Hot Air Regulation!

It is risky business poking an angry California bear with new air regulations these days just when we are about to decide whether to suspend the muther-of-all greenhouse gas emission laws in the November election.  But just as early voting is about to begin here in California that is exactly what the clean air regulators here in the Bay Area are doing.

The San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District is responsible for clean air regulatory enforcement in the multi-county Bay Area including Silicon Valley. At a recent meeting of its board of Directors it adopted its 2010 Clean Air Plan outlining its air pollution reduction goals and the measures it intends to consider for achieving them.

OK, big deal you say.

Yes, these actions which seem routine are part of a growing voter frustration at the intrusion of the government into the daily lives of people.  BAAQMD is one of the many special districts in California that purport to look out for the public interest but often are accused of following a political agenda of their own without much recourse from John Q Public.

But a veteran reporter from the Oakland Tribune, Dennis Cuff, is smart enough to make covering these agencies a part of his “beat” and his recent story on some of the measures in the benign sounding 2010 Clean Air Plan ended up provoking a ranting editorial by the Bay Area News Group newspaper chain on the costs and uncertain benefits of this latest round of intrusive rules.

AIR REGULATION COSTS EDITORIAL

“BAY AREA residents beware. The nine-county Bay Area Air Quality Management District has pieced together its Clean Air Plan, which will consider 55 measures to combat pollution and study another 18.

Many of the ideas under consideration are draconian, with costs that outweigh benefits. For example, on the list of the air board’s plans is a possible requirement for homeowners to replace open-hearth fireplaces with low-emitting fireplace inserts or stoves before selling their homes.

This could be costly for homeowners and certainly would place a severe and unnecessary burden on a weak real estate industry, not to mention the financial loss for homeowners.

It’s bad enough that Californians have to deal with higher costs to remain in the state. Under the fireplace regulation, they also would have to pay a price to leave.

Another ill-conceived idea under consideration is an expanded cash-for-clunkers program to get polluting cars off the road. These older cars are already getting off the road as they age and are being replaced by high-mileage, less-polluting vehicles.

Even cows have not escaped the notice of the air board. It may require farmers to use animal feed that reduces cow flatulence and thereby cut back on methane gas releases.

Adding to the real estate burden, the air board is considering levying fees on proposed developments that are not to its liking, such as ones that could result in heavy auto and energy use.

Air district officials say that carrying out all of the measures under consideration would result in a statistically estimated 85 fewer premature deaths a year among the 7 million people living in the Bay Area. Really?

That is a meaningless number as is the air district’s estimate that fewer school and work absences resulting from new pollution regulations would save $770 million in reduced medical costs. There is no way to accurately estimate the health-cost impacts of the air board’s plan. We fear that this chimerical savings estimate could be used to justify stiff fees on businesses and residents.

That is not to say we oppose reasonable air quality regulations. But any new rule should consider the cost-benefit ratio. The direct economic impacts of some of the regulations being considered by the air board are overly burdensome and others may conflict with or add to state air board regulations.

We are also wary of an unelected air board making such sweeping regulations that affect the lives of millions of Bay Area residents. Major changes in air quality regulations should be decided by elected representatives.

The quality of life in California has already suffered greatly with overpriced homes, steep unemployment, high taxes, a poor business climate, unsustainable state and local government expenses, and a dysfunctional Legislature.

Adding draconian air quality regulations that are not subject to a realistic cost-benefit analysis is a burden Bay Area residents should not have to endure.”

You see where this is going don’t you?

The risky business for the BAAQMD is here we are rapidly approaching the November 2010 mid-term elections where among the measures being considered is Proposition 23 to suspend the California Global Warming Solutions Act until unemployment in the Golden State is 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters.  Prop 23 is being supported and financed by major oil refineries.  The Bear Republic’s political class hates this idea and is doing all it can to defeat it.

You would think astute politicians and bureaucrats would lay low and stay out of the political fray.  Instead, our air police are threatening to drive through neighborhoods fining people for using their fireplaces, considering imposing commute fees to drive up the cost of new subdivision growth ( if only we had some) deemed to cause too much added commuting pollution, and 55 other intrusive measures to substitute their judgment for ours about how to live our lives.

And what is the benefit we will receive for all this new regulation—-85 statistically fewer premature deaths from air pollution from among the 7 million Bay Area residents!

It is enough to turn a blue state red!