While California Clean Air Day is just five years old, its purpose should be as well-known as its 53-year-old ubiquitous counterpart, Earth Day. We’ve got work to do to spread the news. Californians have lived with unhealthy levels of air pollution since 1908. Many California organizations have acknowledged the importance of healthy air, committing their 2023 Earth Day celebrations to clean air initiatives and activities.
A project by the Coalition of Clean Air, California Clean Air Day is “built on the idea that shared experiences unite people to act to improve our community’s health.” While California residents have many shared experiences, the undeniable threat of poor air quality on the health and well-being of our communities unites Californians to take action against particle and ozone pollutants. Join us on October 4th to make a difference in the quality of air we breathe.
California Residents Breathe Unhealthy Air
California has been out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for 25 years. Studies by the California Air Resources Board show that over 90% of California residents breathe unhealthy levels of air pollutants. The American Lung Association determined that figure could be as high as 98% of Californians, with 8 of the 10 worst American cities for air pollution located in California. Air pollution is an invisible threat that is a mixture of particulate matter, black carbon, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and sulfur dioxide. If these pollutants were reduced significantly, we could avoid 7,200 premature deaths, 1,900 hospitalizations, and 5,200 emergency room visits. Air pollution infiltrates our lungs and bloodstream, silently and relentlessly deteriorating our health.
“The good news is we’ve seen some improvements in a lot of places across the valley. The bad news is we still have a lot of work left to go,” said Congressman Josh Harder, who represents communities in the San Joaquin Valley. While air quality across the nation is improving, California’s air is still declining, especially, with short-term spikes due to heat and wildfires. The Clear Air Act of 1970 is not enough to combat the drought and heat-burdened West.
Additionally, there is an environmental justice issue – known causes of air pollution including industrial facilities or power plants are often built in economically disadvantaged communities of color. The annual premature mortality rate related to air pollution is nearly 48,000 people across the United States. “The American Lung Association estimates that a full transition to zero-emission transportation and electricity could result in $1.2 trillion in public health benefits in addition to 110,000 lives saved by 2050.”
Transportation Top Contributor to California Air Pollution
The four factors affecting air pollution in California are wildfires, heatwaves, transportation and electricity generation. Transportation accounts for almost half of the pollution -around 40% of California’s emissions come from transportation. Transportation is also the one factor people have the most control over changing.
“Often, we’re going to be talking about transportation as the leading sector for unhealthy air throughout the state. And moving to zero-emission technologies is really going to be key,” said Will Barrett, the National Senior Director of Clean Air Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “One of the key things that we are calling for is to see the federal government implement and finalize many of the proposed rules they have now for particle emission standards, ozone emission standards, and recently announced standards for heavy-duty trucks as well as passenger vehicles,” Barrett said.
The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has responded to the threat of transportation emissions within Yolo and Solano Counties. Yolo-Solano AQMD administers the Clean Air Fund (CAF) Grant Program that awarded Winters, Woodland, and Davis funding for projects that reduce emissions and educate the public. The Winters Police Department will be using grant money to purchase zero-emissions patrol motorcycles.
Geographical location and weather conditions put Yolo County residents at risk for unhealthy levels of smog during summer months. The hot, sunny days act as a catalyst for chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that produce ground-level ozone. Vehicle emissions coupled with the added smog during the hot summer months become trapped in the Sacramento Valley’s bowl-like region, increasing exposure to harmful pollutants. This makes it even more important to transition to zero-emissions vehicles in the valley.
“Time is running out before the world as we know it disappears in the rearview mirror,” Scott Hochberg, a transportation attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement. “To protect people and the planet, California has to free our streets from tailpipe pollution as fast as possible,” Hochberg said. California’s recent proposal to ban new gas-fueled cars by 2035 in a promising step toward reducing emissions and improving air quality.
Valley Clean Energy Supports California Clean Air Day
Valley Clean Energy is passionate about reducing emissions within Yolo County. To that end, our Board of Directors committed to ensuring that 100% of the electricity usage in Yolo County is renewable by the year 2030, over a decade before state mandates. Additionally, one of VCE’s two customer benefiting programs strategies is transportation electrification. In phase 1 of our Electric Vehicle (EV) Rebate Program, we successfully supported the purchase of new EVs by writing over $100,000 in rebate checks to our customers. Phase 2 of the program is projected to assist even more customers with the transition to EVs, as well as supporting in-home charging.
Take Action on California Clean Air Day
This October 4th, join VCE in promoting California Clean Air Day as if it were Earth Day. What we do locally matters globally. As California residents breathing in the shared reality of our state’s air quality, we must support each other with actionable solutions against particle and ozone pollutants.
Easy actions you can take in October to participate in California Clean Air Day:
- Learn more about the types of air pollutants so that you can explain the issue to others.
- Opt up to 100% renewable through VCE’s UltraGreen product. It only adds a few dollars to your bill ($7-10/month for the average household usage) but has a huge impact!
- Explore electric vehicle options and rebates that may be available for you.
- Continue to improve the energy efficiency of your home or business.
- Find out if you’ll qualify for the electric bike incentive program, replacing a portion of your daily commute in a gas-powered vehicle with an e-bike.
- Reach out to our local and state representatives about policy decisions and future planning.
- Take the pledge challenge for individuals, organizations and students on the California Clean Air website.
- Identify public transportation routes that you can utilize in your daily commute and local excursions.
- Host or attend a local event such as Clean Air Fairs, Tree Planting Excursions, EV Test Drives, or Community Composting events.
- Switch to electric lawn care equipment. Gas leaf blowers generate emissions that surpass the equivalent of a gas-powered vehicle in one hour of use.
Let’s make California Clean Air Day as well-known to Californians as Earth Day is known around the world. How will you spread the word?
About Valley Clean Energy
Valley Clean Energy – or VCE – is the official public electricity provider for residential and commercial customers in the cities of Woodland, Winters, and Davis, and unincorporated Yolo County. We are a not-for-profit public agency, which means that we are working 100% for our customers. VCE offers a choice in electricity suppliers and keeps program control and revenues right here at home, where we can create jobs and build local clean energy installations. VCE reinvests dollars to boost our local economy while taking control of our clean energy future. More information is available at https://valleycleanenergy.org/.