A Half Century of Environmental Progress but Much More to Be Done
Local leaders mark California Clean Air Day and the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act


October 7, 2020: Today is California Clean Air Day and it is especially timely this year. With a record 4 million acres of California burned already this year and wildfires still out of control, air quality has become a topic of daily conversation.

“Every day that we see smoke in our air and witness the terrible pollution impacts from wildfires we are starkly reminded of the importance of clean air for public health. Clean Air Day is recognizing that we all must continue the fight against air and climate pollution from all sources, including fires,” said Dr. Alberto Ayala, executive director of the Sacramento Metroplitan Air Quality Management District at a press event to mark the day.

“This year we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Air Act, the single most important legislative achievement in the history of the environmental movement,” said Ayala. The 1970 CAA authorized the establishment of air quality standards to protect public health and the environment. Today, states can develop emission reduction strategies to address improving air quality in their region.

City Councilmember and Sacramento Metro Air District Chair Eric Guerra was joined by representatives from the Coalition for Clean Air, SACOG, and the Local Government Commission to commemorate California Clean Air Day.

Monica Hernandez from SACOG shared some practical actions you can take starting today to make your contributions toward cleaner air in our community. “Rethink your transportation options — not just commute, but errands, recreation, local neighborhood trips. Can you take transit, walk, bike, or carpool? Most of people’s car miles are commute but they are local trips. Every time you change from riding in a car alone, you’re improving our air quality,” she said. She also pointed to the transportation choice resources at SacRegion511.org

California has the worst air quality in the country and the Sacramento metropolitan region is the fifth-most ozone polluted city in the country, but the news is not all bad.

“Californians are innovative and resilient,” said Kate Meis, Executive Director at the Local Government Commission, and “our cities and counties – on the front line of climate impacts – are well-positioned to lead with practical solutions that not only clean our air but can also close the gaps of longstanding racial inequities.

“Local governments can improve community livability by taking decisive action now, to invest in bicycle, pedestrian and electric-vehicle infrastructure and to encourage transit-oriented development, telecommuting, urban greening, and building electrification. And by prioritizing resilient investments in marginalized communities, that have borne the brunt of our state’s pollution and climate impacts, we can also take steps toward eliminating racial inequities.

“This is our pivot point,” said Meis, “our chance to repair and reimagine our systems, remove barriers, and rebuild in ways that increase community resilience and equity for all. Every one of us can take a step today that will create cleaner air and healthier communities for tomorrow.”

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