Make the ‘courageous’ step to improve life quality

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Photo/Anthony Victoria: The pollution overseen from Blair Park in San Bernardino. One can view Southern California Edison's Mountain View Power Plant from a distance.

Dear Dr. Burke and Governing Board Members,

The undersigned officials write regarding the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). As public servants ourselves, we appreciate the hard work and service that SCAQMD staff and Governing Board Members have put into this plan over several years. We also appreciate the challenges you face, whether it be the web of regulatory authority you confront, the multitudes of stakeholders engaging, or the spotlight put on this plan by the press and public. Finally, we appreciate your commitment to improving the health of our communities and eliminating the public health threat smog that has plagued our region for generations.

The AQMP that you will review on February 3 is of paramount importance to our constituents, and the doctors, nurses, and first responders who support them when they are sick. In the Inland Empire, dirty air impacts our community in many ways, from missed school days, canceled sports practices, higher health care bills, poor health, and too often premature death. And, while we know the concern about air pollution is one that we all share, we are compelled to express our serious reservations with SCAQMD’s current approach.

On January 6, SCAQMD staff put forward a proposal to raise billions of dollars to pay industry to reduce emissions by shifting away from polluting technologies. Your proposed funding streams include a variety of taxes that we will be asked to approve, endorse, and vote for, whether it be new property taxes, sales taxes, bond measures, and much more. The ultimate responsibility for these proposals will fall on officials like our constituents and us. We understand that major programs like this require tough, courageous actions, and we are willing to step up to support a plan that returns clean air to our region. What we cannot support, however, is a plan that disproportionately burdens middle and low-income families with regressive new fees and taxes, while not asking polluting corporations to do their fair share.

In our view, SCAQMD must step up and make courageous choices of its own before falling back on this new and risky approach. For example, how is it that the thousands of warehouses in the region have not been asked to install clean energy technologies like electric charging stations for trucks or solar panels on their roof? Before asking for new taxes, we ask that SCAQMD take steps in regulating the booming logistics industry, which drives truck pollution from the ports to communities in the Inland Empire.

There needs to be strong language detailing a framework for cleaning up warehouses and and other big pollution magnets. Warehouses themselves are not big emitters of air pollution, but the traffic they attract is. We believe incentives are a good idea, as long as they are assisting small business owners achieve their goals of upgrading their buildings and trucks. But for large developers and polluters who can more than pay their fair share, there should be rules in place. Rules that require indirect sources of pollution like warehouses to encourage zero-emission vehicles would greatly benefit the Inland Empire, where most of the harmful air pollution comes from automobiles. Right now, there’s only vague reference to these types of safeguards, so that language has to be strengthened since communities around warehouses in the Inland Empire, for example, are in the top 5% of the most overburdened communities in the state.

We understand that these are politically challenging decisions. But, we must conclude that by avoiding votes on these important measures, you are ceding your own role and passing the political burden to others.

In summary, we are glad to see SCAQMD taking the issue of air quality seriously. The Inland Empire has the worst air quality in the nation. This plan includes many important concepts and proposals that will help improve quality of life in the region. But, we also cannot help but feel like the agency is calling on local officials and our constituents to take very difficult votes, while avoiding the hard votes yourself. We urge you to maximize your full regulatory authority by requiring large warehouses and other large polluting sources in Southern California such as refineries and the ports to install clean-air safeguards. We also ask the SCAQMD spur new clean energy jobs by requiring energy storage instead of diesel generators and pushing fleets of vehicles to shift to electric.

We stand ready to do our part to protect our constituents and look forward to working with you in the coming months and years to implement a life-saving clean air plan. But, we are also counting on you to show the leadership and courage this agency has long been known for and finalize a plan that requires polluters to do their part as well.

Sincerely,

Jesse Sandoval
City of Fontana
City Council Member

Michael Tahan
City of Fontana
City Council Member

Kareem Gongora
City of Fontana
Planning Commissioner

Luisa Espinoza
City of Fontana
Parks and Recreation Commissioner

Carlos Bravo
City of Fontana
Parks and Recreation Commissioner

Karen Coleman
City of Fontana
Parks and Recreation Commissioner

Abigail Medina
San Bernardino City Unified School District
Vice President, Board of Education

Frank Reyes
San Bernardino Community College District
Trustee, Board of Education

Matthew Aguayo
City of San Bernardino
Parks and Recreation Commissioner

Jesus Chavez
City of Highland
City Council Member

Anaeli Solano
City of Highland
City Council Member

Eddie Tejeda
City of Redlands
City Council Member

Blanca Gomez
City of Victorville
City Council Member

Randall Ceniceros
Colton Joint Unified School District
Trustee, Board of Education

Janice Elliot
City of Upland
City Council Member

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