Homeowners with open hearth fireplaces could be required to upgrade to low-emitting fireplace inserts or stoves before selling their homes

A Bay Area version of a "Cash for Clunkers" program could be expanded to get polluting cars off the road.

Dairies in the Bay Area could be required to reduce methane gas from their cows by providing animal feed that reduces their passing or belching gas, and wineries could be required to minimize sweet-smelling emissions from fermentation tanks.

These are among the measures the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will consider in the next few years under a clean air blueprint adopted Wednesday by the agency's nine-county air board.

The Clean Air Plan, done every three years, calls for the district to consider 55 measures, plus study 18 others, to reduce smog, soot and other fine particles, greenhouse gases, and toxic air contaminants such as benzene.

Not all measures in the plan may end up being adopted, but the document provides priorities for actions to continue the progress made in reducing pollution in the region since 1970, officials said. Details of the measures will be worked out during planning meetings, and will be aired publicly before the board votes on them.

Agency administrators and board members said the district needs to reduce pollution to protect public health. The nine-county air basin fails to meet state and federal public health standards for smog and soot particles, they noted.


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Both pollutants can trigger asthma attacks, and fine particles can cause heart and lung problems that can shorten lives, public health officials said.

"We are saving years of lives as we clean the air," said San Francisco County Supervisor Eric Mar, a member of the 22-member air board.

The vote to approve the clean air plan was 19-0, with one abstention by San Ramon City Councilman Dave Hudson.

Hudson, a board newcomer, said he supported much of the 520-page plan but has reservations about some elements he worries went too far in supporting higher parking fees, gas taxes and other measures to reduce auto use.

For the first time, the plan took a holistic approach in evaluating measures for their potential to reduce multiple pollutants, rather than looking at smog or soot separately, said Jack Broadbent, the air district's executive officer.

Carrying out all the measures would result in a statistical risk of 85 fewer premature deaths a year, fewer school and work absences, and some $770 million per year in reduced medical costs, air district officials estimated in a report.

Eighteen of the measures target fixed pollution sources, such as refinery boilers, cement kilns and furnaces and dairy farms. The air district has authority to limit emissions from these sources.

The air district has not previously regulated livestock, but cow waste and gases are strong in methane, which forms smog and warms the earth.

A petroleum industry representative objected to a measure to study the feasibility of levying a fee on greenhouse gas producing industries.

Guy Bjerke of the Western States Petroleum Association said a regional fee would conflict with fees that the California Air Resources Board may impose on industries statewide. "It's a duplication," Bjerke said.

Broadbent said the air board would take years to look at the fee concept with the involvement of industrial representatives.

The air district wouldn't make money on the fees, but the money collected would be used on programs to reduce global warming gases, he said.

Patricia Weisselberg of Mill Valley urged the board to put a high priority on enforcing rules that ban excessive smoke any time of the year and wood fires on bad air nights in winter.

But real estate representatives submitted written comments opposing a measure to study the possibility of requiring that homes with open hearth fireplaces to convert to low-emission fire inserts before they are sold.

That requirement could delay or hurt the slumping home sale industry, wrote Adam Montgomery, government affairs director of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

"We think it's an inefficient way to reduce pollution because only about 2 percent of the housing stock turns over in a year," Montgomery said.

The clean air plan also calls for looking at 37 measures to cut emissions through changes in auto use, travel, and land use development -- areas the district has less power to control directly.

Under one measure called indirect source review, the air district would consider requiring fees for builders who planned developments in a way that required long auto trips to reach them.

Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267.

AT A GLANCE
Pollution measures to be considered in Bay Area's Clean Air Plan:
  • Expand incentives to replace old cars and trucks.
  • Study possible requirement that before old homes with open hearth fireplaces are sold, they are required to convert to a low-emission fireplace insert or stove.
  • Support tolls on network of Bay Area express lanes to charge higher tolls during rush hour to reduce traffic congestion.
  • Consider rules limiting emissions from metal melting and digital printing facilities, cement kilns, refinery boilers, glass furnaces and dairies.
  • Provide incentives to farmers and construction companies to add diesel soot filters to equipment.
  • Consider a rule to levy fees on proposed developments that result in heavy auto and energy use.
  • Study requiring wineries to adopt practices that minimize evaporation of gases from fermentation tanks.
    Source: Bay Area Air Quality Management District