A gas station of tomorrow — today

Pull up to a Propel Fuels gas station and you could be asked: “Do you want fry oil with that?”

This unique drive-thru offering “food” for your car is the gas station of the future, today. The Clean Mobility Center, the first of its kind in the nation, debuted in Fullerton on Wednesday on Chapman Avenue, selling two blends of biodiesel fuels including B20, which is 80 percent petro-diesel and 20 percent waste veggie fry oil or biodiesel. Also available on the same green island is E85, 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The corn/alcohol/gas blend is known as FlexFuel and is accepted in dozens of cars, pickups and SUVs carrying the FlexFuel label. Chevrolet has had several models for years, from the Malibu to the Silverado truck.

The best thing with FlexFuel is that Propel is selling it for $3.59 a gallon, about a buck lower than the $4.23 to $4.44 for a compatible unleaded gasoline grade. So you can save money and the planet.

“There are many American drivers who don’t even know they have a FlexFuel car,” said Propel Fuels CEO Matt Horton.

Yeah, now that you’re back from checking the back of your car, keep on reading.

Got a diesel vehicle? Diesel isn’t just for big rigs anymore. Car manufacturers are making diesel cars as clean diesel technology emerges. They can take Propel’s biodiesel blend without any conversion necessary. Horton himself drives a 2005 Volkswagen TDI diesel and says he doesn’t notice any difference between diesel and biodiesel in performance or fuel economy.

Motor Trend awarded the 2012 VW TDI Passat first place in fuel economy. The Passat got 40 miles per gallon, beating top-rated hybrid sedans. And yes, it can run on Propel’s biodiesel blend, he said.

Sick of paying higher prices for gasoline? Tired of supporting big oil companies that earn humungous profits and foul our oceans? Want a way to stop supporting overseas dictators?

There is an alternative.

“For the first time anywhere, now there are options,” said Mary Nichols, chairman of the state Air Resources Board.

With 23 stations in California, Propel Fuels, an American company that actually moved from Washington into Redwood City, bringing jobs to the state, is also bringing its blend of alternative fuels and environmental consciousness to the consumer level.

Their Clean Mobility Centers also offer: free air right on the island; a bicycle station also with air and free access to tools to repair your two-wheeler; a map/transit/carpool information kiosk, and for those filling up with regular gasoline, a carbon footprint offset.

For an extra buck, you can offset the damage to the environment by swiping your card and pushing the “carbon offset” button at the pump. You’ll instantly invest in carbonfund.org, which is building clean energy projects. Each time you fill up and swipe, Propel will track your environmental progress. It has about 10,000 customers already in its database.

If you don’t live near Fullerton, you can fill up with clean fuels at their partnership stations: the Chevron Station at West Huntington Drive and First Street in Arcadia; the 76 Station at Firestone Boulevard and San Antonio Drive in Norwalk.

Propel Fuels plans on adding natural gas and maybe hydrogen, as soon as the vehicle market for both fuels expands, Horton said.

As fast as Propel picked up grants, first from the feds and then from the California Energy Commission ($5 million in seed money), it is towing a crowd of venture capital investors, Nichols said.

“They have leveraged a lot of private capital,” said Andrew McAllister, Energy Commission board member. Propel includes several private industry customers, such as shipping giant FedEx and Econation, a green taxi-limousine service that uses the Arcadia station to fill up its FlexFuel vans.

Less smog, a better climate future, energy independence, American jobs and convenience. Pretty impressive.

They had me at free air pumps.

Starving CSU students’ voices go unheeded

ON my way to teaching my class at nearby Cal State Fullerton, I stepped over a bedroll outside the convenience store inside Langsdorf Hall, the building that houses the university’s administration.

I asked the student clerk who handed me my vanilla latte what was all the commotion about. When she told me, it didn’t register.

Students were going without food in protest of overwhelming cuts and nearly continuous tuition hikes at the Cal State Universities.

That’s right. A student hunger strike. The 10 hunger strikers, including David Inga of CSUF, according to the CSUF student newspaper The Daily Titan, ended their action last Friday shortly after a meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees. It’s not clear whether the group, Students for Quality Education, made a difference. But they are claiming victory because Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has agreed to meet with them and consider their demands: eliminate all housing and car allowances for all 23 campus presidents; rollback executive salaries to 1999 levels and a five-year freeze on tuition increases, according to The Daily Titan.

First, those demands make sense to me. Yet, the CSU Chancellor’s Office says no existing administrator has had raises since 2007 and when everyone – including part-time faculty – received 10 percent paycuts and furlough days, the administrators took the hits as well. And if there are no fee increases, a campus or two may have to close this fall.

Clearly, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed is in a tough spot. He’s being squeezed by cutbacks in state funding. And if the governor’s tax proposal is not approved by voters this fall, the ax will fall closer to part-time professors like me, and that could mean elimination of more class sections at CSUs, UCs and community colleges and hurt students, too.

Gary A. Negin, a professor in the College of Education at California State San Bernardino, wrote an opinion piece Wednesday in a sister newspaper showing how cutbacks affect students and faculty. “For example, 8,000 fewer courses were offered in 2010-2011 than in 2008-2009 (at the CSUs). Students frequently have to interrupt, postpone, or end their studies because they cannot find seats in classrooms that are filled to capacity.”

Negin reported on an analysis by The Sacramento Bee published earlier this month that found many graduates of high schools in California applied for admission to universities in other states because they were frustrated after being rejected by a CSU. He added: “More students are leaving California than are coming to California to attend school, even though the annual costs for out-of-state residents are higher.”

Negin and the hunger strikers get it: California is losing its edge in higher education. A state that once led the nation in this area is slipping, badly.

Second, that day when I was rushing to my office to put some finishing touches on my lecture, I was oblivious to what was literally unfolding at my feet.

Students are starving themselves just to stop what has been a 318 percent rise in tuition since 2002. This fall, the latest 9 percent tuition hike takes effect, pushing the price of a year’s tuition at a CSU to more than $7,000 for the first-time ever. Pay for CSU presidents range from $259,000 to $400,000.

Students are not a voting bloc. They get ignored by politicians. The sad part is, they have to starve themselves to be heard. What will it take for the people of California to realize that the system is hurting our future leaders? Will it take a student dying next time? I hope not.

At a rally at Mt. SAC in Walnut, speakers urged students to vote. I agree that is the best way for their voices to be heard. I would admonish parents, too, since they are the ones picking up the tab for their children’s higher tuition.

I also like the students’ other demand: To directly elect the CSU Board of Trustees, instead of the governor or the Legislature hand-picking folks who agree with them. “…it will be empowering students (and) faculty to find the best representatives for the best interest of California students.”

Add my voice to theirs.

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Least bell’s vireo seen in San Gabriel Valley

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Kimball L. Garrett, ornithology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, allows a child to take a peek through his scope focused on a rare bird in the San Gabriel River. Garrett led the bird walk last month in association with the Duarte Historical Society Museum. (SGVN/Staff photo by Steve Scauzillo)
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SEEING the least bell’s vireo on a recent birding hike adds an endangered species to my bird life list. It’s a feather in any birder’s cap to see a rare bird, or more so, an endangered bird. Figuratively speaking, of course.

When I heard that Kimball Garrett, the ornithologist with the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, was leading the walk on Earth Day last month, I jumped at the chance. And when I heard he was searching for the endangered bird in the scrub and arundo of the natural courses of the San Gabriel River, I set my alarm to be there.

Believe me, getting up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday is worth it if it meant moving a bird from one’s wish list (a bucket list of birds you really want to see) to one’s life list (species you’ve seen, along with the date and the place).

If it wasn’t endangered, you might not really look for it, said Garrett, whose down-to-earth demeanor perfectly complements his tremendous bird knowledge. Garrett’s book “Birds of the Los Angeles Region,” is a good example. It’s straight forward, easy to use and complete – like him. Plus, I like the focus on local birds. It narrows things down for us beginning birder types.

There is nothing worse than a docent talking about birds not in the hike. Like the time I visited the Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach and the friendly guide went on a 10-minute tangent about snowy owls.

On that gray Sunday morning in Duarte, Garrett spoke with equal enthusiasm about the vireo as he did the yellow warbler perched in the tree at the edge of Encanto Park. He’s no bird snob. He’s a guy who gets phone calls from people throughout the county asking what they should do about squawking wild parrots.
“Close your windows?” he relayed to the group, cracking a Mona Lisa smile.

When my wife asked him about the cooper’s hawk that began stalking the house finches and white-crowned sparrows hovering around our backyard bird feeder, Garrett deadpanned: “You might want to stop feeding them.”

It’s that kind of practical, been-there advice that punctuated the bird hike and made it so enjoyable. That, and seeing birds I’ve never seen, including the yellow-breasted chat, what I suspected was a favorite of Garrett’s.

A couple weeks later, I was sitting at a picnic table in Lareo Park, staring into the river. I saw a crow dogging a hawk and thought of Garrett. And as I stared into the misty mountainside, I remembered the least bell’s vireo I had seen a few weeks earlier.

I couldn’t shake the thought of that tiny, gray bird, vulnerable, ready to disappear from the streams of California forever. I no longer felt so happy about seeing it.

The whole idea of endangered species bothers me. The idea that animals are here one day, gone the next. And that we don’t even know it is happening, and often, don’t care.

The whole bittersweet experience caused my mind to wander about what it means to be extinct. One of your kind is around no more, not even after you’re gone. No legacy. Just gone.

It really takes knowledge to see the invisible world of birds. And knowledge is helping those that are endangered, including the least bell’s vireo.

Dan Guthrie, biology professor emeritus at Claremont McKenna College, said efforts to bring back the gray bird have raised its numbers from a few hundred in the `70s to a couple thousand today.

“They have recovered pretty well,” Guthrie said.

Turns out, the cowbirds were laying eggs in its nest. The more dominant bird would kick out the vireo chicks and the vireo adults would feed the cowbird chicks instead. Sort of like kidnapping.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife program traps and yes, kills cowbirds so the vireos can thrive. They are making a comeback in Prado Basin near Chino and along the Santa Clara River. And I’m happy to report, here, in the San Gabriel River.

You may not see it. And neither may I again. But knowing its been given a new chance at life satisfies something deep in my soul.

Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and the communities along the Puente Hills. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

Southern California air getting cleaner

By Steve Scauzillo, SGVN
twitter.com/stevscaz

The air in Southern California is the best it has been in 13 years, according to the American Lung Association, and Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties have been removed from the association’s “fail” list for particle pollution for the first time.

The 13th annual “State of the Air” report released by the nonprofit association Wednesday, and a study from the California Air Pollution Control Officers released Tuesday, both show a dramatic decrease in all kinds of lung-damaging pollution, including ozone and particle pollution.

For the South Coast Air Basin – which includes the non-desert parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties – the number of good air days rose from 76 in 2000 to 154 in 2011, as determined by the Air Quality Index, a daily measurement of four major smog components. Likewise, the number of “unhealthy” days dropped from 30 to just 10 last year. In between, there were “moderate” and “unhealthy for sensitive people” days, according to the air pollution officers’ report “California’s Progress Toward Clean Air 2012.”

Despite these successes, Southern California remains the No. 1 smoggiest region in the nation for ozone pollution, according to the Lung Association. The air pollution officers’ data shows that in 2011, there were 52 days above the federal Environmental Protection Agency standard of 75 parts per billion for ozone, just three days less than in 2000.

Locally, San Bernardino County has the worst air with 127.8 ozone days, followed by Riverside County with 111.3 and Los Angeles County with 86.2. Orange County had only 10.7 ozone days, according to the Lung Association report.

Experts say while the amount of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides from power plants, vehicles, and lawnmowers is down, the unique geography of Southern California mountains and valleys trap in bad air. Also, the California sunshine cooks these primary pollutants and creates tropospheric ozone, a kind of mutated oxygen molecule that causes shortness of breath and, in the long-term, speeds up the aging of the lungs.

The Lung Association says studies show children and adults over 65 are most vulnerable to ozone’s health effects. Studies by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and New York University confirmed that ozone levels at or above the federal standard increased the number of premature deaths.

About 37,700 premature deaths a year in the United States could be avoided by strengthening the standards for particle pollution, the Lung Association report said. Short-term exposure increases around freeways and major thoroughfares, the report concluded.

Over 127.2 million Americans live in counties where they breathe unhealthy levels of ozone or short-term and long-term exposures to particle pollution, according to the report.

Other studies underscore the health effects from particle pollution, which can be from diesel exhaust and from microscopic nitrogen oxide molecules in the air, which account for smog’s brown tinge. New evidence shows diabetics are at a greater risk when exposed to particle pollution because it interferes with insulin resistance. Particle pollution also increases a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke and respiratory illness, according to the Lung Association.

In an unusual correlation, the Lung Association says people who use public transit face a greater risk of dying from exposure to smog, as do the unemployed and African Americans.

Dr. Kari Nadeau, a physician and researcher studying smog and asthma at Stanford University, said 2.1 million Californians suffer from asthma and of those, more than 90 percent live in counties receiving a failing air grade.

“The simple act of inhaling polluted air affects the immune system’s ability to do its job,” she said.

Her studies suggest air pollution can cause genetic changes inside the body, especially in children.

Lydia Rojas, a Los Angeles activist and mother of three children with asthma, watched her 15-year-old daughter die from a severe asthma attack.

“Without clean air, you can’t breathe. And if you can’t breathe, you die,” she said at a press conference Tuesday, holding back tears.

steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

Health care mandate a volunteer’s dilemma

MY wife and my 20-year-old son were transfixed to the TV as I walked in the door Wednesday night. The evening news was quoting a Supreme Court justice. He was responding to arguments by the U.S. government’s executive and legislative branches why the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

I was actually shushed. They wanted to hear the debate.

Fascinating. Invigorating. All the ings times 10.

These last few days have been better than any movie as far as showing democracy in action, American style. The third branch of government strutting its stuff. People waiting five days for a seat in the gallery of the Supreme Court. A landmark law and the Constitution pit one against the other.

All I could add was: “Andy, it’s all about the public good.” Meaning, the reason for requiring every adult to have health insurance (the individual mandate) is so everyone pays. Now, the 20-30 percent not covered use hospital emergency rooms, etc., and those of us who pay for insurance pay for their care, too. They get off scot free. The health insurance companies raise the rates for the uncovered about $1,000 a year per family, the government argued, so employees pay more out of their paychecks for health insurance, employers pay higher rates for their group plans, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in editorial boards and heard hospital administrators say they are passing on the cost of the uninsured to those who have insurance. Or, they close their doors to trauma patients.

What is a public good?

My youngest, Andy, 20, a junior studying business in college, quoted from his macro-economics lecturer, answering: “A public good is non-rivaled and non-exclusive.” It’s very good and it’s for everybody, in other words.

But Andy went on. “This is more about the volunteer’s dilemma,” which assumes it costs money to be the volunteer. “If enough people volunteer, than everybody gets the public good. It is only worth it if the benefit gain outweighs the cost,” he said, giving credit to his professor at University of California, Irvine, J.T. Carvalho.

In the health care debate, the insured are the volunteers. And the new law says the public good will outweigh the cost as long as everyone volunteers, so to speak. I realize use of the word “volunteers” may sound misleading here. People will have to buy health insurance but at reduced rates. At least, that’s the way Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued it before the justices.

Just a quick glance at the transcripts can be very enlightening. Tuesday’s debate over the individual mandate is apt. Justice Samuel Alito said this is no different than the government “make(ing) people buy broccoli.” He also compared it to requiring everyone to buy burial services, since eventually that is something we will all need.

But Verrilli countered that the law is affecting commerce, the buying and selling of health insurance. That is the way Americans pay for health care. This is way different than other markets (like food and caskets). In Alito’s examples, you don’t have the cost shifting to others, but in health insurance you do.

To me, the better analogy is the state’s requirement for every driver to buy car insurance. Again, it’s so that we all share in the cost of accidents. Some say, well that’s different. One can choose not to drive.

Yes, that’s true. If you don’t drive (you take the bus or ride the train), you are not contributing to the auto insurance market. For health care, you would have to refrain from going to a doctor or emergency room – unless you paid cash. As Verrilli argues, sometimes you can’t make that decision. Sometimes (car accident, stabbing, shooting, hit by lightning, fall off ladder, slip on banana peel, you name it) you will need care and you’ll have to pay big time. Unlike driving, you can’t avoid being in this market. Hence the need for a health insurance mandate.

Unless you rely on herbal remedies and self-surgery. Is that the way the greatest country of the world is heading? I certainly hope not.

Stop starving our state universities

JUST by watching a bit of television the other night I could tell something is afoot in the world of higher education. Slick ads for Capella University, University of Phoenix, Devry Institute, ITT Tech are flooding the prime time airways.
These for-profit colleges have more money for ads than a pro-Romney Super PAC. Well, I don’t really know exactly who has more bucks, but my point is thus: Ads on TV are expensive.

While for-profit colleges are raking in students and profits, our own Cal State Universities are being sucked dry by the state and are closing their doors and windows quicker than a Midwestern homeowner in the path of twister.

If you don’t want to hear bad news, turn the page or click elsewhere. But if you are outraged over the way the state, our Legislature, and our citizenry have turned their collective backs on our Cal State University system, keep reading. Perhaps you can do something about it.

Last week, the CSU Trustees voted to freeze all admissions for next spring semester as a result of the state cutting $750 million in 2009-2010. That means, instead of the getting the usual 16,000 to 18,000 transfer students, they’ll narrow the door to about 2,000 to 3,000. And these are enrolled in a direct community college-to-CSU program started last year under SB 1440. Locally, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Fullerton are the only two campuses accepting transfer students in Spring 2013.

That’s the good news.

Schools, including the CSUs, UCs and Community Colleges are counting on voters approving the governor’s tax plan to raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent and also raise income taxes 2 percent on earners making between $300,000 and $500,000 and 3 percent for those earning more than $500,000. The extra revenue would stave off another $200 million cut to the CSUs set to trigger in late November.

If there are more cuts, the CSUs will reduce enrollment in the fall of 2013 by 20,000 to 25,000 students.

In a way parents can understand, that would mean current high school juniors who can’t get into Harvard or a UC and are trying to get into a Cal State would be affected. Up to 25,000 17-year-olds who fill out applications to one of the 23 CSU campuses will be rejected out of hand or put on waiting lists.

Some say the grade point average for a freshman to get into a Cal State Fullerton or Cal State Long Beach will rise to 3.5 (out of 4.0). Most of the adults who graduated from a CSU and are working in their fields wouldn’t get in today.

So sad. It’s a crime, really, that we’re squeezing hard-working middle class kids and families to the breaking point. The students that populate our CSUs today are the ones who later become accountants, teachers, engineers, nurses, writers, scientists and entrepreneurs thanks to the excellent training they receive.

Another tuition hike set to take affect in five months will raise the cost of attending a CSU to about $6,000 a year – just for tuition. Add books, room and board and a family will be paying $20,000 to $25,000 a year for each son or daughter at a CSU.

One of our sister newspapers wrote that many Ivy League schools are so rich with endowments they are reducing tuition, even for families with up to $175,000 in household income. It is becoming cheaper to attend Harvard than Cal State Fullerton.

I don’t think that families of today’s high school juniors realize the predicament they will be in if no new taxes are approved. I’ve heard stories of B or even A- students getting rejection letters from CSUs. Or, they could crash the community colleges, where record enrollment already prevents many students from getting necessary classes to graduate. Mt. SAC has 63,000 students per semester – the largest in the state. Getting classes is only half the battle – the other half is finding a place to park on campus.

And so it goes with our future generation. This is what we’re doing to young people who will be our country’s next leaders. Sure, wealthier kids and the handful who get into Harvard from the San Gabriel Valley will be fine. Some who earn lesser degrees from for-profit schools will be burdened with persistent college debt.

CSU graduates are huge contributors to what’s good in our society. Let’s not lose them. I don’t want to live in a world where the working class kids are left behind.

Another kind of recycling

THE GREEN WAY

Ever since the 1970s, the three R’s of the green movement were Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It has served the recycling movement well, helping the planet through the recycling of aluminum cans, glass bottles and now, plastic.
A group of preservation minded planners, architects and activists are asking: Why don’t we apply the same green principles to old buildings?

In short, by not tearing down older buildings, that will divert tons of brick and metal from filling up our landfills. Preserving and adapting older buildings for new uses will increase their energy efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint and create jobs.

Just like when we recycle soda bottles and tires.

“We need to reduce, reuse and recycle when it comes to our buildings. Why not apply those three R’s to our built environment?” asks Chris Olson, president of the Alhambra Preservation Group.

For years progress was measured in how many old buildings are torn down and how many shiny new ones erected. This was the modus operandi of American commerce and it infected even architects and city planners. Preservations, on the other hand, have been singing the praises of historic structures but for cultural and aesthetic values. For example, they’d say nobody makes those Greene and Greene fitted beams and wood inlays anymore.

With the release of a documentary last year, “The Greenest Building: The Role of Historic Buildings in Creating a Sustainable Culture,” the preservation

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movement is going green. Screenings across the country, including one in Alhambra Thursday night hosted by Olson’s group, are pumping up the environmental aspects of historic preservation.
More than 74 percent of the commercial buildings in the country were built between 1950 and 2010, according to Ralph DiNola, a green building consultant quoted in the movie. Over the next 20 years, he says, Americans will demolish and rebuild 30 percent of this building stock, he says in the film.

Even replacing them with environmentally friendly buildings may not be necessary, he says. In fact, when the overall environmental cost is counted, a brand new building will cost more in materials mined, energy used, and in the release of pollution and greenhouse gases that raise health risks and cause global climate change.

“We haven’t made that transition when we talk of historic buildings,” he said.

Jane C. Turville, the movie’s writer/producer/director says in her blog that cities must develop environmental stewardship along with building stewardship. One of the topics at Thursday night’s panel discussion featuring Denise Lawrence-Zuniga of Cal Poly Pomona’s John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies; Victoria Deise-Wilson with The Ratkovich Co. and Peyton Hall, managing principal of historic resources with the Gamble House in Pasadena was how to make adaptive reuse more economically feasible.

Turville says laws that preserve historic structures must not be “just another hoop to jump through” for developers. “It should be everyone who values a community’s sense of place.”

Combining environmental stewardship – i.e. preserving our hillsides, our forest, restoring our rivers – with building stewardship – i.e. Old Pasadena, Old Town Monrovia – is what gives the San Gabriel Valley its sense of place.

The SGV’s sense of place, and that of Whittier with its green hills and historic buildings, make for a more liveable space. The quality of life is better here than say, in the San Fernando Valley or in the city of Los Angeles.

Monrovia’s oak tree ordinance and historic preservation laws have raised that city’s property values. Restoring Pasadena’s City Hall dome and Rose Bowl help keep up the Rose City’s unique identity. Olson is trying to get Alhambra to incorporate a historical element into its general plan. That way, property owners can take advantage of federal and state tax breaks when they improve their historic structures.

A greener region, combined with the restoration of historic structures, ratchet up our area’s quality of life, or as Donovan Rypkema calls it in the movie, our “sense of place.”

If preservation of both buildings and open space is not pursued, then we run the risk of losing our sense of place: “For the first time in human history, many of us are locationally indifferent,” Rypkema warns.

Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and the communities along the Puente Hills. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at steve.scauzillo@gmail.com.

New study says diesel exhaust more dangerous

http://www.sgvtribune.com/ci_20146023/new-study-says-diesel-emissions-can-increase-risk?IADID=Search-www.sgvtribune.com-www.sgvtribune.com

A landmark government health study released last week provides evidence that the diesel engine exhaust that pervades California highways could be causing cancer at a greater rate than previously known.
The study says miners exposed to diesel engine exhaust are three times more likely to contract lung cancer and die, and that a similar increased risk applies to people from smoggy, urban areas such as Southern California who live near freeways or commute to work.

The long-term study, carried out by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is described by scientists and advocacy groups as the most thorough study on the topic ever released. The study was published in the current edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The data will be examined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, at the agency’s meeting in June to decide if diesel exhaust should be re-classified as a known carcinogen. Now, exhaust from diesel trucks, buses, portable generators and off-road construction equipment is classified as a “probable carcinogen.”

In California, studies of exposure to diesel exhaust along freeway corridors and inside cars on truck-congested freeways led the California Air Resources Board in 1998 to classify diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant.

The latest ground-breaking study could lead to even tighter regulations

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on buses, trucks, locomotives, ships and other sources of black soot emitted into the air and breathed by 16 million Southern Californians.
“The more we find out about diesel exhaust, the more we are aware of its dangers to the public,” said Dimitri Stanich, a spokesman for CARB in Sacramento.

Martin Schlageter, campaign director for the nonprofit Coalition for Clean Air in Los Angeles, said the findings are frightening.

“This is not a three-fold increase in gray hair. It’s in lung cancer and death,” he said. “Every time a study comes out (on diesel emissions), it is even more toxic than what we thought. But the message is the same: Dirty diesel kills.”

In the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire, trucks on freeways are increasing, experts said. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)’s Regional Transportation Plan estimates freight traffic – mostly by diesel trains and diesel trucks – will double in the region by 2032.

“If you live near the 60, or the 710, or the 605, you will have double the truck traffic,” Schlageter said.

SCAG has proposed a double-decker truck lane near the 60 Freeway between the 605 and 57 freeways, but only if the trucks that use it are zero emission. Those trucks would have to run on batteries, hydrogen-powered fuel cells or some type of overhead electrical power like a light-rail trolley, according to the RTP.

The study looked at 20 years of real data on miners exposed to diesel exhaust.

The authors of the study “make the leap” from the 12,000 miners to millions of urban Americans, said Bruce Hill, a scientist studying diesel emissions with the Clean Air Task Force, a group advocating for clean fuels and against coal-fired power plants.

“(The) findings suggest that the risks may extend to other workers exposed to diesel exhaust in the United States and abroad, and to people living in urban areas where diesel exhaust levels are elevated,” said Joseph Fraumeni Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, which conducted the study, in a statement.

The study showed statistically significant increases in the risk of lung cancer mortality among underground workers as the level of diesel exposure increased, especially in those who worked for more than five years.

It concludes that the risk of dying from lung cancer was three times higher for those directly exposed to diesel exhaust than those exposed to lower doses of diesel exhaust, Hill said. Hill estimated those exposed to only 2 to 6 micrograms of diesel pollution over a lifetime – a much lower dose than received by the miners and a possible dose for urban dwellers

Diesel trucks travel the 60 Freeway through Hacienda Heights March 7, 2012. Diesel emissions are more dangerous than previously thought. Some say even commuters riding on the freeway can breathe in diesel exhaust and get exposure levels that cause cancer and premature death. (SGVN/Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb)
- would increase their risk of getting lung cancer by 50 percent.
“In some of the big cities, there may well be levels that reach that,” he said.

Hill’s own studies in Los Angeles County between 2003 and 2009 found that some levels of diesel exhaust exist in varying amounts on and near freeways, whether inside a diesel-powered school bus, a car on the freeway, or in the air in a neighborhood next to a freeway.

Drivers are exposed to higher concentrations than people standing on the sidewalk alongside a freeway due to the “wind tunnel” effect, Stanich said.

“If you are driving in L.A. every day and you are in traffic with diesel exhaust, you will get high exposures to these pollutants,” Hill said.

From his studies of diesel pollution inside cars riding in tunnels in Boston and other cities, he said keeping the car windows up will cut way back on exposure. Also, punching your car’s “recirculate” button will keep out harmful exhaust.

“Some newer cars today come equipped with HEPA filters. That really helps lower exposure,” Hill said.

A HEPA filter in a car traps the fine particles that measure 2.5 microns or smaller. These can lodge deep into the lungs and even enter the blood system, Stanich explained.

Also helping reduce exposure are CARB’s regulatory programs launched in 2000 with the goal of cutting airborne diesel particulate matter by 80 percent by 2020, Stanich said. CARB is supplying grants to help trucking companies replace fleets with newer, cleaner truck models or retrofit them with particulate traps. Also, sulphur has been removed from diesel fuel.

“A diesel truck sold today is more than 90 percent cleaner than one sold 20 years ago,” Stanich said.

Dennis Firestone, president/CEO of KKW Trucking, Inc. in Pomona, said he has been attacking the problem of exposure to diesel in two ways: buying cleaner tractors and reducing fuel use.

The Pomona-based company has about 350 trucks that transport in several western states. The average age of his fleet is 1 1/2 years old, he said, due to an aggressive replacement plan.

Recently, ACE Beverage Co. of Boyle Heights replaced 25 old trucks with brand new ones, with the help of a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. AQMD said the trucks are 96 percent cleaner.

“There has been a significant reduction of emissions over the last decade,” Firestone said. “So the danger is diminishing rapidly. That’s the good news.”

He also reduces fuel used by KKW trucks by prohibiting idling in the truck yard and by participating in a U.S. EPA program that helps trucks yield better mileage through add-on devices such as “belly skirts” that increase aerodynamics.

The NCI study uses 20 years of real data to gauge the risk of diesel exposure on miners, making it extremely valuable to scientists. However, its results were suppressed by mining and diesel-truck manufacturing lobbies since the late 1990s.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the federal courts allowed these industries to review the study results before they could be published. The agencies that performed the study fall under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Recently, HHS appealed the court order and went ahead and published the study results, according to The Center for Public Integrity, which had pushed for publication.

steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

626-962-8811, ext. 2237

Term limits put bureaucracies in charge

EVERY six years, the state Assembly clears out its membership and replaces them with folks with absolutely zero experience. It’s like the physician’s staff telling you as you are about to go in for surgery:

“We’ve replaced all the doctors having six years or more experience with newbie medical interns. That includes the guy who has your life in his hands. OK, Mr. Smith, let’s take out that spleen.”

Assembly members must leave after six years, state senators after eight. That’s not enough time for any man or woman to understand the state budget or keep a monster-sized bureaucracy in its place. By the time they’ve attended a hearing, or tried to read the budget (ha!), they’re raising money for their re-election while promising constituents the moon. Cut taxes? Make changes to state pensions? Tame a bureaucracy? Nah. These guys don’t have the experience nor the contacts across the aisle to effectively govern. Instead, they pass fragrant bills that make them smell good but really cover over the rot in Sacramento.

I understand the thinking (anger?) behind Prop. 140, – which was backed in large part by the San Gabriel Valley’s county Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who later said it was a mistake. But it hasn’t worked.

The Sacramento Bee reported in 2011 that 60 percent of Assembly members and 40 percent of senators termed out in 2008 were appointed or elected to another public-sector job. That’s about the same numbers as in 1980 and 1990.
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The unintended effect is a dumber Legislature. And here’s my point: It puts bureaucracies in charge, not our elected officials. Heads of Caltrans and the California Air Resources Board have more power than elected officials.

The Public Policy Institute of California in 2004 said term limits “have eroded legislative capacities in unhelpful ways” while “careerism remains a constant in California politics.”

On Tuesday I met with some key water managers from local districts: Rick Hansen of Three Valleys and Shane Chapman of Upper San Gabriel Valley. Both have decades of experience on the complicated issue of water. They’ve seen imported water supplies reduced due to environmental erosion in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They’ve seen a compromise bill in 2009 that produced an $11 million bond measure for the November 2010 ballot get postponed until November 2012. Now, as they pointed out, many new legislators don’t know what to do with this measure because they weren’t at the table. Those who were got termed out.

The water folks are faced with re-educating the Legislature on this complex issue.

Likewise, Caltrans has been making moves that the Legislature seems unable to comprehend or stop. For instance, I reported Caltrans’ District 7 was trying to pass off responsibilities for Highway 39, the winding mountain road that provides access to the San Gabriel Mountains to millions of visitors each year.

Yet, aside from a letter of protest, local Assembly members and senators did nothing. At the same time Caltrans says it will never repair the 4.4-mile gap in the state highway and re-connect it to Highway 2 near Wrightwood, it also says it can’t afford to keep up repairs along the entire mountain highway.

Many residents talk about other powerful bureaucracies not being held accountable. For example, folks who’ve seen for-profit water companies raise rates by 20 percent or 30 percent are frustrated with the California Public Utilities Commission, which many water customers of Golden State Water Co. say is not stopping rate gouging. Shouldn’t it be our Legislature who holds the CPUC in check?

“Many (legislative) committees lack the experience to weed out bad bills and to ensure that agencies are acting efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent,” reported the Public Policy Institute.

That’s putting it mildly.

There is a measure on the June 5 ballot that will change term limits by allowing legislators to serve 12 years straight (instead of a total of 14 in both bodies). I don’t know if I’m supporting it or not. I just know that what we have now is the tail wagging the dog.

steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

626-962-8811 Ext. 2237

@stevscaz/twitter.com