Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Last Train," for BNSF, UP, NRDC

Molly Peterson/KPCC

"Last Train" is an Allen Toussaint song from his 1975 concept album, Southern Nights. Allen Toussaint is a dapper, classy New Orleanian. (Even his Katrina-evacuation was classy. He spent it in the Crowne Plaza.) In a wide world of train songs, I chose Toussaint's song to go with this week's resurgence of interest in railyard air pollution. 

Last train running between the waters with the power line

Last train running around the hill

Last train leaving on the quarter out of time

Last chance to get your last trip

In "Last Train" the New Orleans legend compares himself to a train, trying to keep going. Toussaint wrote and produced successful songs for, um, everyone in town, and then worked with The Band, Lee Dorsey, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton. Like a lot of New Orleans guys, they love sampling him in the hip-hop world.

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Obama shelves tighter smog standards, what does this mean for Southern California?

When President Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to halt a proposal to tighten smog standards, his decision sent shockwaves through Southern California. Obama said in a statement, "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.” Southern California already has much experience in finding a path toward cleaner air and a growing economy.

So what does keeping the current smog rules mean for greater Los Angeles? Air quality levels are already the worst in the nation; certainly, they will not improve. Ozone, aka smog, is caused when emissions from vehicles, power plants and more mix with sunlight. It causes wheezing, asthma attacks, soughing, and sometimes death. Southern California has these ingredients in abundance.

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