Local air district receives approximately $16 million

San Joaquin air district receives additional state funding to continue their mission in cleaning the air in the Valley, with years of success to show for it

CENTRAL VALLEY – As the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District celebrates 30 years as a public health agency, their annual report to the community shows that they are doing well. They plan to take their success even further after receiving approximately $16 million in additional funding from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

In the district’s 30 years of working towards the goal of improving Valley air quality by reducing harmful gas emissions, the region’s air pollution levels have declined significantly. According to their annual report, air quality has improved throughout the Valley despite the district’s observed increase in population and the amount of vehicle miles traveled.

From the district’s most recent report for 2021-22, harmful emissions like NOx, gasses that create ground level ozone pollution when burned at high temperatures, have been reduced by over 75% across the Valley from 1980 to 2021. In the same span of time, stationary source emissions from industries that emit a variety of air pollutants, like factories, have been reduced by over 93%. 

To further shed some light on these accomplishments, the Valley has already met some of the federal standards for healthy air quality, including the standards for pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter 10, an air pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

Despite the district’s achievements on decreasing vehicle emissions in the Valley, the district still needs to reduce additional emissions to meet all federal particulate matter 2.5, a pollutant that consists of fine particles or droplets in the air, and federal ozone standards.

“The District and CARB continue to work towards achieving ongoing emissions reductions through our regulatory and incentive programs,” the report stated. “These ongoing combined efforts will assist the Valley in attaining additional federal air quality standards in the coming years.”

Recently, the air district’s governing board unanimously voted to accept $12.9 million in additional CARB funding for their goal to replace heavy duty trucks through their Truck Replacement Program, according to an air district press release. The program has been utilized by the air district for roughly 20 years, according to Todd DeYoung, the district’s director of grants and incentives. 

Within those 20 years, the district has managed to replace over 7,300 heavy-duty vehicles with “cleaner” alternatives. These cleaner alternatives have no NOx emissions, a chemical that bakes in the summer heat and creates ground level ozone pollution, according to Heather Henkins, outreach and communications manager for the air district. According to DeYoung, the engines for this generation’s cleaner alternative vehicles, typically referred to as zero-emission engines, are about 90% cleaner than previous generations. DeYoung also said electric, full battery versions of trucks, including local delivery trucks and long haul trucks, are now coming to the market as they become more popular.

“They’re available, and [the San Joaquin Valley Air District] is funding them as quick as we can,” DeYoung said.

In addition to the $12.9 million, the air district’s governing board also approved plans to fund approximately $4 million for new incentive programs for the communities of Shafter and Stockton. The communities are two of four Valley communities prioritized by CARB to receive clean air resources available under the Assembly Bill 617’s (AB 617) Community Air Protection Program. This is a program made to improve the quality of life for California’s most disadvantaged communities through community-led efforts in regards to local air pollution concerns. 

“The state of California uses CalEnviroScreen, and all the metrics that sort of feed that information to identify the disadvantaged communities burdened with pollution and other issues,” Heinks said. “They get selected through that AB 617 process.”

The community-led efforts are led by Community Steering Committees (CSC), who decide what actions need to be taken for their respective communities in regard to the Community Emissions Reduction Program (CERP). 

For one of these incentive programs for the communities, the air district partnered with the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin (SJ Housing Authority) to launch a car share program in the community of Stockton. Of the funding, $1 million will support an existing grant from San Joaquin County Jobs Plus, given to SJ Housing Authority, for the car share program, according to an air district press release. This will be used to purchase nine electric vehicles and 13 electric vehicle charging stations, which are to be placed at affordable housing sites in Stockon communities that fall under AB 617 guidelines. They will be available to the residents of those communities at a discounted cost.

Additionally, the air district and SJ Housing Authority is working with the city of Shafter and Kern County for road, sidewalk and bike lane improvement, as well as transit vehicle replacement, in the community of Shafter. Identified by Shafter CSC members, the projects will bring change along State Route 43 of Shafter and the unincorporated area of Mexican Colony by reducing resident exposure to road dust emissions while adding alternate, safe methods of travel by adding bicycle lanes and new sidewalks. After final project agreements between the city of Shafter and Kern County, $2.5 million of the state funding will support the projects, according to an air district press release.

“It’s supported by the community and we had a lot of great input from the Community Steering Committee members that we meet with monthly,” Jessica Olsen, director of community strategies and resources with the air district, said.

The community of Shafter will also see new transit vehicles to replace existing, dial-a-ride transit services. The new electric vehicles will be more beneficial for the community by providing residents with an important dial-a-ride service while cutting down on emissions and pollutant exposure. The project will be covered by $400,000 of the funding, which will cover up to 100% of the costs to replace the vehicles, according to an air district press release.

According to Olsen, the air district and their partnered organizations hope to start the projects after all agreements are finalized, and finish all projects within the next couple of years. 

“Overall we’re hoping to continue to see improvements in these and other 617 communities through the next five to 10 years as the as more of the newer pieces of equipment and funding get in place,” Olsen said.

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