Reps. McNerney & Costa Introduce Air Quality Bill to Improve Public Health

Press Release

Date: Aug. 1, 2014
Location: Washington, DC

Reps. Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and Jim Costa (CA-16) today introduced the Air and Health Quality Empowerment Zone Designation Act to address the poor air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.

"Our bill addresses the serious health issues that are a direct result of the poor air quality in our region," said Rep. McNerney. "Here in the San Joaquin Valley, we have higher childhood asthma rates than other areas in California and around the country. Not only are our children suffering needlessly, but these illnesses also place a financial burden on our communities. Our kids deserve to be healthy, attending school, and living in a clean environment, and my bill will help to achieve this goal," said Rep. Jerry McNerney. "I am pleased to be joined by my Valley colleague, Representative Costa, in working to improve our air quality in the San Joaquin Valley."

The Air and Health Quality Empowerment Zone Designation Act targets areas with poor air quality and child asthma rates that are above the national average. Areas meeting these criteria could voluntarily request to be designated as empowerment zones, making them eligible to receive federal grant funding. In exchange for federal support, pollution control districts in these areas will develop and implement plans to improve air quality and public health in the zone.

"The San Joaquin Valley suffers from air pollution levels that exceed Federal and California standards for clean air, directly impacting the health of the region's children," said Rep. Costa. "The disproportionately high numbers of children with asthma compared to the rest of California and the nation clearly demonstrates that action must be taken to improve the quality of life of our Valley's children. I was proud to carry the legislation to create the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District over 20 years ago and I am equally proud to co-sponsor this legislation with Rep. McNerney. We have made progress, but there remains a road ahead of us to make our skies cleaner and our air clearer. This bill will provide the San Joaquin Valley with the tools necessary to reduce air pollution and improve overall public health."

To be eligible for the grants, the areas must meet specified national ambient air quality standards for ozone, have particular emission levels from agricultural sources, meet or exceed national asthma rates, and suffer from high unemployment rates. Recipients will match federal investment dollar for dollar. California's San Joaquin Valley is among the regions that fail to meet national air quality standards.

The Valley, which includes Kern, San Joaquin, Fresno, Stanislaus, Madera, King, Merced, and Tulare Counties, suffers from some of the worst air quality in both the state and Nation. Valley children miss hundreds of thousands days of school each year, and one in five children living in the Valley has asthma. Illnesses related to poor air quality cost the Valley approximately $3 billion annually.