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Home > Natural Resources > Air Quality Resources, Compliance and Solutions

Air Pollution in California Research of Top Issues

Environment California survey results about Californians Top Air Quality Issues

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AIR POLLUTION KEY FINDINGS

  • Thirty-five percent of California residents say regional air pollution is a big problem. This perception varies sharply across regions; 56 percent in the San Joaquin Valley say air pollution is a big problem. Half of residents statewide, and 64 percent in the San Joaquin Valley, say that regional air quality has gotten worse.
  • One in four Californians say regional air pollution is a very serious health threat, and 50 percent think this health threat is more serious in lower-income areas. Thirty-five percent of San Joaquin Valley residents say air pollution is a very serious health threat; 36 percent say the threat is more serious in lower-income areas.
  • Californians and San Joaquin Valley residents are most likely to say that the state government should set regional air quality standards, rather than federal, regional, or local entities. While most have no opinion of their regional air district, disapproval is higher among likely voters in the San Joaquin Valley (23%) than it is statewide (16%).
  • Half of Californians and San Joaquin Valley residents want tougher air pollution standards on farm and agriculture activities, even if it is more costly for businesses. Even higher proportions (68% California, 65% San Joaquin Valley) want tougher air pollution standards on commercial and industrial activities.
  • Nearly seven in 10 Californians want stricter air pollution standards on ships, trucks, and trains that transport goods, even if it is more costly for businesses. Solid majorities across regions would favor assessing container fees on owners of cargo moving through California’s ports as a way to clean up air pollution. PERCEPTIONS OF AIR POLLUTION – STATEWIDE TRENDS Seven in 10 residents describe air pollution in their region as a big problem (35%) or somewhat of a problem (37%). Los Angeles (49%), Inland Empire (49%), and Central Valley (42%) residents are much more likely than Orange/San Diego (24%) and San Francisco Bay Area residents (22%) to say air pollution is a big problem in their region today. PERCEPTIONS OF AIR POLLUTION – SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY For this survey, we completed additional interviews for an in-depth analysis of the eight-county San Joaquin Valley (SJV), which experiences some of the worst air pollution in the country (see Methodology section). This region is particularly susceptible to air pollution because of commercial and personal vehicle traffic, agricultural and industrial activities, and its physical geography. San Joaquin Valley residents are 21 points more likely than statewide residents to say that regional air pollution is a big problem (56% to 35%). Despite the efforts made by the California Air Resources Board and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to reduce air pollution, about two in three SJV residents (64%) believe their regional air quality has worsened in the past 10 years and only 12 percent say it has improved.

    AIR POLLUTION AND HEALTH – STATEWIDE TRENDS

    Six in 10 Californians believe that regional air pollution is a very (25%) or somewhat serious (34%) health threat to themselves and their immediate families. Similar percentages have held this view since 2003, but the proportion saying that air pollution is a very serious health threat has been growing steadily since that time (18% July 2003, 20% 2004, 21% 2005, 23% 2006, 25% today). Across regions, Inland Empire (34%), Los Angeles (32%), and Central Valley residents (30%) are the most likely to say the health threat of air pollution is very serious, while San Francisco Bay Area and Orange/San Diego residents (19% each) are less likely to hold this view. Differences are stark across racial/ethnic groups, with 40 percent of blacks and 35 percent of Latinos saying air pollution poses a very serious health threat, compared to 19 percent of Asians and 16 percent of whites. Of those who say regional air pollution is a big problem, nine in 10 say it poses a very (52%) or somewhat serious (37%) health threat.

    REGIONAL AIR DISTRICTS – STATEWIDE TRENDS

    Almost half of Californians (47%) respond correctly that vehicle emissions are the lead contributor to regional air pollution, with 29 percent blaming personal vehicles and 18 percent saying the main culprit in creating pollution is commercial vehicles. Other causes of air pollution were chosen by fewer residents (15% population growth and development, 14% industry and agriculture, 7% pollution from outside the area, 4% weather and geography). Similar responses were found in 2003, 2005, and 2006. In general, the California Air Resources Board sets air quality standards for mobile sources of air pollution, while regional air districts cover stationary sources. Nearly four in 10 Californians say the state government (37%) should have the primary responsibility for setting air quality standards in their region; fewer choose the federal government (21%), local government (17%), or their regional air district (16%).

    AIR QUALITY POLICIES – STATEWIDE TRENDS

    To combat regional air pollution, a majority of California residents (55%) say they would be willing to see tougher standards imposed on agriculture and farm activities. Half of adults and 54 percent of likely voters are in favor of this policy, even if it made it more costly for businesses to operate. Support for tougher regulations on agriculture and farm activities, even if costs increase for businesses, has dropped since last July (57%) and July 2005 (54%), but support is slightly higher today than in July 2003 (47%). Today, residents in the San Francisco Bay Area (56%) are the most likely to support stricter regulations, followed by the Inland Empire (51%), Los Angeles (49%), the Central Valley (48%), and Orange/San Diego counties (47%).

    GOODS MOVEMENT AND AIR QUALITY – STATEWIDE TRENDS

    Goods movement is one of several causes of air pollution in California today. Three in four Californians would be willing to see tougher air pollution standards on ships, trucks, and trains carrying freight and cargo. Moreover, 68 percent of residents and 73 percent of likely voters would be in favor, even if it made it more costly for businesses to operate. Support today among all adults (68%) is similar to last July (71%) and July 2005 (70%). Today, Democrats (82%) are more likely than independents (71%) and Republicans (62%) to favor stricter standards on ships, trucks, and trains. San Francisco Bay Area residents (77%) are the most likely to favor increased regulation of transport vehicles, but support is also strong in other regions. Solid majorities across all demographic groups support tougher standards. Of those who view air pollution as a big problem, 71 percent are in favor of this policy idea.

    To relieve traffic at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland, and to help fund an air pollution reduction program, the state legislature is considering a bill to assess container fees on owners of cargo moving through the ports. About two in three residents (68%) and likely voters (65%) favor charging these fees. Democrats (72%) and independents (71%) show more support than Republicans (58%), although strong majorities across parties, racial/ethnic, and demographic groups are in favor. Los Angeles residents are more likely than others to favor this idea, but there is solid support across regions. Seventy-five percent who support tougher standards on transport vehicles also favor this fee proposal.

    A separate program proposed by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would attempt to mitigate air pollution by replacing or retrofitting high-polluting trucks moving through these ports. To fund this, a fee would be assessed on truck owners at the terminal gates. Seventy-one percent of residents and 67 percent of likely voters would favor this idea. Once again, majorities of Democrats (77%), independents (68%), and Republicans (57%) support this proposal to reduce air pollution, though at varying levels. Residents in the areas most affected by Southern California port traffic are most in favor (74% Los Angeles, 72% Orange/San Diego counties), but more than two in three residents in other regions also support this idea. Solid majorities across racial/ethnic and demographic groups are in favor. Seventyeight percent of those who favor tougher standards on transport vehicles also favor this fee proposal.

    SOURCE: PDF of California Environment Survey 2007



    Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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