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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scientist Who Spotted Faulty Air Pollution Figures Still Supports AB 32, Opposes Prop. 23

Posted By on Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 5:40 PM

click to enlarge It's not as bad as you think
  • It's not as bad as you think
The San Francisco Chronicle has a big story today about how the California Air Resources Board overestimated the amount of pollution caused by diesel-burning trucks and other vehicles as it crafted regulations to improve air quality. It's a thorough story, and sure to be used as ammunition by supporters of Proposition 23, the oil-industry-backed ballot initiative that would suspend AB 32, the

state's landmark 2006 law to help address global warming. As the Chron puts it:

The setbacks in the Air Board's research -- and the proposed

softening of a landmark regulation -- raise questions about the

performance of the agency as it is in the midst of implementing the

Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 -- or AB32 as it is commonly

called, one of the state's and nation's most ambitious environmental

policies to date.

Yet the article's news content isn't exactly news to the scientific community. The research that uncovered these mistakes was originally published in a report in the journal Atmospheric Environment almost a year ago. And the engineer who performed that research --  Robert Harley of U.C. Berkeley -- tells SF Weekly that the last thing he wants is for people to walk away with the impression that AB 32 shouldn't move full-steam ahead, or that the competence of Air Board scientists should be called into question.

In an interview, Harley said Prop. 23 is an "awful" initiative and that AB 32 is based on sound science, even if the Air Resources Board's calculations on diesel emissions -- established as part of a 2007 regulation -- were mistaken. "I think it would be very unfortunate if conversations about diesel got conflated with global warming and what California should do about it," he said.

He added that that the Air Resources Board is "probably one of the premier agencies in the country, if not in the world," when it comes to regulating pollution.

As the Chron reports, the Air Board now acknowledges, based on questions raised by Harley's research, that its original pollution estimate was too high by 340 percent. Board officials are now working to scale back diesel regulations -- delaying when they will take effect and applying them to fewer vehicles -- based on the revised figures.

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Peter Jamison


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