New air quality law will save lives

(October 13, 2013)

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Jerry Brown finished the job started by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, and is helping Californians breathe easier. He is even saving lives.

AB 8 (Perea), which had to pass the Legislature with a two-thirds majority before heading to Gov. Brown’s desk, works to clean up transportation—a main driver of our state’s air-pollution problem, and a major contributor to its greenhouse gas emissions, as well.

AB 8 extends successful incentive programs that use money from vehicle license fees and other sources to help retrofit and replace dirty old diesel engines, research clean transportation fuels, deploy advanced technology vehicles, and install clean fueling stations. These programs were due to sunset, but now they will continue their important and proven work of cleaning California’s air.

As the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report shows, nine out of 10 Californians live in areas with unhealthy air. Air pollution leads to heart and lung diseases, aggravates chronic health conditions, and triggers asthma attacks, emergency-room visits, and hospitalizations. Breathing smog and soot pollution can even cut lives short.

Children, seniors, low-income families and communities of color are most at risk, and across the state, dirty air costs billions of dollars in lost days at school and work and increased medical costs. Worse, our dirty air is killing us: each year, up to 9,000 premature deaths in California are linked to polluted air. Strong air quality regulations continue to be an important solution but incentives also speed up progress.

The programs addressed in AB 8 have already cut more than 140,000 tons of dangerous pollution out of the air, and put over 29,000 clean vehicles on the road since 1988. And they also support state climate change goals. Cleaner trucks and buses, plug-in electric vehicles, electric charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations are all examples of great projects funded under these programs.

California has made impressive progress over the years. But our air is still among the dirtiest in the nation. Big problems require ambitious solutions, and AB 8 represents the largest financial commitment by any state to clean up its transportation sector. Its base of support is big, too, and it is broad. From the California Trucking Association and the Farm Bureau to the Lung Association, more than 100 business, civic, health and environmental groups supported it—including groups that do not often find themselves on common ground.

In our polarized society, it’s rare to encounter such a broad consensus. On so many issues, we fracture along political or geographic lines.

But we all share the same air, and breathing it is not optional. Thanks to Gov. Brown and the Legislature for taking care of all of the people of California.




Marsha Ramos is Chair of the American Lung Association in California Governing Board and a former two-term mayor of Burbank, California. Ms. Ramos is Vice President of Geosystems, Inc. and resides in Burbank.

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