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For Immediate Release, January 6, 2009

Contact:  Andy Katz, Breathe California, (510) 848-5001
Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 310-1549

Health and Environment Groups Support Adoption of Air District Greenhouse Gas and Toxics Standards

SAN FRANCISCO— A coalition of health and environmental organizations is supporting the adoption of standards for greenhouse gases and toxics proposed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as part of environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Projects that do not meet these thresholds would be required to take feasible measures to reduce their emissions.

“The greenhouse gas thresholds proposed by the Air District are a serious response to a serious problem and will help achieve desperately needed reductions in greenhouse gas pollution,” said Matt Vespa, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Said Andy Katz, air quality advocate for Breathe California, “These thresholds will help protect public health and the climate.” 

The state of California has recognized that greenhouse gas emissions must be analyzed under its Environmental Quality Act since 1997. However, there has been considerable uncertainty among local governments about how such emissions should be addressed. Under the District’s proposal, projects with greenhouse gas emissions of less than 1,100 tons (roughly the equivalent, for instance, of 56 single-family homes) or a well-designed, transit-oriented development meeting a 4.6-tons-per-capita efficiency metric would not be subject to additional review.

Organizations writing to the Air District in support of the proposed thresholds include Breathe California, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenbelt Alliance, Planning and Conservation League, and Interfaith Power and Light.

The proposal also includes standards for cumulative toxics exposure. If total pollution from all local sources causes high rates of cancer risk or high levels of fine particulates, projects will need to use cleaner technology to protect public health.

“Communities need protection from toxic pollution,” continued Katz. “Communities need these thresholds because many neighborhoods have cancer levels two to four times above average, and twice as many children with asthma.” Neighborhood organizations from Richmond, West Oakland, eastern San Francisco, East Oakland, and San Leandro support the proposal, and an additional proposal for more stringent protections for the most affected communities.

Air pollution is a serious public health threat. Particulate matter (PM2.5), pollution made up of tiny particles, exacerbates asthma and causes cancer, lung, and cardiovascular disease. Ozone pollution, or smog, is a pollutant caused by automobiles and diesel equipment that damages lung tissue, exacerbates asthma, reduces lung capacity, increases respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, and increases school and work absences. Climate change is projected to increase unhealthy air days from ozone from 10 to 15 days per year to more than 100 days per year in the Bay Area.

Visit the Center’s Web site for more information on the Center’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act.


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