The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or LA Metro, is at a crossroads. In the 1990s, the agency made great strides in shifting from toxic, diesel-powered buses to natural gas-powered ones. This was a historic change, making LA Metro the first major transit agency in the U.S. to retire all of its diesel buses. Advocacy groups like the Bus Riders Union fought tirelessly for this shift away from diesel and for other changes to the region’s bus system.
Squinting into the smog, California utilities have seen the future—and it’s not fossil fuels.
On the same day our nation inaugurated a president deeply entrenched with old fossil fuel interests, three California power companies catapulted their state into the future with a plan for a new clean energy paradigm. It’s one of many signs that California is not only holding the line, but also pushing into new territory to protect the environment and public health.
California’s Kamala Harris won decisively to replace Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate, and now Governor Jerry Brown has picked Congressman Xavier Becerra to take up Harris’ mantle as the state’s attorney general. This is good news for Californians because the state needs a smart and courageous legal mind to fill Harris’ shoes in the coming years. Becerra fits that bill to a tee.
Ten years ago, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach adopted their first version of the Clean Air Action Plan. This plan marked the first time in history that large port authorities put forward a comprehensive plan to address the toxic diesel emissions that spew into fenceline neighborhoods. The plan was especially notable because these ports are big players in our nation’s freight system and can set major trends. Combined, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle approximately 40 percent of container ship imports and 25 percent of container ship exports in the county.
Southern California can’t catch a break this year. Hit by a series of devastating wildfires along with extreme heat waves and drought, it’s beginning to feel like parched conditions and scorched earth are the state’s new normal. Climate change is worsening droughts in California, turning forests into tinderboxes and exacerbating wildfires.
These are golden days if you’re working on clean air and energy in Southern California. Air pollution regulators have clearly stated that the antidote to our smog woes is moving to zero-emission technologies powered by clean energy from as many sources as possible.
Fine particulate pollution—often called PM 2.5—is dangerous. Given the grave consequences of this pollution, we would expect our air regulators to be chomping at the bit to protect us. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the kind of response one would expect.