SAN FRANCISCO (April 6, 2007) – Today Mayor Gavin Newsom signed an ordinance to reduce the single largest source of diesel pollution in San Francisco – construction equipment. The measure makes San Francisco a leader in reducing emissions that not only pose a serious health threat, but also trap heat in the atmosphere contributing to global warming. Conservation and public health groups say the ordinance paves the way for a statewide rule to be adopted next month by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
“San Francisco has proven itself a leader in setting health protective standards for polluting off-road equipment,” said Diane Bailey, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the groups that backed the San Francisco ordinance. “Now it’s time for a statewide rule that will grant the same protection to all Californians, who deserve clean air no matter where they live.”
The San Francisco ordinance will require city contractors performing major projects (longer than 20 days) to start using cleaner equipment and biodiesel fuel near sensitive sites like schools and hospitals. Within two years all major projects would need to be cleaner regardless of location.
The statewide rule, scheduled for a vote on May 24, would be even broader, covering all off-road diesel equipment in projects both public and private. It would clean up emissions from the biggest remaining sources of unregulated diesel pollution, such as equipment used at airports, mines and in construction.
Proponents say the state rule, which faces stiff industry opposition, would save 4,000 lives due to reductions in fine particle pollution, cutting $18 billion to $26 billion in healthcare costs to the state. It also would prevent tens of thousands of cases of asthma and other lower respiratory ailments. The benefit to cost ratio would be at least 6 to 1, since the cost of clean up is estimated at only $3 billion to $3.4 billion. The rule would be phased in over 10 years.
In the meantime, other cities already are considering similarly health protective ordinances. Burbank, for example, is considering its own clean construction measure. Furthermore, several state legislators are exploring clean construction requirements tied to the infrastructure bonds that were passed last November. Under the proposed requirements, any publicly funded project would have to meet clean diesels standards, particularly projects in communities that already suffer disproportionately from high levels of air pollution.
“Today’s diesel construction equipment is going to be around for a long time unless further action is taken,” said Don Anair, a clean vehicles engineer with Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “That’s why now is the time for California to start requiring cleaner equipment.”
“Microscopic diesel soot particles can lodge in the lungs and enter the blood stream,” said Linda Weiner, director of air quality advocacy and outreach for the American Lung Association of California. “Study after study indicates a direct connection to asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease and premature deaths.”
The author of the San Francisco ordinance, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said the cost of replacing or retrofitting dirty construction equipment would be saved many times over by the reduced toll of human suffering and costly health care.
Cleaner fuels in construction equipment, such as biodiesel, will reduce our dependence on petroleum, resulting in less carbon dioxide pollution, the major cause of global warming. The reductions in diesel particulates also will help because ‘black carbon,’ the main component of diesel soot is known to trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
The clean construction ordinance was supported by a coalition of groups, including NRDC, UCS, American Lung Association of California, Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates, RAMP (Regional Asthma Management & Prevention), Breathe California, San Francisco Medical Society, and San Francisco Physicians for Social Responsibility.
For 100 years, the American Lung Association has been the lead organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.” For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1.800.LUNG.USA (1.800.586.4872) or visit www.californialung.org
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.