What is an Air Quality Management District?
An Air Quality Management District is a legislative body which drafts and passes laws regarding air quality and pollutants in the area. In California, there are 22 Air Quality Management Districts, each staffed by a group of elected officials appointed to serve on the board.
How does the BAAQMD operate?
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has control over the 9 counties of the greater Bay Area, and is composed of 24 elected officials from the various counties. During their biweekly meetings, the Air District’s Board of Director discusses rules and regulations, which pass with a majority vote. In addition to their regular meetings, the BAAQMD has programs to involve the community in issues relating to air quality, such as the Community Air Risk Evaluation Program.
What are issues that the BAAQMD is currently discussing?
Until recently, the BAAQMD was largely focused on issues relating to toxins in the atmosphere, and did not have nearly as much influence on policy regarding greenhouse gas emissions. However, many constituents and elected officials feel that greenhouse gases and air quality must be discussed in tandem, given the importance of these emissions to air quality, but also to the various other functions of industry, agriculture, and business in the Bay Area. To this end, on May 31st, 2017, the Board of Directors of the Air District passed Regulation 12, Rule 16 to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the 5 oil refineries in the district. However, due to discrepancies regarding feasibility of this legislation between the Air District’s Board members and staff, the Board decided to postpone its vote on this legislation until September 2017.
How does Bay Area air quality compare to California and the United States?
According to a recent report by the American Lung Association, the Bay Area ranks among the worst regions in the United States for air quality. The region is listed as sixth worst for short-term spikes in particulate matter, and fourth worst for year-round totals. This is due to a combination of factors, including the hordes of carbon-emitting automobiles and oil refineries, combined with the drier, hotter weather California regularly experiences. Although the five-year drought came to an end this past winter, a representative from the ALA said that dry, hot weather may become the new normal.
What are the main sources of pollution?
As noted by the BAAQMD, one of the primary stationary industrial sources of air pollution are the five oil refineries in the Air District. However, a variety of other factors are also influencing our air quality currently, including transportation and agriculture. In Contra Costa county, 25% of emissions are due to agriculture in the eastern parts of the county, primarily through cattle emitting methane and trucks used for transportation.
How has air quality affected health and other issues in the Bay Area?
In the parts of the Bay Area more affected by toxic air pollutants, air quality has already taken a toll on people’s health. Especially in areas like Richmond, Pittsburg, and Martinez, where constituents have already had lifetime exposure to pollutants, public health is suffering immensely. In Contra Costa county in 2014, there were 49.5 emergency room visits per 10,000 people due to asthma alone. In part, this is due to lack of adequate access to health care, combined with consistent exposure to pollutants. Many of the communities suffering most are low-income communities of color.
What can people of faith do to get involved?
Air quality and greenhouse gas emissions are both important issues which influence our climate, our health, and Creation as a whole. That’s why it is important that people of faith get involved to represent our beliefs. In the Bay Area, air quality is an issue not only pertaining to the well-being of our health and the environment, but also one which pertains to social justice and the organization of our society. As people of color are more directly influenced by air quality in our district, it is important that we represent the issues of equality and justice as well.
Thank you to Jan Warren and Rev. Will McGarvey for providing useful information for this fact sheet.