A Retrospective Look at Yolo County's
Air Quality in 2001
By Dave Rosenberg, Yolo County Supervisor, 4th
Chairman of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District (2001)
During 2001 I had the rare privilege of serving as Chairman of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District Board of Directors. Looking back, 2001 began with a serious energy crisis and ended with some significant Air District actions meant to continue progress in improving regional air quality.
The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District is one of 35 local districts, created by State law in California. It is regional government at its best. Oversight of the affairs of the 35 districts is vested in the Boards of Directors which are all composed of county supervisors and mayors/council members from the jurisdictions within each district. The Yolo-Solano district encompasses all of Yolo County and a large segment of Solano County, and is governed by a 14-member Board (8 from Yolo and 6 from Solano). Programs include regulating sources of air pollution, agricultural burning, asbestos abatement, air monitoring, and providing the public with information on air quality.
A primary mission of all districts, including the Yolo-Solano District, is reduction in the impact of air pollution on area residents, especially the young and the elderly. General program improvements help, but it is important to provide education and information to allow each person to make appropriate individual health decisions. Obviously, some people are affected by bad air more than others are. Information on air quality conditions is available in local papers and on the web at www.sparetheair.com. At this site, residents can also sign up for a free automatic paging system called "Air Alert" that sends out an alert over e-mail, text pager or digital cell phone when air pollution reaches a user-selected level. This system was made even more user-friendly in 2001.
Yolo-Solano District staff members regularly publish articles in local newspapers, participate in media programs such as "Spare-the-Air" and maintain an informative web page at www.ysaqmd.org. In 2001 the public outreach program was expanded with more hands-on participation at events such as the Yolo County Fair, the Davis Co-op Energy fair, and Winters Youth Day. Educational outreach is accomplished through a joint program with the American Lung Association which places an air quality/lung health curriculum in the hands of local 5th-6th grade science teachers. There is also an outreach program to local high schools, and rallies focusing on reducing driving were held at Davis, Woodland and River City High Schools in 2001.
Another important District program allocates funds received through a $4 vehicle registration surcharge toward local community clean air initiatives. These funds provide an important local match to state and federal programs. In 2001, the Board approved over $500,000 for various projects in the two-county region including EV-Ready Davis, additional natural gas powered buses for Unitrans and the Yolo County Transportation District, the Hydrogen Bus Technology Validation Program at UCD, and a number of biking programs.
There are a number of air programs that span several years. This year, the Yolo-Solano District Board approved several multi-year programs including rules reducing pollution from internal combustion engines and architectural coatings. Partnerships with numerous agencies also made a difference in clean air. The "Spare-the-Air" program is a partnership of Sacramento area Air Districts, including the Yolo-Solano District. This program reduced diesel pollution and fostered several initiatives to add alternative fuel vehicles and buses to local fleets. Public transit was enhanced through partnerships with regional agencies such as the Yolo County Transportation District and the Solano Transportation Agency, which awarded the District its "Partner of the Year" Award in November 2001.
While 2001 certainly had its success stories, solutions to air quality are complex and require innovative solutions at many leadership levels. Air quality is improving. However, at the same time, vehicle miles traveled and population continue to increase. It is important that we all support progressive local land use planning and more comprehensive action by state and federal governments to reduce vehicle pollution and lessen reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. As a partner in this comprehensive effort, the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, under the leadership of its Air Pollution Control Officer Larry Greene, and a dynamic and active Board of Directors, works every day to keep our air clean.