Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Northern California requires oil refiners to slash air pollution

Laila Kearney, REUTERS

Northern California regulators on Wednesday directed two of the state’s largest oil refineries to slash their fine particulate air pollution, which will require costly modifications at the plants.

The 19-3 vote by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District governing board means refineries in the area, including Chevron Corp’s (CVX.N) Richmond plant and PBF Energy Inc’s (PBF.N) Martinez refinery, will have to install wet gas scrubbers to reduce pollution spewed by their gasoline-making fluid catalytic cracking units (FCCU) within five years.

The new requirement is expected to cut PBF and Chevron’s particulate matter emissions from its cat crackers by about 70%, the air quality district estimates.


Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES

The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.

That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.


Posted on Categories AirTags , , ,

Wildfire smoke continues to hurt air quality in Napa, Bay Area


To check on local air quality, go to the EPA’s AirNow site:

The fires in Napa County are mostly contained, but that doesn’t mean residents can put their respirators away just yet. Smoke from wildfires across the Bay Area – including Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties – are continuing to contaminate the air, making it harmful to even breathe.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a health advisory in addition to a Spare the Air alert for Wednesday and Thursday, and says that the conditions may continue for “days to come,” according to a press release.
In the past two weeks, parts of the Bay Area have experienced air quality levels that are historically bad, said Walter Wallace, air district spokesman. Although levels were at times “hazardous,” he said, they’re comparable to a normal day in Beijing, China.
Read more at: Wildfire smoke continues to hurt air quality in Napa, Bay Area | Local News |

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Sonoma County gets high marks for good air 

Sonoma County once again got straight-As on the American Lung Association’s latest air quality report card, which also cited California’s prolonged drought as a factor in fouling the state’s skies.
For the second year in a row, the county went without a single day of ozone or particle pollution exceeding federal standards, according to State of the Air 2015, the lung association’s annual report released Wednesday. Much of the credit can go to the breezy weather that typically blows away bad air.
Only three other coastal counties — Mendocino, Humboldt and Monterey — matched that perfect score, while Lake County came close with a single day of high ozone pollution, just as it did in last year’s report.
Read more via: Sonoma County gets high marks for good air | The Press Democrat

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Bay Area fireplace phase-out under new air quality regulations


Wood smoke is the leading cause of wintertime air pollution, contributing 38 percent of fine particular matter, and about 1 million Bay Area residents have respiratory ailments putting them at risk from exposure to particulate pollution, the air district said.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a celebrated slice of Americana, but those cheerful blazes are bound for extinction under proposed Bay Area air quality regulations that would apply to most of Sonoma County’s 185,660 households.
Aimed at reducing the health threat from pollutants produced by burning wood in fireplaces and stoves, the rules would cost property owners hundreds to thousands of dollars to install alternatives — including federally certified wood-burning devices, gas-fueled or electric options — or to remove or wall off fireplaces.
For homeowners, however, the requirements would not apply until their property is sold or transferred.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says that a complete turnover — eliminating about 1.4 million fireplaces and noncertified wood-burning devices — would occur in about 30 years, based on the assumption that 3 percent of Bay Area homes are sold each year.
The district’s proposals have rekindled a debate over wood smoke, with health advocates supporting cutbacks and both the wood stove industry and real estate interests challenging specific regulations.
The air district began issuing winter pollution alerts more than 15 years ago through voluntary burn bans on days when air quality was expected to be poor, said Ralph Borrmann, a district spokesman. The program did not effectively curb particulate levels, leading to the adoption in 2008 of more extensive rules, including mandatory winter burn bans known as Spare the Air alerts, which have cut particulate pollution by 30 percent, Borrmann said.
But wood smoke remains “a significant health issue in the Bay Area,” Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district, said in a press release. The proposed rule amendments are intended to “ensure that public health is protected” and that the Bay Area meets state and federal air quality standards, he said.
Read more via Bay Area fireplace phase-out could cost Sonoma County | The Press Democrat.

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Some states fight to keep wood fires burning

Smoke wafting from wood fires has long provided a familiar winter smell in many parts of the country – and, in some cases, a foggy haze that has filled people’s lungs with fine particles that can cause coughing and wheezing.
Citing health concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency now is pressing ahead with regulations to significantly limit the pollution from newly manufactured residential wood heaters. But some of the states with the most wood smoke are refusing to go along, claiming that the EPA’s new rules could leave low-income residents in the cold.
Missouri and Michigan already have barred their environmental agencies from enforcing the EPA standards. Similar measures recently passed Virginia’s legislature and are pending in at least three other states, even though residents in some places say the rules don’t do enough to clear the air.
It’s been a harsh winter for many people, particularly those in regions repeatedly battered by snow. And the EPA’s new rules are stoking fears that some residents won’t be able to afford new stoves when their older models give out.
“People have been burning wood since the beginning of recorded time,” said Phillip Todd, 59, who uses a wood-fired furnace to heat his home in Holts Summit. “They’re trying to regulate it out of existence, I believe, and they really have no concern about the economic consequences or the hardship it’s going to cause.”
Others contend the real hardship has fallen on neighbors forced to breathe the smoke from winter wood fires.
Read more via News from The Associated Press.

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Air quality & smoke impacts in Sonoma County

Air Pollution Control Officer of the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District
Air quality is measured against standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board for specific pollutants.  When air quality doesn’t meet a standard, the local air district has to develop a plan of regulations that will improve air quality until it does meet the standard.  Air quality regulations vary from district to district because they reflect local air quality needs.
Sonoma County spans two air regions. The southern portion of the County is managed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which includes eight other Counties around the San Francisco Bay. The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District manages the remainder of the county. Most of Sonoma County’s cities are included in the Bay Area District.
Only the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale are in the Northern Sonoma District, which also includes the towns along the lower Russian River and the entire Sonoma Coast.  Anyone interested in more information about the boundary line can view a map of the County showing both air districts at:
The most significant pollutants in Sonoma County are ozone (a component of smog), and particle pollution (which we refer to as particulate matter, or PM).  We know this by measuring pollutants in the air.  The Bay Area District operates a monitoring station on 5th Street in Santa Rosa.  The air quality in the Bay Area does not meet the federal or state standards for ozone or particulate matter.  The Northern Sonoma District operates air monitoring stations in Cloverdale, Healdsburg, and Guerneville.  Air quality in Northern Sonoma meets all of the federal and state standards – along with Lake County, it is the cleanest air in California!
Most people understand that smog is harmful, but many people don’t know what particulate matter is or why we’re concerned about it.  Particles in the air come from a variety sources and have varying chemical make-ups. The size of a particle determines how far past our bodies’ defenses it can penetrate. We are most concerned about particles small enough to penetrate deep into our lungs, specifically known as inhalable and fine particles.
Inhalable particles are generally smaller than 10 microns in diameter (often called PM10) and come mostly from fine dust and combustion. By comparison, the average human hair is about 70 microns in diameter and fine grains of beach sand are about 90 microns. Inhalable particles have been shown to cause or contribute to a long list of adverse health effects, including: increased respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; exacerbation of asthma; increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits; increased risk of premature births and infant mortality; and an increase in cancer, cardiovascular, and respiratory deaths, as well as increased total mortality.
Fine particles are a subset of inhalable particles. These are the smaller particles in that group, less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). These particles penetrate so deeply that they get carried throughout the body where they interfere with cellular processes.Fine particles also tend to be more reactive and are responsible for some of the most significant of the health effects. Fine particles come mostly from combustion, including factories, cars, and fireplaces and woodstoves.
Read more via NO SMOKING PLEASE – Air Quality & Smoke Impacts in Northern Sonoma County.