By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Dirty air isnt just a problem for red California
Placeholder Image
Earthjustice is pressing the federal government to enforce its rules when it comes to clean air attainment for the San Joaquin Valley.

The non-profit public interest law firm headquartered in Oakland that was established in 1981 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency this month regarding ozone layers in the San Joaquin Valley. Earthjustice contends ozone concentrations have exceeded acceptable EPA levels as many as eight times for an hour or more in the San Joaquin Valley for the last five years. The rule allows for only one time a year for that to happen.

Valley air has gotten cleaner over the years but it isn’t clean enough. If you doubt that just head down to Bakersfield on a still summer day. You can’t see the foothills 10 miles away. The southern end of the valley has asthma and other air-quality related illness rather than are much higher than elsewhere in California.

It isn’t too difficult to grasp why this is the case. Models of pollution and air currents within the big gigantic bowl known as the Great Central Valley that stretches 450 miles with its width varying from 40 to 60 miles demonstrate how bad air is pushed southward where it is literally trapped.

It is why “smart growth” as defined by one that reduces auto trips has to be the mantra for valley communities whether it is Manteca or Bakersfield.

Say what you want about environmental groups, but if it wasn’t for their watchdog presence we’d probably be breathing much dirtier air.

The announcement of the Earthjustice EPA petition prompted a rash of responses by indignant folks - many in the Bay Area - who believe that somehow the Central Valley has a lower class of folks inhabiting it which is why we are polluting our air.

What is happening today to the Central Valley in terms of it becoming the Mecca for Bay Area families who can’t afford to live where the better paying jobs are or firms being squeezed out due to labor and land costs, is directly the result of “Stupid Growth” perfected by Bay Area jurisdictions.

To find proof of that just drop by a store that sells Berkeley Farms dairy products. The company is so named because it was once a collection of dairies in Berkeley that produced milk for San Francisco and other Bay Area communities. Food production to support the Bay Area was pushed decades ago into the Central Valley where air polluting trucks have to haul it to the stores in the Bay Area.

Not only did Bay Area growth patterns destroy virtually all farming in the region but it also chased people out who couldn’t afford high housing prices. The concept of “smart growth” and “affordable housing” has long been embraced by Bay Area activists and the people they elected to represent them on councils, boards of supervisors and in Sacramento.

Yet for all of their posturing they have little to show.

The Northern San Joaquin Valley essentially became the Bay Area’s de facto affordable housing plan.

The Bay Area is not an independent nation. It is part of California. It has benefitted greatly from the transfer of resources - water is the best example - from one part of the state to another. In fact, it was the wealth of the Sierra foothills that gave economic life to the once sleepy port known as San Francisco.

 Bay Area’s wealth was - and always will be - intermingled with that of the Central Valley. The reverse is also true.

And just as dirty air in Bakersfield is our concern - and partially our fault due to prevailing winds - so is the San Joaquin Valley’s air quality a legitimate concern of the Bay Area.

Regardless of how “red” and therefore backwards the Central Valley might be in the minds of some Bay Area liberals and in spite of the distaste that some conservatives have in the valley for the strong bluish tint of the Bay Area our fortunes are intertwined.  The problems of both regions affect both regions just like the good fortune of one helps the other. That is why issues such as air quality go beyond the imaginary boundaries of the Central Valley.

We are all Californians.