Monday, June 24, 2013

You want NOx with that?

The South Coast Air Quality Management District looks to trucks and burger joints to achieve federal air quality standards.

The recently approved Air Quality Management Plan in the South Coast air basin is calling for immediate sort term localized reductions to meet 2014 PM2.5 standards and long term truck turnover goals for control of directly emitted Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) in order to achieve a fast approaching 2020 federal standard for Ground Level Ozone. 

In case you are wondering what NOx is or does, a brief, crude explination follows;  NOx reacts in the atmosphere with sunlight to sunlight form Ozone, which is a precursor to smog, so controlling NOx at the one of the sources (tailpipes) will help s to reduce the formation of Ozone and subsequently, smog.  Without going into a lengthy discussion about air quality chemistry to justify the rather simple explanation above, suffice it to say, for the purposes of this article; if the government says it, it must be true. 

As is the same in every state, California finds itself under the ever-tightening ambient air quality standards of the Federal EPA. More than 100 rules have been written in the Golden State to curtail the burning air of yore resulting in the decline of restricted activity days statewide, with the south coast region enjoying more clearer days more often. Many may find it hard to believe that just over two decades ago, a visitor to Southern California would not even be able to see the 8,000 foot mountain ranges that border the region. The shroud of smog would hide the mountains only having their majesty revealed after strong winds or a downpour of the ever-elusive rain.

Of course it is not enough, as is the battle with Air Quality in California and most industrialized, highly populated regions. The state of California will not stop until Carbon emissions are reduced and the harmful pollutants associated with the heavy-duty transportation sector become part of a bygone era.

In the meantime, the SCAQMD is taking matters into their own hands with a comprehensive and aggressive plan to meet the Federal Air Quality guidelines. As the next few months ware on, we can expect specific details to emerge on how implementation is going to shape up. Incentives for cleaner engine certifications are being considered and the District hopes to entice end users with incentive monies towards the purchase of new technology that currently does not commercially exist for the heavy duty sector.

The region as a whole will benefit from these and other measures outlined in the AQMP, but one particular region within the basin, (outside the San Pedro Port Complex) Mira Loma, will be targeted for reductions above and beyond what is currently being controlled. Businesses in Mira Loma, can expect tightening standards on almost any type of smoke. Including the smoke coming from the char broiled burger joints that dot the landscape of storied southern California.

Mira Loma also shares the designation of being home to some of the largest distribution centers in the region, thousands of trucks travel throughout the roadways on a daily basis to service these facilities. In order to meet the Federal guidelines and beyond, the SCAQMD is endeavoring to have several thousand of those trucks replaced with zero or near zero emission technology over the next ten years to achieve the needed Ozone reductions by practically eliminating NOx from the tailpipe.

Although the District has limited authority over mobile sources and will be hard pressed in forcing any direct change on a local level, there is always the threat of additional regulation or at least targeted enforcement from the State. Even though most attention is being paid to Carbon reductions through the newly minted Cap and Trade program, federal air quality targets are not getting any looser. Standards will need to be met or Federal highway funding for California will be frozen, so continued attention will be paid to these types of reductions now and well into the future. 

This is one reason why it is important to maintain a constant surveillance of regulatory entities in California, because, as goes California, so goes the Nation....and contrary to the popular consensus for most who live outside of California, the state will not be breaking off into the Pacific Ocean any time soon; so we might as well get used to it.

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