Credit: Graphic by Chris Allen, VOICE

Prince James Story |

In yet another big step forward for Gov. Gavin Newsom and his goal to phase out gas-powered vehicles by 2035, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the Advance Clean Cars II rule requiring all new car sales in the state to be zero emission. 

Air pollution is a significant problem for the Inland Empire. Both Riverside and San Bernardino counties  received an F on this year’s American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2022” report card.  

San Bernardino and Riverside also ranked one and two, respectively, for the most polluted counties for Ozone pollution in the United States. From 2018-2020, Riverside County had a weighted average of 133.3 high ozone days, accumulating 252 orange days, 84 days in red, and 11 days in purple. San Bernardino had a weighted average of 179.8 high ozone days – 220 days in orange, 169 in red, and 33 in purple. 

Orange means the air quality is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, red means the air quality is unhealthy for everyone, while purple means the air quality is very unhealthy.

Riverside County had a weighted average of 133.3 high ozone days, accumulating 252 orange days, 84 days in red, and 11 days in purple. San Bernardino had a weighted average of 179.8 high ozone days – 220 days in orange, 169 in red, and 33 in purple. (source: mecknc.gov).

“Earlier findings (show) that short-term exposure to ozone, even at levels below the current standard, likely increases the risk of premature death, particularly for older adults,” the State of the Air 2022 report shows. “There is also a growing body of evidence that long-term exposure to ambient ozone may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease mortality.”

Particle pollution

San Bernandino ranked ninth on the list of counties for highest particulate matter, while Riverside ranked eleventh. Particle pollution also has many other harmful effects, ranging from decreased lung function to heart attacks. 

Short-term increases in particle pollution increased mortality in infants; increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes; increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); increased severity of asthma attacks and hospitalization for asthma, among children, according to the report.

Gov. Newsom’s ZEV plan includes $256 million for low-income consumer purchases of electric vehicles and $900 million to expand affordable and convenient ZEV infrastructure access in low-income neighborhoods. (Source: www.flickr.com).

Riverside and San Bernardino received F’s in all three categories measured by the American Lung Association. Besides Ozone and annual particulate matter, the counties received an F in the third category– daily particulate matter rankings. Inland Empire counties were joined in these failed rankings by 12 other counties across the United States. 

“People of color are more likely to be exposed to air pollution and more likely to suffer harm to their health from air pollution than white people,” the report states. “Practices such as redlining, the discriminatory outlining of riskier neighborhoods by mortgage lenders, institutionalized residential segregation in the 20th century, impairing the ability of many people of color to build wealth and limiting their mobility and political power [contributed to this].”

Low-income families are often at risk of dealing with air pollution because they sometimes don’t have the financial means to relocate. 

The Advance Clean Cars II rule seeks to remedy some of these inherent risks by cutting gas-powered cars related pollution.

“From 2026 through 2040, the regulation will result in cumulative avoided health impacts worth nearly $13 billion, including 1,290 fewer cardiopulmonary deaths, 460 fewer hospital admissions for cardiovascular or respiratory illness, and 650 fewer emergency room visits for asthma,” according to the CARB website

From 2026 to 2040, this regulation could cut pollution from cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks by 395 million tons. “That is equivalent to avoiding the greenhouse gasses produced from the combustion of 915 million barrels of petroleum.”

Affordability and Accessibility for Low-income communities

Beyond concerns about how working class families, especially people of color, will afford electric vehicles and their accessibility to charging stations, there are also concerns about the impact electric cars will have on the electric grid and electricity bills. 

To remedy these, Gov. Newsom’s ZEV plan includes $256 million for low-income consumer purchases of electric vehicles and $900 million to expand affordable and convenient ZEV infrastructure access in low-income neighborhoods. It also includes $935 million in funds to add 1,000 zero-emission short-haul trucks and 1,700 zero-emission transit buses, and $1.5 billion (Proposition 98) to support school transportation programs, including advancing electric school buses. 

Zero-emission trucks, buses, off-road equipment, and fueling infrastructure will be allocated $1.1 billion, while port electrification gets $400 million.

CARB estimates that by 2030 electric vehicles that will account for about 4.0% of the total system electric load during peak hours. (Source: www.flickr.com)

“There will always be families who are dependent on mass transit, especially in environmental justice communities,” said Environmental Health Coalition climate justice policy advocate Kyle Heiskala. “Ensuring that investments are going to mass transit and other alternatives to driving. Connecting homes to jobs with transit is a really important way to combat climate change, but also just ensure that people have affordable options to get around.”

CARB  estimates that by 2030, there will be around 5.4 million light-duty electric vehicles and 193,000 medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles that will account for about 4% of the total system electric load during peak hours. Currently, electric vehicles account for less than 1% of the electric grid load. 

There are currently three rebate programs for low-income residents who want to buy electric vehicles, Clean Cars 4 All, The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program . All three programs provide low-income or income-qualified drivers financial support to transition to an electric vehicle. 

“With the historic $10 billion we’re investing to accelerate the transition to ZEVs, we’re making it easier and cheaper for all Californians to purchase electric cars,” Gov. Newsom said. “California will continue to lead the revolution towards our zero-emission transportation future.”

Author

  • Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.

Prince James Story

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.