Nevada County is a beautiful, amazing place to live and raise your children. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, we escape urban congestion and rest in the solitude of these sacred hills. One persistent problem, however, is air pollution. According to EPA rankings, elevated Ozone levels during the hot summer months ranks our county as tied for the 10th worst in the entire nation. One in six kids have been diagnosed with asthma, a rate higher than the overall California average.
And every fall, we brace ourselves for questions about whether it is wise to continue living here. Last September, two friends, both medical doctors, chose to leave because their twin 4 year-old daughters were showing signs of pulmonary distress. After consulting a pediatric pulmonologist at Stanford, they decided the risk of staying outweighed the comforts of the hills. My heart sank. My wife and I also have two small children of similar ages, so how could we stay when two doctors have chosen to leave.
In short, we love our lives here and cherish our community of friends. For now, we have decided that if we can travel every summer for up to eight weeks with those young, developing lungs, maybe we can make it work. It means extra expense, separation from family and friends due to work obligations, and a pretty dramatic disruption of our lives.
After deciding to stay, I got heavily involved with a local organization called Save the Air in Nevada County (STAinNC). We are seeking to educate the public about the air quality problems and join the forces advocating for clean air solutions within our region and the entire state.
One very important clean air solution is coming before the Board at the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the in-use Diesel Truck Rule. This rule concerns the 1.1 million heavy-duty and medium-duty diesel trucks, which operate within California regularly, driving approximately 47 million miles per day.
Diesel truck pollution accounts for 40% of the Particulate Matter and up to 50% of the Nitrous Oxide (a key ingredient in formulating ground-level Ozone) pollution in California, which costs approximately $28 billion dollars annually from hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, asthma treatments, lost work days and school absences. In 2008, an estimated 4,800 premature deaths will occur, which are directly linked to diesel truck pollution!
The rule would first phase in particulate matter filters for all appropriate diesel trucks, then require owners to repower or retrofit trucks to reduce NOx emissions over a ten year period between 2013 and 2023. Grants and loans will be available to help trucking companies with expenses. All Californians must willingly share the costs of this rule, which is vitally important to the health of our communities.
When fuel burns, lungs suffer. The cost of driving trucks and vehicles is far more than the original purchase price, fuel costs, maintenance, and insurance. Our children, the elderly, athletes, and all outside workers suffer. Our population and our lifestyles have reached a point where avoiding all related consequences is no longer possible. Now, we must pay the true costs of transporting and receiving goods, by cleaning up the diesel truck industry.