When it comes to protecting the planet from global warming, it’s not just the elephant in the china shop we should fear, it’s the rat in our midst.
Earlier this month, President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the historic Paris Agreement, dealing a blow to international efforts to combat climate change. Meanwhile our own Bay Area Air Quality Management District is poised to allow East Bay refineries to increase greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 25 percent. This would erode California’s efforts to advance climate policy in the absence of leadership from Washington.
For more than five years, a coalition of East Bay environmental justice advocates has negotiated with the Air District – whose primary charge is to protect public health – to cap emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic co-pollutants from East Bay refineries.
Their achievement, the proposed Rule 12-16, is a profoundly important first step. As originally written, it would limit greenhouse gas emissions from refineries while providing the co-benefit of capping release of deadly airborne co-pollutants such as PM2.5. Exposure to PM2.5, a form of microscopic particulate matter, is harmful to health and can be fatal. The emissions disproportionately affect people living near refineries.
But the damage from East Bay isn’t just local. The slew of pollutants they emit accumulate in the San Joaquin Valley, adding to the miasma of airborne pollutants delivered from interstate traffic, farming and oil drilling. The valley has the worst air quality and the highest asthma rate for children in the nation.
Jack Broadbent, CEO of the Air District, praised the proposed ruling, declaring that the District’s Board of Directors had “set the stage for a first in the nation rule to cap greenhouse gas emissions from our region’s five refineries.” “As the nation steps back from the Paris climate agreement,” proclaimed Broadbent, “the Bay Area and California must, more than ever,…