Of course it's great that we no longer have the smog of the 1970s and we never will return to those days, but how clean is "good enough"?
With beautiful blue skies (not trapped by fog or bitter-cold misty days), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has again issued its Spare the Air alerts, complete with criminal threats if any citizens even dare to have an old-fashioned Christmas with a beautiful and warming winter fire with their holiday celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's.
We have national and state air agencies and standards already; do we even need an expensive Bay Area duplication of measuring and enforcement? If we need it, does it have to have 22 politicians get pay and benefits to sit on its board? Does it need more than 350 expensive government employees, with more than 70 of them being holiday fireplace watchdogs eager to have fellow citizens fink on their neighbors for a $50 to $500 violation?
Do they need a budget in excess of $89 million (their figure) trying to get more with higher fees and fines?
Who's policing them? Their stated goals are to have air so pure that even people "most vulnerable with asthma" aren't affected. An unattainable goal because nature alone has particulate matter in the air from pollen to dust to rising water mist from the soil as the day warms up.
Their self-required standards are to declare a Spare the Air day when there is "a chance" that their minimum limit "may" be exceeded. And when we had gotten it down to several years of no Spare the Air days -- zero -- they just lowered the standards so that, voilà! we now have many more such days to justify their existence and never-ending lowering of the standards of particles per million.
From 1993 through 2006, by their records, we had only four Spare the Air days called. And from 2006 to a couple of months ago, they've called 98 such days, all days and years that never exceeded the national standard of ppm.
Despite California's recession, meaning less industry, construction and commuting, and despite our wonderful summer and mild winter, they have now called the 20th Spare the Air day since Nov. 20, as if particulate matter in the air "might" exceed their 2.5 ppm, a particle of pollution smaller than the eye can see, smaller than 1 grain of salt from your shaker per million parts.
Also, they have forced the Oakland port's diesel truckers to retool their engines, now have Proposition 30 cap-and-trade penalties to run up the cost of everything in higher taxes, and are so much stricter than other states that other than Silicon Valley tech companies, our economy is still in recession with the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
It will be interesting with their lab tests to see what the actual ppm of "pollution" were for each of these days they called. And also interesting to see the locations of their testing apparatus, since just a few years ago an employee disclosed that their sensors were intentionally set at locations to obtain higher readings.
If they call many Spare the Air days, it helps justify their existence, but doesn't mean it was actually warranted.
I hope the newspapers can investigate such things, so we are not all just at the mercy of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy.
They also at BAAQMD are jumping on the "global warming" thing as if carbon dioxide were now be a "pollutant" in the air, even though it is a necessary part for plants to grow, humans to breathe and life itself.
So, one hopes this bureaucracy can be brought under control and reduced to its original mission and to its standards being realistic for both our physical health and for the state's economy and jobs as well.
Pete Laurence is a resident of Clayton and a former member of its City Council.