Reports on the air quality of Los Angeles are mixed: While the number of days of unhealthy air due to high ozone levels has been reduced, the area is still one of the most polluted nationwide. Political pressure from the oil industry in detriment of Angelinos only makes matters worse.
The American Lung Association’s 2016 State of Air report states that 52 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties with highly unhealthy air quality due to ozone or other polluters. Nearly 20 million people live in 13 counties around the nation that failed ALA’s three air quality tests. Los Angeles is on that list.
The evaluation also pointed out the relationship between poverty and pollution. An estimated 24.8 million people living under the federal poverty level reside in counties that failed at least one of the tests. Nearly 3.8 million of them live in cities such as Los Angeles.
The situation is far from acceptable, especially with the myriad advances in energy saving, public transportation and governmental regulation. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is greatly responsible for the improvements seen so far. This, however, is about to change, as many members the 13-seat board were replaced and now a Republican majority friendlier to the oil industry controls the panel.
The change is already becoming apparent. Last December, for example, SCAQMD rejected its own analysts’ recommendations to implement an emissions reduction program for refineries, electric plants and other polluters in favor of a plan proposed by the Western States Petroleum Association. The industry requested a postponement of the regulations, citing that these are too onerous.
Air pollution is a medical emergency. Every day, more children become asthmatic and more adults present heart problems and other ailments caused by pollution. That is why we agree with Senator Kevin De León’s proposal ‒ SB 1387 ‒ to expand the SCAQMD’s district board in order to attract environmental justice activists.
Changing the number of board members at regulatory panels for political reasons is usually a bad sign. In this case, though, the matter requires immediate action, not just to improve air quality but to avoid losing what has been achieved so far.