EPA to determine if the remaining vehicles can be modified.”

“What Volkswagen did was categorically unacceptable,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “At the California Department of Justice, we’ve been holding Volkswagen accountable since we learned of their inexcusable actions. One thing should be crystal clear: wrongdoers who believe they can run and hide are sorely mistaken.”

The total fines are broken down as follows:
  1. $153.8 million for penalties for air quality violations and the cost of CARB's investigation.
  2. More than $422 million dollars VW must pay into a national trust to mitigate environmental harm in California.
  3. $800 million dollars in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) related investments that VW must perform in California pursuant to an investment plan approved by CARB.
  4. $25 million dollars VW has paid to CARB to support ZEV investment programs, including vehicle replacement programs, for low-income residents.
  5. Consumer relief, including restitution and modification or buy back of the affected vehicles.
  6. $86 million dollars it has paid to the California Attorney General’s office for civil penalties and costs.
  7. Any additional mitigation payments VW is required to make if it fails to modify or buy back at least 85% of the subject vehicles in California.

The Consent Decree also includes an injunction requiring the company to implement a corporate compliance program, conduct enhanced vehicle testing, and undertake a series of audit and reporting obligations to ensure future compliance with U.S. and California laws and regulations.

Smoke from Mariposa Detwiler Fire to impact the Valley this weekend

The San Joaquin Valley APCD has issued an advisory related to smoke from the Detwiler Fire near Mariposa.

Photo: Cal Fire website

Because of the build-up of high pressure, lighter winds, and deteriorating dispersion conditions, smoke from the fire may affect air quality in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley through the weekend.

The smoke contains particulate mater (PM2.5) that can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks, and may increase the risk for strokes and heart attacks. Those people with existing respiratory conditions, young children, and the elderly may be particularly impacted by these conditions.

The SJVAPCD urges residents to follow their doctor's orders when exposed to PM2.5 and to stay indoors if possible, particularly if they can smell smoke or see ash in the sky.

For more air quality information about current wildfires, please refer to the SJVAPCD's wildfire page.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Republican Senators join with Democrats to stop Trump from eliminating an Obama climate change rule

There is hope for the environment yet as the U.S. Senate today defeated an attempt by the Trump administration to overturn a rule that regulates the emissions of methane from certain oil and natural gas production operations.

A decorated pumping unit in Coalinga oil field, Fresno County, CA. Photo by W. F. Guerard, Jr. (from DOGGR website)

Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine joined with their Democratic counterparts to defeat the measure by a vote of 51 - 49. The simple majority vote prevented President* Trump from using Vice-President Pence to break an anticipated 50 - 50 tie that never materialized.

More details are available at this link: Senate methane emissions vote

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bakersfield and San Joaquin Valley win again - worst air in the nation

The American Lung Association released its Annual State of the Air 2017 report today and once again, Bakersfield and other cities in the San Joaquin Valley share the dubious "honor" of having the worst air in the country.

The report found that although continued improvement in air quality across the nation has occurred, nearly four in ten Americans - roughly 125 million - live in counties where ozone or particle pollution in the air is at unhealthy levels. The consequences of this are increased risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, premature death, and developmental and reproductive harm.

Photo credit: California EPA

Bakersfield, in particular, has particularly nasty air, earning the distinction of having the number one worst short-term particle pollution (24-hour PM2.5) and the second worst ozone and long-term particle pollution (annual PM2.5).

The report demonstrates that in much of the country, the Clean Air Act has successfully reduced air pollution over the last 50 years. However, as noted by Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, the report "...adds to the evidence that the ongoing changes in our climate make it harder to protect human health. As we move into an ever warmer climate, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging, highlighting the critical importance of protecting the Clean Air Act."

The Full report may be accessed here: Annual State of the Air 2017

The summary of the most polluted cities may be seen below:

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • Fairbanks, Ala.
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  • Logan, Utah-Idaho
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nev.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • El Centro, Calif.
  • Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W.Va.
  • Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.
  • Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.
  • New York-Newark, N.Y.–N.J.-Conn.-Pa.
  • Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev.-Ariz.