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Bay Area air-quality agency tackles climate change

The Bay Area’s little-known pollution control district jumped into the fight against climate change Wednesday with a first-of-its-kind regional plan that promises big changes in residents’ daily lives. With calls for charging tolls to drive on freeways, doing away with gas heat and even urging meat-free meals, the agency is reaching beyond its usual targets of oil refineries and diesel trucks to push for cuts in greenhouse gases on a much broader scale. “When thinking about the scale of climate change, we realized this had to be an all-in approach, everything in on the table,” said Abby Young, climate protection manager for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. For its 62-year history, the air district’s main job has been policing the nine-county Bay Area for dirty skies, declaring “Spare the Air” days when ozone and particulate matter levels reached unhealthy levels. Bay Area residents were affected most directly when the agency banned fireplace blazes on pollution-clogged winter nights and won the power to levy fines against violators. The agency’s new “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” strategy makes global warming an equal priority, by targeting heat-trapping emissions. The plan, approved Wednesday by a unanimous vote of the agency’s governing board at a meeting in San Francisco, lays out 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses. “Reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases is everyone’s responsibility,” said Jack Broadbent, the district’s executive officer. How we live and travel, what we buy, how we heat our homes, and what we consume all impact air quality, our health and produce greenhouse gases that impact our planet and ultimately, our quality of life. Under the plan, the agency will use its unilateral authority to tighten emission rules for oil refineries in the East Bay. To address transportation, the district will work alongside cities and transit agencies to encourage greener travel —making roads friendlier for electric cars with more charging stations and encouraging regional ride-shares and carpools. The agency will also look to extend its “Spare the Air” day messaging to encourage slower driving, in hopes of reducing vehicle emissions on smoggy days. The plan also calls on the district to explore new rules, and potential prohibitions, on fossil-fuel based heating and water-heating systems in homes and businesses. [...] the district is eyeing a campaign to promote eating less meat, as meat production is tough on the planet in a number of ways. The plan comes as California leaders pledge aggressive action on climate change, a resolve that has been strengthened with the Trump administration’s efforts to rewrite federal environmental policy in hopes of encouraging economic growth. Several cities and counties have introduced programs to cut greenhouse gases, including San Francisco, but few have the regulatory power and reach of the state-chartered air district. Officials with the air-quality district say such reductions would save residents and local governments more than $1 billion a year, much of it in reduced health care costs. Among the steps approved by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday to try to fight climate change:

Article by By Kurtis Alexander (c) Page One News - Read full story here.