By Roger Hartley
The Index-Tribune’s Jan. 3, front page story about the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and wood burning rules deserves some closer scrutiny and more objective analysis.
As noble a goal as this appears to be, the Bay Area already has air quality that meets or exceeds the standards set by the state and federal EPA, yet this organization has declared a record-setting 20 “Spare the Air” days since November of this year. How can this be if the same organization declared only four Spare the Air days between 1993, when they first started the practice, and 2006? That is four out of 4,745 days, versus 20 out of 60 days, or .08 percent of the time versus 33 percent of the time. Did the air get that much worse? No, the answer is that the standard of measurement has changed.
BAAQMD has changed the definition of what they deem acceptable air quality, and has done so in violation of the normal CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines for issuance of threshold standards. Furthermore, a former employee of BAAQM has alleged that the system for monitoring air quality is intentionally rigged to produce more alerts. For example, the air sensor in Napa is on top of a Mexican bakery a few feet downwind from a BBQ restaurant. Another one in Berkeley is next to a dry cleaner (Google “whistleblower BAAQMD”).
Even worse, there is no system of accountability with this group. They don’t have to prove anything in order to issue an alert. They only have to predict that there is a chance the particulate matter may exceed their standards. And they can change the standards at their own whim.