One Day of supposedly bad air trips ozone violation in Valley

Another environmental wealth redistribution ploy – don’t be fooled

When high temperatures, hovering around the 100-degree mark, the right wind direction and the natural geography of the Valley “the hole” meet, the air quality suffers in this perfect storm. When levels of ozone rise to a point that has been arbitrarily designated as harmful (to people), it will trip EPA fines on the locals. Yes, the Valley ozone levels, the gas that President Obama told the EPA not to lower the standard on in late August, had readings inching close to a violation of federal standards earlier this week.

A reading over 125 parts per billion of ozone, even 1 part over would trigger a violation. The Valley during certain times of the year is considered to have some of the worst air quality in California. “We don’t want to pass 125,” said Jaime Holt, spokeswoman for the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District. “We’re still at risk, but we’re holding steady.”

Fortunately, a one-hour ozone reading of 116 was recorded in Kern County on Wednesday, but the level dropped to 113 on Thursday.

The San Joaquin Valley hasn’t had any one-hour ozone violations this year until today. The district was urging Valley residents to help reduce emissions by driving less, not letting vehicles idle, taking lunch to work and not using charcoal barbecues.       

Despite having the cleanest summer on record, the Valley in the Fresno area finally did violate the federal 1-hour ozone standard Thursday, resulting in a $29 million federal penalty, said Janelle Schneider a representative from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.

The penalty can be removed in the future if each of the Valley’s air basin monitoring stations do not exceed the ozone threshold of 125 parts per billion more than three times over the next three years.

“We are still in a position to see the $29 million federal penalty removed by 2013, one year sooner than initially anticipated,” said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.

Even though this was the longest period the Valley had gone without exceeding the standard, Clovis exceeded the limit at the very end of the 2011 ozone season, Schneider said.

Unusual high ozone spikes resulted from high-pressure over the Valley and an upper low-pressure system in Southern California shut down the normal northwesterly wind flow over eastern Fresno County. They call this weather!

Beginning next year, drivers in the Valley will bear the brunt of the previous violation be paying a $12 fee added to vehicle registrations to help pay for the fine.

Ya-baby, the San Joaquin Valley will have to pay a $29 million EPA ozone penalty for at least three years. It’s for missing the cleanup deadline on the federal one-hour ozone standard. Drivers will begin paying the $12 registration fee late this year or early next year. Go EPA Go!

All this is true, but it could change, as the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District points out, that the U.S. Clean Air Act would allow the region to wiggle off the hook by the end of next year and stop paying the penalty.

The law does not simply say: No violations allowed, and that’s how you achieve the standard. Too bad. We could all understand that.

Instead, here’s the scam: The Valley needs to have no more than three violations at any one monitor over three years. The fourth violation at any monitor pushes the Valley out of compliance, and the three-year clock must start over. Thank God and global warming for the fact that California has had exceptionally cool summers over the last three years – but who cares about those facts!

So, even though there were violations in 2010, there weren’t more than three violations at any one monitor, according to air district officials.

All the Valley needs is to make it through this summer and next without tripping off violations at a few key monitors. And there have only been this one, one-hour violation this year.

One of the key monitors is Clovis, where three violations were recorded last year. One more violation in Clovis this year or next, and you’ll be paying the extra registration fee for another three years.

But if next summer goes like this one (cool weather), you might have to pay higher registration fees only once.

So does anyone really find this all to be another environmental scam? So paying a 30-cent a gallon for premium CARB fuels, and clean cars and diesel trucks are not enough in these times? No that’s not good enough, lets tag them all for another $12 bucks a year!

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