Clean Air Should Be Our Mission Every Day, But Especially on October 7

by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Supervisor John Gioia and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

Clean air is our right, not a privilege. Wherever we live — in a suburban cul de sac, in the heart of an urban center, or near a port or industrial facility– everyone deserves to breathe clean air.  Unfortunately, too many Californians, especially communities of color, suffer severe health impacts from breathing unhealthy air.

Clean Air Day on October 7 is an opportunity for all Californians to take action to help make healthy air a reality for more of our state’s residents.

Many of our state’s major metropolitan areas have poor air quality. According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report, the six regions in the U.S. with the worst air quality are all in California, and include Los Angeles (#1) and San Diego (#6).

Raging wildfires, heat waves and the COVID-19 pandemic are overwhelming our state.   50 million people in California, Oregon and Washington live in counties that have had at least one day of “unhealthy” air quality during this year’s wildfire season and our recent heat waves have increased  smog.  A recent Harvard study concluded that individuals living in areas with poor air quality are at an increased risk for health problems or death due to COVID-19.

The imperative for clean air has never been more important.

As three County Supervisors who are committed to making our air healthier, we have all taken actions as local Air District Board members to improve air quality in our respective communities. Two of us also serve on the California Air Resources Board where we are aggressively setting policies to fight climate change and reduce pollution.

This year, the Air Resources Board passed new regulations to transition California to zero-emission heavy-duty trucks.  This mandate builds on previous actions to require all new public transit buses in our state to be zero-emission starting in 2029.   We strongly support Governor Newsom’s recent Executive Order directing the Air Resources Board to develop regulations to require all in-state sales of passenger vehicles and trucks to be zero-emission by 2035.

We are also cleaning up unhealthy emissions from heavy duty trucks and ships at ports across California, which border many of our environmental justice communities.  With our recent adoption of the At Berth Rule, ships will be required to plug into electricity when they are docked at port resulting in a significant reduction of toxic emissions.

These bold actions help us achieve the goal of clean air for all.  However, improving our air quality doesn’t just happen because of decisions by elected leaders. Everyone can be part of the movement to improve our air quality.

The 3rd Annual California Clean Air Day is a great way for everyone to get involved to make our air healthier.  On October 7, parents, youth, businesses, community organizations, and government agencies throughout California will take part in activities to make our air cleaner.  Some examples include neighborhood clean-ups, buy produce locally, install a home air quality monitor, plant a home garden or a tree, and walk or bike to the store.

Join us for Clean Air Day by finding an activity near you to participate in and pledging to do your part. In return, we will keep fighting for policies – at both the local and state levels – to ensure healthy clean air for all Californians.  We can make our air cleaner together!

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Nathan Fletcher is a San Diego County Supervisor and serves on the California Air Resources Board. 

John Gioia is Contra Costa County Supervisor and serves on the California Air Resources Board.

Sheila Kuehl is a Los Angeles County Supervisor and previously served on the South Coast Air Management District Board.