Southern California environment news and trends

America’s national parks plagued by pollution, budget cuts

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A family looks at the base of a Giant Sequoia tree that lies toppled in the Sequoia National Park.

CBS News is reporting that California’s own Sequoia National Park holds the dubious distinction as the most air polluted national park in the country. The park, which is located in the Sierra Nevada forest and home to the famous giant redwoods, had the highest smog levels and most recorded violations over last year.

The heightened ozone levels at Sequoia are not just dangerous to humans, but the forest as well. According to the Associated Press, redwood seedlings and both Jeffrey and ponderosa pines are significantly stressed by the pollution.

Four California state parks were among the nation’s top seven most air polluted, including Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Mojave National Preserve. This information comes from the U.S. Park Service and the EPA at a time when national parks are suffering through significant budget cuts that park-goers are likely to feel this year.

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It’s official: The air in Los Angeles can kill you

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David McNew/Getty Images

The Los Angeles downtown skyline is enveloped in smog shortly before sunset

Most citizens of Los Angeles don’t need a survey to tell them that it’s the most stressful city of America. Still, when Forbes crunched a bunch of numbers including quality of life data, unemployment rates, housing affordability, etc, good old L.A. clocked in at #1.

While we know that stress can lead to a myriad of health issues and according to some, even death. Not exactly the feel-good statistic of the week, but hey, this is Los Angeles. Deal with it.

If that statistic is grim, it’s about to get even worse. According to a new study by the Environmental Protection Agency, just living in Los Angeles can kill you. To be more specific, the rampant air pollution that blankets Southern California is what can actually get you in the end.

Published in the journal Risk Analysis, the study (based on 2005 air quality) estimates that anywhere from 130,000 to 360,000 premature adult deaths in SoCal going forward. They’ve linked the poor air quality to everything from asthma, bronchitis and trips to the ER. In L.A. County, city of Los Angeles led the pack with 10 percent of deaths directly linked to air pollution.

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One reason why they're occupying the port today: the Southern California Intermodal Gateway

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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A capital project that would help the harbor complex take in more containers is under fire from the Occupy movement.

The protest action at the harbor complex will include objections about how the ports are handling environmental quality issues. Occupy may be targeting SSA Marine and a port shutdown in Long Beach, but another piece of the puzzle considers goods movement. 

Among the Occupiers at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles today will be people who live in Wilmington, Long Beach, and Carson. Reductionist characterizations of Occupy and Occupiers make them out to be fools without demands. These people have a specific thing they're unhappy about at the port. They want the Port of Los Angeles to stop developing a 153-acre shipping facility in west Long Beach called the Southern California Intermodal Gateway. They say that doing so would "protect the health of workers and communities against global corporate practices that pollute and exploit local communities."

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Many reasons not to go back to "The Garden," but diesel pollution isn't one of them

Courtesy the film <em>The Garden</em>

Air pollution for a park here isn't that different from the places the city prefers.

Putting a park where farmers tilled soil in South Central's Horowitz/Lancer property might be problematic for any number of reasons, but air quality isn't one of them.

Alice Walton over at The City Maven has a good write up of what happened yesterday at City Hall. Which was: protests, shouting, and a continued, profound sense of betrayal. Also, a vote to approve manufacturing at the site, and job creation.

The dispute has continued over the fate of what some know as "The Garden" (it was the subject of an Academy-Award nominated documentary). With the exception of the celebrities who've come in on the side of the farmers (Darryl Hannah, still; historically, Willie Nelson, etc.), yesterday's city council meeting saw two largely Latino and vaguely disempowered groups pitted against one another. The hardcore South Central Farmers (some of the farmers now just farm elsewhere, shy of the politics) collected signatures and massed support for the idea of turning 2.6 acres of land (out of the Horowitz-owned original 14) into a park; the film advocated on their behalf. On the other side at city council were Latina seamstresses, Horowitz and Councilwoman/Mayoral Candidate Jan Perry. They argued that making the whole industrial complex into the long planned clothing factories would mean jobs. 600 of them. 30 percent local. 

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One more thought about railyard air from UCLA's Sean Hecht

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Covering the railyard air lawsuit was an interesting opportunity to revisit a story I hadn't seen in a while. KPCC was all over railyard air when the CARB was sussing out ways it might be able to regulate pollution from railyards. But in the end, state air regulators decided to act on zero of thirty-some recommendations that staff made about acting on railyard air emissions. (So it's been a while.)

Obviously, one fascinating wonk legal question is whether NRDC can succeed in applying RCRA to air pollution. (I really have to force myself to remember that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is for solid waste, and not sludge; I wonder if judges have the same problem.) But there's a wholly deeper angle UCLA Law Professor Sean Hecht mentioned to me; I wasn't able to get it into the story. Hecht said: 

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