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EPA Activities for Cleaner Air

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Map of the San Joaquin ValleyClick image to enlarge
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Reducing Air Pollution

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the nation’s worst air quality, failing to meet federal health standards for both ozone (smog) and particulate pollution.This is a result of the valley’s topography – surrounding mountain ranges trap air pollutants -- and pollution sources, including heavy truck traffic on I-5 and Highway 99; diesel-burning locomotives, tractors and irrigation pumps; and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Fine particulate matter – known as PM2.5 – causes a wide range of health problems, from asthma to premature death. EPA supports California’s efforts to reduce PM2.5 levels in the valley through regulatory action, clean-vehicle programs and effective enforcement. The state's goal is to attain the national annual and daily PM2.5 health standards by 2015 and more stringent standards by 2019.

In 2012, EPA continued its work with the California Air Resources Board, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition on measures to reduce PM2.5. In December, the air district adopted a plan with new restrictions on wood burning and other sources. EPA will also be working with the state, air district and communities to develop an updated plan to reduce ozone pollution (smog), which is expected in 2015.

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EPA-Funded Clean Tech and Health Research

Technological advances in engines, emission controls and clean energy hold great promise for reducing air pollution and creating jobs in the valley. EPA provides funds to support research and development. EPA also funds medical research on the health effects of pollutants and factors that make certain populations, such as children and the elderly, more vulnerable.

EPA provided $5 million in funding for cleaner locomotives throughout the San Joaquin Valley, including a state-of-the art locomotive operating between the Port of Stockton and Lodi. The new locomotives will reduce the public health impact of diesel emissions from trains moving goods through the valley.

A total of $1 million EPA funds were provided to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District for their Technology Advancement ProgramExitwhich funds competitive grants for innovative air emission reduction technologies that have the potential for broad applicability in the valley, and will help the area meet its air quality goals. This funding is through a larger partnership with the both the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Districts, California Air Resources Board, and EPA through the Clean Air Technology Initiative.

Research funded by a $1.09 million EPA grant is also underway at the Berkeley/Stanford Children’s Environment Health Center. Scientists are studying the effects of in-utero and childhood exposure to ambient air pollutants and bioaerosols on birth outcomes (including low birth weight, small for gestational age, structural birth defects), T-cell regulatory function and the relation of these early life exposures on the occurrence of asthma in the San Joaquin Valley.

EPA awarded $8 million in Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants to the San Joaquin Valley Aerosol Health Effects Center at UC Davis, where researchers investigated the properties of particles that are responsible for human health effects, the metabolism that underlies these effects, and the consequences of chronic exposures, especially during childhood, that make individuals more susceptible to adverse effects.

The five EPA-funded research projects focused on the role of particulates in pulmonary and cardiovascular health effects. These projects resulted in over 100 scientific research publications which improved knowledge about health effects to valley residents. The funding also paid for a number of outreach programs to share the results with scientists and other stakeholders, including symposiums on air pollution from secondary (non-freeway) roadways, agriculture emissions and impacts, aviation environmental impacts, aerosol modeling algorithms, and atmospheric chemical mechanisms.

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Clean Air Enforcement

The valley’s industrial air pollution sources are limited by facility-specific operating permits issued by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Under the federal Clean Air Act, both EPA and the district inspect facilities to ensure compliance with permit limits, and take enforcement actions when appropriate. Here are a few of EPA’s most recent Clean Air Act enforcement actions taken in the San Joaquin Valley:

  • EPA and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District reached a settlement with a bakery in Lodi, Calif., after the facility failed to obtain permits and install proper air pollution controls. The company will pay a penalty of $625,000. In addition, the company has paid $750,000 to install and operate a thermal oxidizer that reduces volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 95%. These emissions are a precursor to ozone (smog) and particulate pollution.
  • A Clean Air Act Settlement with a landfill in Manteca requires spending approximately $3.8 million to improve its landfill’s gas collection and control system and to replace trucks in the landfill’s fleet with less polluting vehicles. A civil penalty of $200,000 will also be shared with the San Joaquin Valley APCD. EPA investigation had found the landfill gas system was operated in a way that caused multiple fires.
  • In January 2013, EPA announced a $145,000 settlement with a biomass electric power plant in Tracy for failing to properly operate and maintain equipment to monitor emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and smoke.
  • EPA also took action against a 49.9 MW solid fuel-fired boiler used to generate electricity and produce steam for use at a neighboring industrial facility. EPA inspectors found that opacity monitoring equipment, used to assess how well a particulate emission control device is working, was not SO2. The facility has since replaced both the opacity and SO2 monitors to ensure continuous and reliable data.
  • A major oil and gas production company agreed to pay $34,000 to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act related to greenhouse gas emissions at the Kern Front Oil Field located north of Bakersfield. The violations were identified and self-disclosed by the company. The violations occurred in late 2011, when the company constructed three steam generators at the oil field without first obtaining a permit for greenhouse gas emissions under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting program.

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