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Should you pay for pollution by Sacramento?

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their county. If the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, then let the mighty come forward.

It is well known that during the summer, western Nevada County experiences some of the highest pollutant levels (ozone) in northern California. Ground level ozone is a secondary pollutant that at high enough levels negatively impacts the respiratory systems of children, the elderly and residents with respiratory diseases. It is also well known that this ozone is not produced locally but is blown or transported in from the San Francisco and Sacramento areas.

Our ozone problem is, at its most basic level, a problem of overwhelming transport from the upwind areas of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. It is the contention of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District and other local government entities that if Nevada County parked every car and shutdown every business, we would still experience high enough levels to negatively impact our health.



However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently proposed that Nevada County should apply unnecessary air quality controls similar to those in the more urban areas of Sacramento. They have accomplished this by proposing to include western Nevada County in the same federal ozone nonattainment area as Sacramento.

Simply put, all counties in a federal non-attainment area are pressured to adopt similar controls on similar emission sources. Once a county is included within a non-attainment area, it is rare that the regulations end up being appropriate and reasonable depending upon an area’s contribution to the pollution problem.




Additional concerns are that Nevada County will likely adopt Sacramento’s “dirty laundry” – Sacramento is currently facing the possibility of a loss of federal funding for transportation projects. The Dorsey Drive interchange and other road improvements could potentially be lost or delayed due to the withholding of federal highway money. There is a possibility that Smog Check II could become an annual ritual, at no small expense for local car owners. Even our own local control over planning and growth issues could be compromised and placed in the hands of bureaucrats in upwind counties.

The Air District and the Nevada County Transportation Commission would like your help in convincing the EPA that western Nevada County be a separate non-attainment area from Sacramento to avoid unnecessary “upwind” control measures on the local businesses and the residents of western Nevada County. These two agencies and the Nevada County Board of Supervisors have requested that EPA designate western Nevada County as a separate non-attainment area so that the district can pursue reasonable, local regulations proportional to our contribution to the problem.

Both the Air District and the Transportation Commission are requesting your help. Please write letters to your elected officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and request their assistance in persuading EPA to do the following:

1. Officially recognize western Nevada County as non-attainment for the national eight-hour ozone standard by virtue of overwhelming transport; and

2. Place western Nevada County in its own and separate non-attainment area.

Those two items should allow us to avoid unnecessary and costly over-regulation and maintain local control over our business community’s destiny. If there were ever a time when you thought your voice should be heard, please let this be that time. Thank you.

Gretchen Bennitt is the air pollution control officer Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, based in Grass Valley.

Mailing addresses:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, One Post St. , Suite 2450, San Francisco, CA 94104

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, 1700 Montgomery St., Suite 240, San Francisco, CA 94111

Congressman John Doolittle, 4th Congressional District, 4230 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay, CA 95746

State Senator Sam Aanestad, 200 Providence Mine Road, No. 108, Nevada City, CA 95959

State Assembly Member Rick Keene, 1550 Humboldt Road, No. 4, Chico, CA 95928


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