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Placer County - Air Quality - A Success Story

Updated 12/21/12

The Placer County Air Pollution Control District (District) continues to push forward in an ongoing effort to improve local air quality. Against an increase in population, mobile source activities, and industrial activities, the need to protect the environment and public health is the District’s number one mission.

The District’s jurisdiction follows the Placer County boundary which encompasses the eastern portion of the Sacramento Valley into the foothills, heading up the Sierra Nevada over the crest into the northern portion of Lake Tahoe. The County’s geographical area brings with it much diversity, including remote and rural communities with mountainous terrain, multiple air basins, metropolitan areas, major vehicular arteries, and a transcontinental railroad route.

The District’s primarily role is to regulate and permit stationary sources, such as gas stations, power plants, and other industrial/commercial sources which have the potential to emit unhealthy air pollutants. Decades ago, permitted sources were a major contributor to poor air quality in the County. With the implementation of regulations and improved technologies, these sources now operate more efficiently and cleanly. As a result, permitted sources today contribute only a small percentage of the total emitted pollution into the air. The District continues to move closer toward meeting the air quality standards established by the State and Federal governments.

In addition to fulfilling our regulatory role the District has implemented several voluntary programs aimed at improving local air quality. These programs help the District to move beyond its basic regulatory role in order to find proactive methods at reducing pollution from often otherwise unregulated sources. Criteria pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and reactive organic gases (ROG), the main pollutants which contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, are often the focus of these programs.

Four successful programs the District is proud to share include the following:

  • Union Pacific Roseville Rail Yard: Through an agreement and collaborative efforts between the Union Pacific Rail Road (UPRR) and the District, air quality within the communities, surrounding the rail yard has significantly improved since 2005. The primary goal of the effort was to reduce criteria air pollutants which emanate from idling and operating diesel engines from within the rail yard. Information on the Rail Yard is found here.
  • Biomass and Fuel Reduction Programs: The District has teamed with other public and private stakeholders to implement economically self-sustaining forest management activities to restore the forest to a more natural and fire-resistant state and utilize biomass waste as a source of sustainable renewable energy. The District was recently a recipient of a U.S. EPA Clean Air Excellence Award due to the District’s continued efforts in biomass to energy related programs.
  • Annual Clean Air Grant Incentive Program: Since 2001, the District’s annual Clean Air Grant program has reduced 919 tons of criteria air pollutants emissions from mobile and other sources. A total of $12.5 million in funds has been awarded since 2001. Information on the Clean Air Grant program is found here.
  • Burn Bright Burn Right Wood Stove Replacement Program:
  • This program began in 2008 and was designed financially to incentivize owners of residential and commercial property (county-wide) to replace non-EPA certified wood burning appliances with new and clean burning EPA Phase II certified wood burning appliances, gas appliances, or pellet stoves. (This program sunset in December 2011.)

The above lists just a few of the efforts the District has done over the years to work towards improved air quality and public health. Proof of our efforts can be seen in the data as displayed in the following graphs for ozone.

For a State-wide look at improved air quality, read the California’s Progress towards Clean Air Report – April 2011 and its associated press release, which was recently published by the California Air Pollution Control Officer’s Association.