In addition to serving as the County’s primary representative on certain advisory committees and commissions, I also serve as an alternate member on others. One important Board where I serve as alternate is NSAQMD, the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District. Established in 1986, NSAQMD is a special district formed through a Joint Powers Agreement between the 3 counties of Nevada, Plumas and Sierra. As a public entity, NSAQMD is dedicated to preserving air quality and protecting the public’s health and welfare in Nevada, Plumas and Sierra Counties.
NSAQMD is led by a Governing Board consisting of two members of each Board of Supervisors from the participating counties. Nevada County District II Supervisor Ed Scofield is currently the Chair, and Nevada County District V Supervisor Richard Anderson is the Vice-Chair. NSAQMD has a small number of employees covering a large geographical area. The agency consists of one executive director, three air pollution specialists (inspectors) and one business manager. NSAQMD’s headquarters are located in Grass Valley, with a satellite office located in Portola.
Two ongoing and notable programs that the District Board (“the Board”) oversees are the Carl Moyer Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Incentive Program (over $1.5 million administered to date) and the AB2766 DMV Surcharge Program (over $2.1 million administered). These programs provide monetary incentives to businesses, agencies and/or residents to reduce emissions from vehicles. Another program that the Board has recently completed is the administering of the State’s Lower Emission School Bus Program – reducing health impacts to children by minimizing diesel emissions from school buses through retrofits and replacing old school buses ($2,224,000 administered). The Board also oversees a broad range of other programs; air quality monitoring, industrial sources, smoke management (both large forestry burns and residential burns), and compliance with both the California and Federal Clean Air Acts.
One of NSAQMD’s responsibilities is to provide compliance assistance for local businesses which includes conducting inspections, evaluating emissions and air toxic exposure, responding to citizen complaints, notifying businesses of new state or federal regulations, compiling reports required by the state and federal governments, reviewing emission testing protocols, issuing operating permits and assisting new businesses.
Ground Level Ozone Pollution
The primary goal of the Air District is to achieve and maintain the health-based ambient air quality standards, which are standards set at minimum levels to protect the public health. The California Health and Safety Code mandates the District to adopt and enforce regulations to achieve and maintain the air quality standards in addition to enforcing all applicable provisions of federal and State law.
Based on ozone data from the air quality monitor in Grass Valley, western Nevada County was designated as a federal nonattainment area by the EPA for not meeting the ozone air quality standard. Ozone is a summertime air pollutant that impacts the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of sensitive individuals such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and residents with existing heart and lung diseases. Although western Nevada County exceeds the federal ozone standard primarily due to transport from the upwind urban areas of Sacramento and the Bay Area, NSAQMD is required to meet all of the federal and state requirements for a nonattainment area. NSAQMD focuses on developing and maintaining local proactive and preventative programs to assure local emissions contributions are negligible compared to transport. NSAQMD also has successfully lobbied for greater ozone controls on the upwind sources in the Sacramento and Bay Area to decrease ozone transport to western Nevada County.
In 2003, NSAQMD received an award for “outstanding contribution” from the American Lung Association for playing a key role in the effort that led to the passage of legislation to implement Smog Check II in the Bay Area. In 2008, NSAQMD, in conjunction with Grass Valley, Nevada City and Nevada County sponsored an educational Ozone Summit – where members of the EPA, California Air Resources Board and representatives from the upwind air districts of Sacramento and the Bay Area discussed ozone issues and solutions with residents and elected officials from Nevada County. The good news - there has been enough improvement in ozone air quality to allow western Nevada County to attain the 1997 ozone standard based on 2009- 2011 data. The bad news - western Nevada County remains in nonattainment for a more stringent ozone standard that EPA adopted in 2008.
Another pollutant of concern in Nevada County is smoke, or particulate matter. The Air District has been proactive in its efforts to reduce smoke emissions from large prescribed burns, residential open burning and woodstoves. The Air District actively promotes the use of green-waste pickup in the county, and maintains educational daily burn recorder messages for the public and contractors. The District worked with the City of Grass Valley and Nevada County to adopt ordinances which require new woodstoves to be low emission, in addition to providing funding for voluntary woodstove changeout programs. The District has administered and supported the Nevada County Fire Safe Council’s Wildland Urban Interface chipping project for residents (over $600,000 administered).
Results of real time air monitoring of the air pollutants ozone and particulate matter are available on the District’s webpage. This monitoring allows the District to issue Health Advisories to schools, coaches, hospitals, nursing homes and other sensitive individuals during times of unhealthy ozone or smoke levels. The District’s air monitoring program assists the public by informing residents of current and long term air pollution levels and providing recommended measures to minimize exposure to unhealthy concentrations of air pollutants.
For more information about NSAQMD or if you would like to be included in their Health Advisory list, you can go to their website at www.myairdistrict.com or call them at (530) 274-9360.