In 2004 western Nevada County was designated as an ozone non-attainment area under the Federal 8-hours standard. In receiving that designation it was recognized that the air quality in western Nevada County was severely impacted by transport of ozone from the Sacramento and Bay Area. About 90% of the County Ozone was estimated to be transported from outside sources.
Now the EPA has decided to prohibit Nevada County from using ozone reductions from upwind areas in demonstrating progress toward reaching the adopted 8 hour ozone standard. This would mean that Nevada County must demonstrate progress toward achieving the attainment standards based entirely upon reductions from within the non-attainment area.
With 90 percent of all ozone coming from outside Nevada County, there is no way to meet the standard, even if we parked every car in the County and shut down all ozone generating ozone industries in the County. The 8 hour threshold is often broken between 8 PM and 10 PM. Most Nevada County commuting is over and the cars are in the garage for the night.
CARB has sent a letter to the EPA requesting that they make provisions for case-by-case evaluations. Gretchen Bennitt, Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District Executive Manager has arranged a meeting with the CARB Staff on 11 May 2011 to gain additional information about the EPA Proposal. Supervisors Scofield and Owens have been invited to attend the meeting, as air quality issues have the potential to significantly impact transportation projects and funding in the County.
George Rebane wrote about Ozone Politics and discussed the issues of ozone measurement in an SESF Technical Note: TN0709-1: Foothill Furor – Seeking Basis for a Public Policy on Ozone Pollution. From the abstract:
In this report we describe how our ozone pollution is perceived and actually measured, the process by which the state and federal agencies will formally determine our compliance to their most recent ozone standards, and the status of computer models focusing on their specific roles in the current debate and in the man-dated attainment process to come. Additionally herein we present currently available in-formation that is assessed in terms of the state-of-the-art of atmospheric modeling, and we conclude that to date there is no evidence that the daily calculated and mandated ozone levels ascribed to hold across Nevada County are now or have ever been reliable.
Implementing EPA standards in Nevada County, when we have no way of calculating the true levels, could be a problem for our local economy. Car and trucks are considered the major contributors to ozone pollution, and the first line of defense is get the cars off the road. Right now CARB is using atmospheric modeling in calculate the ozone levels in Nevada County. It is not clear how it will be possible to separate the locally generated ozone from that which is blowing in from some where else. Ozone does not come in different colors.
It appears that the management of ozone is taking on the same irrationality that we are experiencing with CO2 and climate modeling. The models have been proven to be just unscientific wild ass guesses on which the EPA and CARB are basing their climate change policies. Policies that are having long term economic impacts on the state and our local community. Let’s assume for this discussion that, EPA will continue to insist that local transportation and land use planners make local ozone reduction measures, i.e. getting vehicles of the road.
One method of removing these cars from the road is to promote working and shopping from home. In Nevada County 7% of of the work force is already worked from home according to the 2000 Census, as apposed to 4% in Sacramento.
One of the major factors in increasing work and shopping from home has been the introduction of high speed broadband. I wrote about this issue for Comstock’s Business in an article that was never published. The article showed that investment in broadband was more effective than huge investments light rail in reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. However, my analysis and subsequent article did not fit the local campaign for more light rail funding, and was filed in circular container in the editors office.
Are there a more effective solutions [to light rail]? A closer look at the Census data offers one clue. The 1990 data shows that 3.1 percent of the Sacramento MSA labor force worked from home. By 2000 it was up to 4.0 percent, taking 11,735 more commuters off the road each day. Light rail only took about 2,300 cars of the road. Telecommuting was 80 percent more effective in reducing traffic congestion, than hundreds of millions of dollars invested in light rail.
However, there maybe an opportunity if the EPA insists on local ozone reduction action. I have always been a proponent of broadband as just another method of transportation, and that the Transportation Commission should be one of the leaders in promoting broadband in Nevada County. Now, there maybe an opportunity for the NCTC to take that leadership role and use the expansion of broadband as one of our ozone mitigation strategies to meet the EPA air quality standards.
Broadband can be used to reduce the number of commuters to the valley and increase on-line shopping in the County. There is also a major effort to increase health care monitoring in the home via broadband, which would reduce doctor and lab visits, taking even more cars off the road. Nevada County could be come a model community for remote health care monitoring and application. Opportunities abound.
As my grandmother use to say, when you only have lemons, make lemon aid.
- NCTC Executive Director’s Report, dated 8 May 2011(Commission Meeting Packet)
- SESF Technical Note: TN0709-1: Foothill Furor – Seeking Basis for a Public Policy on Ozone Pollution
- Unpublished paper by Author on Traffic Congestion Reduction.