Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change

Lorna Ho of Santa Rosa, proud driver of an all-electric Nissan Leaf, said she’s happy to be part of the vanguard in combating climate change.

Ho, a retiree, gave up her gas-guzzling Mercedes that got 15 mpg in September and leased a Leaf that hums along on battery power, releasing zero pollutants.

“All of that matters to me,” said Ho, who was recharging her vehicle Thursday at a power station at Coddingtown. “I’m very much aware of what’s going on in the environment.”

She’s also in sync with an ambitious pollution-fighting plan unveiled this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regulatory agency best known for issuing winter “spare the air” alerts that prohibit burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves on chilly nights when the air is likely to be fouled.

Now, the district’s “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” plan lays out a blueprint for curbing tons of Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a payoff of avoiding nearly $1 billion in social and economic costs.

“This is a major initiative,” said Kristine Roselius, an air district spokeswoman, noting that the Trump administration is dismantling numerous clean air measures. “The Bay Area is marching forward. It’s too important to stop.”

The Bay Area air district covers most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol, and all or part of eight other counties surrounding San Francisco Bay.

The plan, approved unanimously by the district’s 24 board members Wednesday, lays the groundwork for bringing Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It aims at big targets, such as oil refineries and diesel engines, emphasizes small, personal choices such as walking or biking to work, as well as eating more vegetarian and vegan meals.

“We really have to go beyond governmental actions to changes that people can make in their everyday lives,” said Abby Young, the district’s climate protection manager.

The plan, which includes 85 measures to curb Bay Area pollutants, “reaches beyond business as usual” for the district, she said. It targets pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses.

The air district will use its own authority to limit some emissions, and will work with cities and other agencies on issues related to transportation. The regulations will not be implemented for some time.

The district’s budget next year will include $4.5 million for grants to communities to carry out clean-air programs, but the details have not been formulated, Young said.

Putting more electric cars on the road is a major goal, given the current number of 90,200 - less than 2 percent of the 5.5 million registered vehicles in the Bay Area. The plan aims to establish incentives to boost the number to 110,000 electric vehicles by 2020 and to 247,000 by 2025.

With transportation identified as the largest regional source of greenhouse gas emissions, the plan also looks at curbing emissions from jets, trucks, school buses, locomotives and marine vessels.

The blueprint includes potential regulation of fermentation emissions from large wineries, similar to rules enacted in 2005 by the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District. That district counted ?109 wineries under its jurisdiction in 2007, compared with more than 300 wineries in Napa County alone, the plan said.

More research is needed to determine whether any Bay Area wineries meet the San Joaquin regulatory threshold of ?10 tons of emissions a year and whether “cost-effective controls” could be applied in the Bay Area, officials said.

There also could be limits on emissions from animal waste.

Overall, the plan anticipates cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about 4.4 million metric tons per year by 2030, setting a course for “deeper reductions” needed to achieve the 2050 target.

The measures would cut ozone precursors and soot by about 24 tons per day, and the combined effect of these reductions would avoid $975 million per year in social and economic costs, including health care, lost productivity and premature death, the plan said.

Young said the plan is about more than combating climate change.

“It’s about making sure every Bay Area resident has clean air to breathe every day,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette