"We’re fighting for 18 million people living in the greater Los Angeles region forced to breathe this dirty air."
For decades, Los Angeles area residents have been forced to breathe filthy air. Although progress has been made since the 1960’s and 1970’s, the air remains unsafe.
In the American Lung Association’s recent State of the Air Report, the Los Angeles region scored an “F” for ozone pollution. Just shy of 400,000 youth in the region have asthma, according to the report, in addition to more than 1.2 million adults who also suffer from the respiratory illness. Those with respiratory ailments suffer the most from inadequate plans approved by the agencies that are supposed to protect them.
Smog plans are the blueprints that help communities achieve clean air, but in Los Angeles these plans are faulty and communities suffer because of them. The region’s plan is best exemplified by a slice of Swiss cheese: It’s full of holes and accordingly evades policies set in place to help us meet clean air standards. The tragedy to those breathing the region’s air is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is standing by and rubber-stamping these plans despite their visible inadequacies.
We need our federal, state and local agencies to step up to the plate to eliminate the areas that make the plan ineffective. Fed up with polluter loopholes, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment filed a legal challenge in the Ninth Circuit today to seek court intervention in addressing the inadequate smog plan that is crippling our region.
The plan was adopted by local and state air pollution agencies in 2012 and approved by EPA in 2014. We’re fighting for 18 million people living in the greater Los Angeles region forced to breathe this dirty air.
On Wednesday, I attended a tour of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Despite it being late October, a brown film covered the sky in the horizon. This is our new reality—we watch as a smog season that used to only occur in the summer has become an inherent part of lives through a large part of the year. Despite some progress in cleaning up harmful and toxic industries in the region, there is still so much work to do. We cannot waiver. Industries, like the freight industry, have come late to the clean-up game and have a lot more work to do. Our region’s smog plan should lay the foundation for strategies to clean up this industry instead of relying on faith-based assumptions that we’ll figure out later.
In late October, our region’s residents should be thinking about the baseball season coming to a close, holidays on the horizon and ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Southern California. Instead, we’re worried about thick layers of smog blanketing the region we call home.