On September 19, 2019, the Governing Board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD or District) unanimously approved the Community Emission Reduction Programs (CERPs) for the California Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) year one communities of Shafter and South Central Fresno. Additionally, the Board unanimously approved the District's nomination of the community of Southwest Stockton for year two selection, with the Arvin/Lamont community approved as a secondary nomination (in the event the District receives two community selections). The nominations will be sent to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who will make final community selections for year two implementation in December of 2019.

AB 617 seeks to implement air monitoring networks and emission reduction strategies in California's most disadvantaged communities. These communities are nominated by local air districts to CARB who makes final selections. Communities are prioritized by a variety of factors including pollution exposure and poverty levels. Once a community is selected, a Steering Committee is formed by community residents to work with local air districts on developing CERPs, which are finalized by the air districts and ultimately approved by CARB. Additional insights from the Steering Committee and year-two selection meetings are below.

Community Emission Reduction Program

On August 28, 2019, the SJVAPCD held a public workshop to continue discussions of the Draft CERPs for the cities of Shafter and South-Central Fresno, the two Valley communities nominated by the SJVAPCD and selected by CARB under year one of AB 617 implementation.

The CERPs are highly detailed plans for reducing air pollution in selected communities based on the specific characteristics and challenges of each community. They are developed through collaborative efforts of the SJVAPCD and Community Steering Committees, which are formed to help provide community input and consist largely of community residents. Steering Committee meetings take place throughout the CERP development process and focus on the concerns of community residents and the potential strategies to address and reduce emissions in the community. CERPs are structured to include elements required by CARB guidance, including identifying community characteristics, partnerships, and challenges, as well as emission reduction measures, implementation, enforcement, and progress tracking. Funding for the clean air resources outlined in the CERPs amounted to 75 million dollars for “early action” efforts in 2018, with another 60 million dollars to be received in 2019.

A key element of the CERPs is identifying air quality priorities and implementing emission reduction strategies accordingly. Both of the year one communities share common air quality priorities, including emissions from heavy-duty trucks and locomotives, older/high-polluting and idling cars (e.g. drive-through businesses), and residential wood burning and illegal burning of other materials (e.g. trash). Specific to their communities, South Central Fresno also prioritizes the increase of industrial development, while Shafter prioritizes more agricultural sources and oil and gas operations. Emission reduction strategies to address these priorities are largely incentive-based, relying on voluntary involvement and fitting best for sources over which the SJVAPCD does not have jurisdiction (e.g. mobile sources). Other reduction strategies include regulatory strategies (many of which are already existing, but can become more stringent), outreach and public education strategies including awareness of available incentive funding, working with other agencies (e.g. CARB, Cities, Counties, and the Department of Pesticide Regulation), and exposure reduction strategies which focus on exposure education for sensitive receptors (e.g. clean air filters). The following list addresses the proposed, community-focused clean air strategies for the prioritized emission sources:

  • HHD Sources (large contributor for NOX and PM, specifically Diesel PM): To be implemented differently for each community. Will focus on truck replacement with clean engine technology, adding alternative fuel stations, electric transit buses in Fresno, and electric “Dial-a-Ride” service vehicles in Shafter. Approximately $15 million will be allocated to this category in Shafter and approximately $27.8 million will be allocated to this category in South Central Fresno.
  • Passenger Cars: Focus on community incentives (e.g. “Tune In, Tune Up” events, “Drive Clean” incentives, ride share programs, and Electric Vehicle infrastructure and education for mechanics). Approximately $7.78 million will be allocated to this category in Shafter and approximately $2.7 million will be allocated to this category in South Central Fresno.
  • Agricultural Sources (applicable mainly for Shafter): Focus on reducing Diesel PM from agricultural trucks, while also focusing on reducing PM fugitive dust, especially that which contains pesticides. Although this strategy largely targets Shafter, the South Central Fresno community is still impacted by agricultural sources on its southern border, so it can also benefit. Approximately $8.9 million will be allocated to this category in Shafter and approximately $400,000 will be allocated to this category in South Central Fresno.
  • Industrial Sources (largest interest from South Central Fresno): CARB is working on incentive funding for stationary sources for emission reductions achieved beyond regulatory requirements (this is typically an expensive endeavor, so funding will help smaller businesses). SJVAPCD can consider enhancing its enforcement measures for facilities found to be in noncompliance. Facility risk reductions audits will continue under AB 2588 (Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Program). There can also be additional focus on Gasoline Dispensing Facility training to reduce leaks. Shafter has particular interest in impacts from oil and gas facilities, and the SJVAPCD is currently in the midst of amending its Flare Rule 4311. South Central Fresno is more interested in measures that target biomass, glass manufacturing, and chrome plating facilities.
  • Residential/Urban Sources (e.g. lawn equipment, wood burning, charbroiling): On June 20, 2019, SJVAPCD amended its Wood Burning Rule 4901 to establish more stringent curtailment levels in the Hot Spot counties of Madera, Fresno, and Kern. Education can be provided for alternatives to trash burning. Will also focus on implementation of lawn equipment incentive programs (existing and future). Shafter showed particular interest in solar mitigation. South Central Fresno had concerns regarding construction and earthmoving activities associated with new development in and around the community, for which the District can enhance its Fugitive Dust Regulation VIII). Approximately $6.3 million will be allocated to this category in Shafter and approximately $11 million will be allocated to this category in South Central Fresno.
  • Exposure Reduction Education: Focus on adding air filtration systems in community schools and other indoor air quality improvement measures, including constructing vegetative barriers around sensitive receptor buildings and increasing anti-idling measures (e.g. signage & SJVAPCD programs). Approximately $300,000 will be allocated to this category in Shafter and approximately $1.2 million will be allocated to this category in South Central Fresno.
  • Outreach & Agency Partnership: Focus on networking via billboards, ads, social media, and public workshops for community engagement. SJVAPCD is working to receive funding through partnerships with Cities, Counties, CARB, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), local Councils of Government, etc.

Second-year District Community Nomination

The District's year two nomination process was largely focused on northern regions of the Valley (i.e. San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties), since the year one selections represented the central and southern regions. It's important to note that, while year one of the program included ten selected communities in California, year two will only select up to three communities. This means that it's likely the San Joaquin Valley region will only receive one selection from CARB. Communities can be selected for either an air monitoring program, a CERP, or both (for reference, the Valley's year one communities were selected for both). The District's year two community selection of Southwest Stockton was nominated for both an air monitoring program and a CERP.

Using the CalEnviroScreen model, the District looked at the top 25 prioritized communities in the northern region of the Valley. Of these 25, the area of Southwest Stockton ranked the highest, with scores at or near the 100th percentile. To put this in perspective across the entire Valley, the year one community of South Central Fresno ranked #1 for the entire Valley, and Southwest Stockton ranked #2. Ranking behind Southwest Stockton for the northern region were the communities of Southwest Modesto, Northwest Merced, Lathrop, and Riverbank.

The Southwest Stockton community boundary encompasses a lot of highway travel, rail yards, and industrial development, most notably at the Port of Stockton. The area also includes many residential developments and contains the most disadvantaged census tract in the entire northern region of the Valley. There are a lot of agency resources and planning efforts that are already in place for the downtown/industrial area of Southwest Stockton, so this can help maximize funding efforts for AB 617. Industrial operations also provide a lot of opportunity for incentive-based emission reductions. There is currently one air monitoring station in this community, but the District could use more as their big picture focus is on establishing a robust air monitoring network.