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Since 1955, the Air District has worked to improve air quality in the Bay Area. Future challenges, such as climate change and reducing diesel emissions, will require sound science, creativity, and community involvement.
The first meeting of the Air District’s Board of Directors, comprised of local officials, occurred in November of 1955. The first regulation aimed at reducing air pollution banning open burning at dumps and wrecking yards is adopted in 1957.
When America's fighting forces came home from World War II, many settled in the last place they saw before going overseas, California's embarkation ports. Here, they went to school on the GI Bill, married, bought homes, and began the biggest "baby boom" the world has ever seen.
With this population growth came expanding urban areas, shrinking agricultural lands, and the building of housing developments farther from urban centers. For the first time in many years, cars were available, affordable, and now necessary to reach the new suburbs.
The term "smog," originally coined to describe the combination of smoke and fog prevalent in London, soon became a household word in the Bay Area, with open fires from dumps and wrecking yards burning 24 hours a day. Initially measured in levels of eye irritation, air pollution was becoming a major problem, causing significant damage to Bay Area crops.
In the late 1940's scientists began exploring the causes of smog. In 1950, Dr. A. J. Haagen-Smit, a biochemist at the California Institute of Technology, discovered that photochemical reactions were responsible for the formation of smog's primary ingredient, ground level ozone.
The Air District's first years were fraught with controversy over Regulation 1, the proposal to ban open burning at dumps and wrecking yards, but it was eventually adopted in 1957.
In 1946, the California Legislature enacted the first air pollution control law authorizing the formation of county air pollution control districts. Los Angeles County opened the first air pollution control office in early 1947 and Santa Clara County followed soon after.
By 1950, it was evident that pollution overflowed political boundaries, and that a single-county district was not the answer for the Bay Area. In 1955, the Bay Area Air Pollution Control Law was adopted, establishing the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District as the first regional air pollution control agency in the nation.
At first, the Air District included Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. (Three other counties Napa, Solana, and Sonoma 8212; were included in the legislation as "inactive" members. Napa and the southern portions of Solano and Sonoma counties joined the Air District in 1971.)
The Air District's Board of Directors appointed Benjamin Linsky as the Air District's first Air Pollution Control Officer. During this period, state law also established an Advisory Council composed of representatives from community, health, environmental, and other organizations to advise on technical and policy matters.
By 1958, the Air District's laboratory was fully operational, performing chemical analyses of air quality samples.
As the Air District began its mission to control air pollution, the Bay Area's population was just over three million people, and there were 1.75 million motor vehicles on the road, at that time accounting for about 25 percent of the gaseous emissions in the region. (Today the Bay Area's population has more than doubled, almost reaching 7.2 million people, with more than 5 million cars on the road. These vehicles currently account for more than 50 percent of emissions.)
Charged with regulating stationary sources of air pollution emissions, the Air District drafted its first two regulations in the 1950s: Regulation 1, which banned open burning at dumps and wrecking yards, and Regulation 2, which established controls on dust, droplets, and combustion gases from certain industrial sources.
Much research and discussion went into the shaping of Regulation 2, but there was no doubt about the need for it. During a fact-finding visit to one particular facility, Air District engineers discovered that filters were used over air in-take vents to protect the plant's machinery from its own corrosive emissions! This much-debated regulation was finally adopted in 1960.
In 1959, California established the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board (the forerunner of today's California Air Resources Board) and this agency began to explore methods to reduce motor vehicle emissions.
While the 1950s brought air pollution control to the forefront of public concern, the next decade would see a rise in technical innovations that would assist in the fight for clean air.
The Bay Area Air Pollution Control Law is enacted, establishing the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District (later renamed the Bay Area Air Quality Management District).
The Air District's Board of Directors meets for the first time.
Benjamin Linsky is named the first Air Pollution Control Officer.
The Air District's Advisory Council is appointed.
The Air District adopts Regulation 1, banning open burning at dumps and wrecking yards.
The first draft of Regulation 2 limiting industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and smoke is referred by the Air District's Board of Directors to the Advisory Council.
The Air District's laboratory becomes operational under the direction of chemist Milton Feldstein, who would later serve as the Air Pollution Control Officer.
The Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board (MVPCB) is established by the state of California, later renamed the California Air Resources Board (ARB).
Regulation 2 is adopted, establishing industrial controls (see entry for 1958).
In 1960, the first industrial emission controls are adopted. Limits are placed on smoke from factories and on sulfur compounds. Five air monitoring stations to measure air pollution in the ambient air open in 1962.
When a visibly perspiring Richard Nixon lost the first televised presidential debate and the election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, it ushered in an era of youthful optimism. But this idealism would soon be tempered by turbulent social change and tragic events such as Kennedy's assassination and America's entry into the Vietnam War.
In the Bay Area, the Air District's first pioneering efforts at pollution control met with resistance and controversy, but led to great gains for regional air quality.
Regulation 2 limited emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and smoke at industrial facilities in the Bay Area.
The first task for the Air District after limiting open burning was to target the most visible air pollution problem: industrial smokestack emissions. The first industrial emissions regulation, Regulation 2, drafted in the late 1950s and adopted after some opposition in May 1960, set opacity limits on smoke from factories and refineries at 40 percent, and also established emission limits for sulfur compounds. Several years later, in 1965, the Advisory Council also began its pioneering work on what would become Regulation 3, limiting industrial emissions of organic compounds.
The Air District's air monitoring network was established in 1962, with six stations measuring concentrations of pollutants in the air.
The first automotive control in the nation, positive crankcase ventilation, was mandated in 1961 by California's Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board, the predecessor to the California Air Resources Board. Recognizing the motor vehicle's sizable contribution to air pollution, the Air District required the retrofitting of 1950-60 model cars with crankcase control devices, paving the way for six other California air districts to adopt similar rules.
The Air District's air monitoring network, the first regional monitoring system in the country, was established in 1962 to measure Bay Area pollution levels and provide useful data for developing strategies to improve air quality.
An early public outreach campaign by the Air District, "Clean Air Week" of 1961, featured a 2.5-year-old "Miss Clean Air."
While air pollution continued to worsen during the 1960s—with the poorest air quality ever recorded in the Bay Area occurring in 1969—the automotive and industrial controls adopted in the early 60s set the stage for the great improvements in air quality in decades to come.
The first automobile control in the nation, positive crankcase ventilation, is mandated by the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board (precursor to the California Air Resources Board).
The Air District's ambient air monitoring network becomes operational, with five stations in the Bay Area.
The Board of Directors votes to retrofit 1950 60 model cars with crankcase control devices. Six other California air districts adopt similar laws.
October becomes the worst month yet for air pollution in the Bay Area, with 19 days over the eye irritation standard (the initial method of measuring air pollution levels).
The Advisory Council starts work on Regulation 3, controlling organic compounds from industrial emissions.
The state legislature adds misdemeanor penalties for Regulation 1 violations.
As the infamous Sixties came to a close, the California Air Resources Board established the first air quality standards for pollutants in the ambient air, and the Bay Area recorded 65 days over the national one-hour standard for ozone (12 parts per hundred million)— the highest number of days in its history.
As 1965 dawned, Lyndon Johnson was beginning his own term as President, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, the Vietnam War was becoming a staple on the six o'clock news, and the Air District was beginning to establish controls on organic compounds from industrial emissions.
The year would also bring the enactment of legislation making open burning in the Bay Area a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to $500 in fines or six months in jail.
In 1969, the Bay Area recorded 65 days over the national ozone standard, making it the worst year ever for air quality in the region.
The first auto emission standards in the nation for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide were adopted by the MVPCB in 1966.
In this same year, the Air District's Advisory Council began discussing the feasibility of banning backyard burning of refuse, while the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Pollution issued a report on the need to recycle both liquid and solid waste.
In 1969, the ban on backyard burning was adopted and an extensive education campaign on the issue was launched.
In January of 1967, President Johnson warned that the nation was losing the fight against air pollution and outlined an increased role for the federal government in controlling the problem. Subsequently the Air Quality Act, a predecessor to the Clean Air Act, was passed by Congress.
As the year progressed, the Air District adopted industrial limits for the handling of organic compounds, and approved plans to move to its headquarters at 939 Ellis Street in San Francisco. In this period, the MVPCB was renamed the California Air Resources Board.
The first automobile emission standards in the nation were implemented by the state of California in 1966.
The Advisory Council starts work on Regulation 3, control of organic compounds from industrial emissions.
The state legislature adds misdemeanor penalties for Regulation 1 violations.
The first auto emission standards in the nation for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are adopted by the MVPCB.
Regulation 3, controlling organic compounds from industrial emissions, is adopted by the Air District's Board of Directors.
The Air Quality Act, predecessor to the Clean Air Act, is passed by the U.S. Congress.
The Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board becomes the California Air Resources Board (ARB).
Agricultural burning is controlled with "burn / no burn" days.
The state legislature authorizes the Air District to seek $500 in civil penalties for violations of Regulation 2, which controls industrial emissions.
ARB promulgates the first state air quality standards.
The Air District records 65 days of "unhealthful" air, the worst year for air quality in the Bay Area on record.
The Air District bans backyard burning in the Bay Area.
The Clean Air Act is passed by U.S. Congress.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is created.
A regulation requiring that gas nozzles be designed to capture evaporative emissions during the fueling of cars is adopted by the Board, the first rule in California. The Environmental Protection Agency is created by Congress in 1972.
Some said it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, others pronounced it the age of environmental awareness. The haunting view of Earth as seen from the moon sparked global concern for protecting the environment. It was 1970 and much was changing in the world.
As Vietnam War protesters increased in number and voice, the first Earth Day was celebrated, the Clean Air Act was passed by Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed, and a decade of environmental conservancy began.
The Air District implemented its vapor recovery control regulation-requiring among other things new nozzle configurations-to limit ozone forming gases emitted during gasoline fueling operations at service stations.
A milestone for the environmental movement was set in 1971 when the EPA established national health-based air quality standards for pollutants in the ambient air.
In this period, the Air District added three counties to its jurisdiction Napa, southern Sonoma, and western Solano counties bringing the district to its current total of nine counties.
The California Air Resources Board adopted strict automobile emissions standards, and the Air District adopted hydrogen sulfide controls on industry. Burning at dumps was banned throughout the state of California, and the Air District adopted an ambient lead regulation. And, for the first time, the Board of Directors prohibited smoking in the board chambers during meetings.
The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. It was commemorated by a photograph of the earth taken during the Apollo 13 moon landing, and kicked off a decade of environmental awareness and action.
The Air District's permit system was adopted in 1972, as was a landmark odor regulation the first of its kind in the nation. The District's "smog phone" for air quality readings began in May of 1972 and a carpool lane was opened on the Bay Bridge. Computer carpool matching also became available.
The Air District's big story of 1973 was the adoption of its vapor recovery regulation, which would reduce hydrocarbon emissions at gasoline stations by 70 tons per day the largest emission reduction generated by any regulation thus far.
Air District employees demonstrate the portable olfactometer that was used for research in developing the odor regulation, and later for determining compliance.
Unleaded gasoline became available in July of 1974. In addition, an Air District Air Pollution Episode Plan was adopted with a "smog advisory" level set at 0.20 parts per million (ppm) of ozone. (Unfortunately, the 1974 summer smog season logged the longest consecutive run of smog advisories three days in October when the maximum ozone concentration reached 0.28 ppm.)
The early '70s showed that air pollution control was firmly entrenched in the national agenda and would continue to be in the "environmental decade" and beyond.
The Clean Air Act is passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Nixon.
EPA establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulates, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.
The Air District adopts emission standards for lead.
Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties become active members of the Air District.
The Air District makes the first major revision to Regulation 2, tightening emission standards for particulates and sulfur dioxide.
ARB adopts the first nitrogen oxides emission standard for automobiles in the nation.
The Air District adopts the first non-specific odor regulation in the nation.
The Air District's permit system is approved by the Board of Directors.
The Air District adopts a three-stage episode plan for high air pollution days.
The "smog phone" for air quality readings is introduced.
A carpool lane is provided on the Bay Bridge.
The California legislature authorizes the Air District to seek civil and criminal penalties for violations of any rule or regulation.
The first gasoline vapor recovery program in California is adopted by the Air District Board of Directors.
The first integrated regional air quality ozone model in the nation is completed by the Air District, in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and NASA-Ames Research Center.
Bay Area emission limits on nitrogen oxides take effect.
The Air District begins use of a new radio communications system, involving two transmitters and a computer linkup, accelerating the dispatch of air pollution complaints to inspectors in the field for investigation
The Air District began 1975 by inaugurating a new radio communication system using two new transmitters and a computer linkup, accelerating the dispatch of air pollution complaints to inspectors in the field for investigation. This was also the year that the California Air Resources Board adopted new emission standards for 1977-model automobiles and 1978-model motorcycles.
While a peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia was struggling for attention as a credible presidential candidate in 1976, the Air District adopted a landmark odor regulation that set emission standards based on odor thresholds of chemically identifiable substances.
Air District inspectors communicate with District headquarters, using the new radio dispatch system implemented in 1975 to facilitate investigation of complaints.
In 1977, the national Clean Air Act Amendments were adopted, with far-reaching effects on air districts across the country. That same year, the Air District began discussions on the shape and feasibility of an emissions offset rule for trading of industrial pollution credits.
The effects of air pollution on visibility are evident in these photos taken from San Francisco's Twin Peaks in 1976.
1978 was a year of transition for the Air District. State legislation changed the Air District's name from "Bay Area Air Pollution Control District" to "Bay Area Air Quality Management District," the Air District's toll-free complaint line (1-800-334-ODOR) became operational, and Milton Feldstein was named Air Pollution Control Officer. He would take office at the beginning of the next year, beginning a distinguished 17-year term as the head of the agency.
In 1979, Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO) Milt Feldstein began a long and fruitful term as head of the Air District. He worked as an employee of the agency for 38 years, serving as APCO until 1996. The San Francisco building housing the Air District's offices was dedicated to him in 1998.
In 1979, the Pollutant Standards Index (forerunner of the Air Quality Index, or AQI) was introduced by the EPA to give the public easily understandable information about air quality readings; and the Air District's New Source Review regulation for stationary sources of emissions was adopted, allowing facilities to "bank" emissions credits.
As the "environmental decade" came to a close, the Air District began preparing for the challenges entailed by soaring regional population growth, and the accompanying increase in the number of automobiles and miles traveled on Bay Area roadways.
The Air District begins use of a new radio communications system, involving two transmitters and a computer linkup, accelerating the dispatch of air pollution complaints to inspectors in the field for investigation.
ARB limits lead in gasoline in California.
The Air District adopts its first yearly permit renewal requirements. Facility operators must provide the Air District with yearly updates of certain emission parameters for their permitted operations.
Amendments to the Clean Air Act are enacted by the U.S. Congress.
The Air District's name is changed to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District
The New Source Review regulation is adopted, allowing for a system of emissions banking.
The Air District's Planning Division is created during a reorganization of the District's operating structure.
The Air District's regulations are recodified into an easier to use format.
The Air District unveils its proposal for an Inspection and Maintenance or "Smog Check" program for automobiles, which eventually is modified and signed into law.
The Air District unveils its proposal for a “smog check” bill for automobiles. In 1984 the program goes into effect, requiring biennial checks of motor vehicles for smog forming compounds and public education to explain the need for the program.
As 1980 dawned and Ronald Reagan promised that it was "morning in America," a new day was also beginning for air quality in the Bay Area. Ozone excesses were starting to occur over shorter periods and to coincide more with certain weather patterns.
Excesses began as early as February in the 1960s, but in the 1970s they took place no earlier than April. In 1980, there were no exceedances of the federal ozone standard until May.
The state's "Smog Check" program went into effect in 1984. Based on a bill proposed by the Air District, it required that motor vehicles be checked for smog-forming gases every two years.
As the 1980s began, the feasibility of an Inspection and Maintenance program for automobiles was the hot topic in the Bay Area, as the Air District put forth its proposal for a "Smog Check," program. Governor Jerry Brown would eventually sign a modified version of the Inspection and Maintenance bill proposed by the Air District, which would require smog checks every two years and go into effect in 1984.
In 1981, Mt. St. Helens erupted and spewed the highest level of particulate pollution ever recorded--3,334/m3 over a 24-hour average--over the Portland, Oregon area. This same year, civil penalties for violations of Air District regulations were doubled by legislation.
In 1980, for the first time, smog episodes in the Bay Area did not begin until May. And in 1985, for the first time, there were no exceedances of the federal ozone standard during the months of August and September.
During this period, the Air District's 1982 Air Quality Management Plan was adopted, setting the Bay Area's air pollution control strategy for the next five years. And the California Legislature passed the Tanner Act, addressing toxic sources of air pollution and establishing the state's toxic air contaminant control program.
In 1983, another key regulation was adopted, when the Air District passed the first air pollution rule in the nation for semiconductor manufacturing.
In September 1983, the Bay Area reached the threshold for a first stage "Smog Alert," a one-hour average reading of O.2 parts per million of ozone. While Smog Alerts were common in the 1970s, this would be the last time a Smog Alert was issued in the Bay Area.
As part of a carbon monoxide (CO) field study, Air District staff attach a CO sampler to a weather balloon to measure vertical distribution.
While environmental programs came under closer scrutiny in Washington, D.C., in the first half of the 80s, with the Reagan administration threatening budget cuts to the EPA, the last half of the decade would see some landmark actions coming out of the state legislature in Sacramento.
The Air District unveils its proposal for a "Smog Check" program for automobiles, which eventually is modified and signed into law.
Air District-sponsored legislation doubling civil penalties for air pollution violations is enacted by the California legislature.
The California legislature enacts the automobile Inspection and Maintenance (Smog Check) Program.
A major update to the Air District's Air Quality Management Plan is adopted, setting Bay Area air pollution control strategy for the next five years.
The Air District adopts the first controls in the nation on semiconductor manufacturing.
The California legislature passes the Tanner Act, establishing the toxic air contaminant control program.
The Air District installs an air quality telemetry system for polling and collection of data from its air monitoring stations.
The first Smog Check program goes into effect in California, requiring that motor vehicles be checked every two years for air pollution emissions and tampering.
For the first time in 20 years of records, there were no exceedances of the federal ozone standard during the months of August and September.
Ambient toxics monitoring began at five sites using equipment provided by ARB and operated by the Air District.
The Board adopts a ten-point program to reduce toxics in the air, the most comprehensive in the country. In 1985, monitoring of air toxics begins at five Bay Area sites, doubling to ten sites in the following year.
The last half of the 1980s was a time of tremendous upheaval: from environmental disasters such as the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl and the crash of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, to seismic political events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the student protests in China's Tiananmen Square.
In the late 80s, the Bay Area experienced its own seismic shake-up - literally - in the form of the Loma Prieta earthquake. But after all the dust had settled, this was an era in which great progress was made on behalf of the environment.
An Air District staff member demonstrates equipment used to measure air toxics at the San Rafael monitoring station. In 1985, monitoring of toxic air pollutants in the ambient air began at five sites in the Bay Area, using equipment provided by the California Air Resources Board and operated by the Air District.
1988 in particular was a banner year for air quality in California, with the adoption of the California Clean Air Act, which established specific requirements for achieving the state's more stringent air quality standards. For the first time, transportation control measures came under Air District purview, and requirements for alternative fuel vehicles were enumerated. Civil and criminal penalties for air quality violations were revised to a maximum of $25,000 per day.
In 1985, leaded gasoline was officially banned throughout the United States. In one of the great air quality success stories, lead concentrations in the air dropped as much as 99 percent, to levels that are virtually undetectable by standard monitoring equipment.
The Smog Check program marked its first anniversary in 1985, with preliminary data showing a 17 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions. Of the vehicles tested that first year of the program, 72 percent passed the test the first time around.
In 1986 the Air District adopted the most comprehensive air toxic reduction plan in the country and approved the establishment of an internal toxic evaluation section to begin the next fiscal year.
Staff members from the Air District's meteorology section check data at a weather station in Petaluma. In the mid-1980s, the Air District built a new weather data collection network developed specifically for air quality forecast and modeling needs.
The Air District racked up more firsts in 1989, with the adoption of landmark rules controlling emissions from marine lightering operations and from large commercial bakeries. It was also the year that public transportation became, for a while, less of an option and more of a necessity, as the Bay Bridge was closed for a month in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
And in 1989 a record low of only four days over the national air quality standard for ozone was logged - starting a trend that would eventually lead to a change in the Bay Area's federal ozone attainment status.
For the first time in 20 years of records, there were no exceedances of the federal ozone standard during the months of August and September.
Ambient toxics monitoring begins at five sites using equipment provided by ARB and operated by the Air District.
The Bay Area's ten-point program to reduce toxics, the most comprehensive air toxic reduction plan in the country, is adopted by the Air District's Board of Directors.
The Bay Area's toxic monitoring network doubles to 10 stations.
The Air District's Board of Directors endorses Contra Costa County's transportation systems management ordinance as a model for encouraging land-use decisions that minimize single-passenger auto use.
The state of California passes Assembly Bill 2588, the Air Toxics "Hot Spots" Information and Assessment Act. Companies throughout the state are required to provide information to the public about the health impacts of their toxic emissions. The Air District uses this information to target certain toxic source categories for regulation.
The California Clean Air Act is adopted by the state legislature. This act sets specific requirements for achieving the California air quality standards, which are more stringent than the federal standards. These requirements include transportation control measures and requirements for alternative-fuel vehicles. It also revises the civil and criminal penalty schedule for air pollution control violations, with a new maximum penalty of $25,000 per day.
The Air District's Board of Directors adopts the first regulations in the nation limiting organic emissions from large commercial bakeries and marine vessel loading and unloading.
The U.S. Congress passes the 1990 federal Clean Air Act Amendments, which include control strategies for toxic substances and for pollutants causing global warming, acid rain, and ozone depletion. The amendments also create a national permits program for major emitting facilities, known as Title V.
The Air District's Board of Directors adopts the first rule in the nation limiting emissions from aerosol spray products.
The Spare the Air program begins in 1991 to educate Bay Area residents about the causes of air pollution – especially driving – and alternatives to driving alone. Spare the Air also warns residents when unhealthy air pollution levels are expected.
As the last decade of the century began, Germany reunited and the Soviet Union fell apart, Margaret Thatcher resigned and Bill Clinton was elected, and Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after spending almost 30 years in prison.
This was also a momentous period for the Air District, which initiated some of its most far-reaching programs at a time when "Spare the Air" became a household phrase in the Bay Area.
The Spare the Air program was introduced in 1991 to educate Bay Area residents about the causes of air pollution, and to encourage them to seek alternatives to driving. Spare the Air forecasts also warned residents when unhealthy levels of air pollution were expected.
In June 1995, for the first time, the Bay Area was officially reclassified by the federal government as an attainment area for the national ozone standard. Although the region would shortly fall out of attainment again, this designation would have been unthinkable a few decades earlier and offered clear proof that progress had been made in improving air quality for Bay Area residents.
In 1990, a landmark set of federal Clean Air Act Amendments was adopted by the federal government, creating among other things the Title V permit program for major facilities, with guidelines for its implementation by local air quality agencies. The Air District adopted the first Title V Program in the nation, and also blazed the trail with the first-ever regulation limiting emissions from aerosol spray products.
The Transportation Fund for Clean Air Program was initiated by State Assembly Bill 434. This bill authorized local Air Districts to use a four-dollar surcharge on Department of Motor Vehicle registration fees to fund traffic mitigation, alternative transportation, and clean fuel projects for local governmental agencies.
As required by the California Clean Air Act of 1988, the Air District adopted its first Clean Air Plan in October 1991. This plan, which was updated in 1994, would be the region's blueprint for achieving and maintaining the state ozone and carbon monoxide standards, and included a broad range of measures for industry, employers, public agencies, and individuals.
As Air District programs caused stationary source emissions to drop, motor vehicle emissions became the number one air pollution source in the Bay Area. With limited authority to regulate the use of automobiles, the Air District embarked on a strong outreach campaign to educate the public about the effects of traffic on air quality.
This Spare the Air outreach program was kicked off in June 1991 to help cut summer smog levels. The following year, Bay Area employers were asked to join the Spare the Air campaign by encouraging their employees to find alternate commute options. County resource teams were also established to work on local air quality issues.
In 1992, the Air District rolled out its Smoking Vehicle Program, providing residents with a 1-800-EXHAUST phone line to call in complaints about automobiles with excessive tailpipe emissions.
In the winter of 1991, the Air District launched its voluntary Don't Light Tonight (later Spare the Air Tonight) program, targeting one of the largest sources of wintertime particulate air pollution: wood burning stoves and fireplaces.
In August 1991, the Toxics Hot Spots Program got underway, with the goal of reducing toxic emissions in the Bay Area by 50 percent - a goal that would, in fact, be achieved by 1993.
The U.S. Congress passes the 1990 federal Clean Air Act amendments, which introduce control strategies for toxic substances and pollutants causing global warming, acid rain, and ozone depletion. These amendments also create a national permit program for major emitting facilities, to be implemented by local air districts.
The Air District adopts the first rule in the nation limiting emissions from aerosol spray products.
The Bay Area 1991 Clean Air Plan is the first state-mandated ozone reduction plan adopted in California, and includes all feasible measures to reduce ozone in the Bay Area.
The "Spare the Air" and "Don't Light Tonight" (later, "Spare the Air Tonight") programs are launched, aimed at voluntarily reducing the polluting activities of individuals.
Assembly Bill 434 is signed into law, authorizing the Air District to use a $4 surcharge on Department of Motor Vehicle fees to fund clean air transportation projects.
The U.S. Congress passes the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which directs transportation funds to projects that provide the best payoff in terms of mobility, air quality, urban and regional design, and economic development. This act also inaugurates the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, which provides funds for local agencies such as the Air District to use for air quality projects designed to reduce vehicle emissions.
The Bay Area Smoking Vehicle Program kicks off with a toll-free 1-800-EXHAUST number for residents to report vehicles with excessive tailpipe emissions.
The Air District launches its Clean Air Champions Awards, honoring Bay Area individuals for their efforts on behalf of air quality.
California's oxygenated fuels program gets underway, aimed at reducing carbon monoxide levels.
The state of California passes legislation authorizing a $50,000 per day maximum penalty for air quality violations.
The Air District adopts the strictest fugitive emissions rule in the country, in order to further reduce volatile organic emissions and odor complaints.
The Transportation Fund for Clean Air is authorized by AB 434, approved in 1991. Funds generated by a state surcharge on automobile registration fees are used by the Air District to award grants to public projects designed to reduce emissions from motor vehicles.
The Air District's Compliance Assistance Program is established to help small businesses with their compliance needs. The program features a compliance hotline, courtesy site visits, industry compliance schools, and printed informational materials.
The Air District adopts the first Title V permit program in the nation for major facilities, in conformance with the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
The Bay Area meets all six federal criteria pollutant standards for the first time. The region also records the the lowest number of days over the state ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter standards in recorded history.
The 1994 Clean Air Plan is adopted.
The Bay Area is designated by EPA as an attainment area for the national ozone standard, becoming the largest metropolitan area in the country to achieve this goal.
The Bay Area experiences its worst air quality in a decade, with 11 exceedances of the national ozone standard, and 28 exceedances of the state ozone standard.
The Vehicle Buy Back Program begins in 1996 giving Bay Area residents the opportunity to voluntarily “retire” older, high polluting vehicles in exchange for monetary incentives. The cars are crushed and recycled.
During the last five years of the 20th century, as President Clinton faced impeachment proceedings while his approval ratings hit an all-time high, the Bay Area experienced its own perplexing swings of fortune - in federal ozone attainment status.
In 1996, the Air District initiated its Vehicle Buy Back Program, giving Bay Area residents the opportunity to voluntarily "retire" their older, high-polluting vehicles in exchange for a monetary incentive. The cars are crushed and recycled.
1995 brought the worst air quality in a decade, as well as - ironically enough - redesignation by the federal government as an attainment area for the ozone standard, based on measurements for the preceding three years. This attainment status for ozone was accordingly revoked in 1998 - ironically again - just one year after the Bay Area experienced its cleanest summer on record.
During this time, the national ozone standard itself became a shifting target, as EPA promulgated a new ozone standard, based on a longer, more health-protective eight-hour averaging period. However, this new standard encountered legal challenges, and was held up for several years until the Supreme Court finally decided in the EPA's favor - with the end result that both national standards for ozone would remain in force well past the turn of the century.
In 1997, the Air District's Lawn Mower Buyback Program offered residents rebates for turning in inefficient, high-polluting gas-powered mowers and replacing them with electric ones. Old mowers were collected and scrapped.
In 1999, the Air District's Ozone Attainment Plan was adopted, as required by EPA after the Bay Area's loss of attainment status for ozone. However, for the first time in 1998 the federal government designated the Bay Area in attainment of the carbon monoxide standard, a designation the Air District has continued to preserve.
During this period, the Air District began issuing Major Facility Review permits under the federal Title V Program, to almost 100 facilities whose emissions levels place them under the program purview.
The Air District's Model Wood Smoke Ordinance was approved by the Board in 1998, providing cities and counties with guidance in regulating new installations of woodstoves and fireplaces.
In 2000, the Air District participated in the ambitious Central California Ozone Study, designed to measure and analyze the impact of ozone transport patterns over a large portion of California.
And in 1999, the Air District's Board of Directors adopted a set of Guidelines for Environmental Justice, setting the stage for renewed emphasis on community issues and the local impacts of toxic and particulate pollution in the years to come.
The Bay Area is redesignated as an attainment area for the national one-hour ozone standard.
"Cleaner-burning" gasoline is introduced in California, as required by ARB. This leads to a 15 percent (40 tons per day) reduction in smog-forming emissions of VOCs. Benzene levels drop more than 50 percent.
The Bay Area Clean Air Partnership (BAYCAP) is formed, combining the resources of the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, and the Air District. Its mission is to work collaboratively to improve air quality through voluntary efforts.
The Air District unveils its Spare the Air website, providing electronic air quality forecasts to the public, among other services.
The Air District initiates its Vehicle Buyback Program to buy and scrap older model automobiles, which emit a disproportionate amount of pollution in the Bay Area. The program begins with 1975 as the cut-off year, and offers $500 a vehicle.
A revised Smog Check II program is implemented in California, requiring most vehicles to be more extensively tested and repaired, if necessary, at licensed smog check stations.
The EPA announces new, more stringent national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. The new ozone standard is set for average concentration over an eight-hour period, and particulate standards are set for the new category of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 microns in size and smaller.
The Air District's Lawn Mower Buyback Program kicks off in partnership with PG&E and Ryobi Outdoor Products. Rebates of $75 are offered for cordless electric mulching mowers in exchange for gas-powered mowers, which are scrapped.
The Air District’s website is launched.
The 1997 Clean Air Plan is adopted for the Bay Area.
The summer of 1997 is the cleanest to date since the Air District began monitoring in 1962. No exceedances of the federal one-hour standard are recorded, and only eight exceedances of the state standard are measured.
The Air District, in cooperation with several local air districts sponsors the Great Stove Changeout Program, offering rebates to residents who turn in their old stoves and fireplace inserts for a new, cleaner-burning model.
The EPA redesignates the Bay Area to nonattainment for the federal one-hour ozone standard, as a result of excesses that occurred in 1995 and 1996.
The EPA officially designates the Bay Area in attainment of the federal carbon monoxide standard. While federal CO exceedances were once common, with 66 taking place in 1976, none have occurred since 1992.
The City and County of San Francisco adopts the Bay Area's first comprehensive ban on the use of polluting garden and utility equipment on Spare the Air days.
The Model Wood Smoke Ordinance is approved by the Air District's Board of Directors. This ordinance is based on one passed in Petaluma in 1992, and regulates installation of wood burning appliances in homes in order to reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions.
The Air District begins monitoring PM2.5 at several monitoring stations in the Bay Area.
The Board of Directors adopts the Air District's Guiding Principles of Environmental Justice, which specifies that no segment of the population in the Bay Area should bear disproportionately high health effects of air pollution.
The San Francisco Bay Area Ozone Attainment Plan, designed to bring the Bay Area back into compliance with federal ozone standards, is approved and sent to EPA.
The Air District begins taking applications for grants under the Carl Moyer Program, established by AB 1571. The funding is aimed at projects that reduce diesel PM, including the purchase of new cleaner diesel equipment, the retrofitting of older diesel engines with emission control devices, or the replacement of older diesel engines with new lower emission ones.
The Air District amends Regulation 2, Rule 6, which implemented the federal Title V program, to include a series of updates and refinements to the Major Facility Review permitting program.
The Central California Ozone Study (CCOS) begins. The Air District participates with several other air agencies in this study designed to enhance understanding of the formation and complex transport patterns of ozone in northern and central California.
The California Air Resources Board passes new enhanced Vapor Recovery Amendments to refine controls on evaporation and spillage in gasoline transfer operations, from the delivery truck to the storage tank and from the pump to the automobile gas tank.
The state of California passes legislation allowing electric vehicle drivers to use carpool lanes.
The Air District joins with other Bay Area agencies and business, environmental, and social equity groups to promote "smart growth" and create more livable communities. The first of an ongoing series of public Smart Growth Workshops is held.
The Air District addresses regional and community concerns over fine particle pollution and diesel exhaust. The CARE Program is initiated.
The first five years of the 21st century will forever be marked by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It may also be remembered as an era that highlighted how tightly air quality and energy use are interconnected with broader national policy issues.
In the Bay Area, with great progress having been made in improving general air quality conditions, the Air District stepped up its outreach to local communities in the region. And with ozone concentrations a fraction of what they were several decades earlier, the Air District increased its efforts to address the substantial public health problems presented by particulate pollution.
In 2004, the Air District's Executive Officer Jack Broadbent kicked off a demonstration project with the Port of Oakland to test the air quality benefits of emulsified diesel fuel in a truck fleet.
In the early years of the century, the new federal PM2.5 standard went into effect for fine particulates, or particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller in size. Implementation of this standard was accompanied by studies linking fine particulates to a range of health effects from cardiopulmonary disease to premature death. PM from diesel exhaust has been estimated to account for up to 70 percent of the cancer risk from toxic air pollution throughout the Bay Area.
During this period the Air District began monitoring and forecasting for PM2.5, as well as introducing a dioxin monitoring network measuring levels of that highly toxic pollutant.
In response to local concerns, the Air District entered into a partnership to reduce diesel particulate emissions at the Port of Oakland, passing a truck idling regulation, and participating in a clean, emulsified diesel-fuel pilot program with a truck fleet serving the Port.
The California energy crisis of 2001 also demonstrated the need to address smaller, back-up diesel generators. The Air District amended its rules to regulate and bring these back-up generators into the permit system.
The summer of 2004 was the cleanest on record, in terms of ozone emissions. There were no exceedances of either the federal one-hour or eight-hour ozone standard, and only seven exceedances of the state standard.
During this period, new research showed refinery flares to be an underestimated source of emissions. The Air District accordingly amended Regulation 12 to require monitoring of flare emissions, and began work on a new flare regulation.
The Wood Smoke Rebate program began with funding from a local utility used to reduce particulate emissions in Santa Clara County from wood-burning fireplaces and old wood stoves.
During this period, the Air District held a variety of informational meetings in local communities, and the Air District's Executive Officer, senior staff, and Board of Directors participated in several community tours to hear local residents speak about issues affecting their neighborhoods.
As part of the summer 2004 Spare the Air campaign, seven BART cars traveling on the Pittsburg/Bay Point and Dublin/Pleasanton lines were covered in an eye-catching wrap. That summer, for the first time ever, in partnership with the Air District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, BART offered free morning commute rides on two Spare the Air weekdays.
Finally, in 2004, the Air District embarked on the groundbreaking Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) program. This program, projected to last several years, will involve an unprecedented degree of coordination among stakeholders and staff with expertise in air monitoring, modeling, and analysis working together to better understand the impacts of toxic pollutants at local levels. The final objective will be to create a two-kilometer gridded diesel and toxics emissions inventory of the entire Bay Area. This information can be used to focus resources on reducing toxic exposure in the most impacted of the Bay Area's communities.
As the Air District celebrates its 50th anniversary, the CARE Program is just one of a series of innovative projects that will be undertaken in the years ahead, as the agency expands its scope to address new challenges, from indoor air pollution to global warming. The last half century has seen dramatic improvement in the Bay Area's air quality, and the Air District expects to build on this success as it prepares to make bold new gains in the next 50 years to come.
The Central California Ozone Study (CCOS) begins. The Air District participates with several other air agencies in this study designed to enhance understanding of the formation and complex, cross-district transport patterns of ozone in the extensive northern and central parts of California.
The Air District rolls out its Lower-Emission School Bus Program to administer state-funded grants to school districts for the replacement and retrofitting of school buses with older diesel engines.
The California Air Resources Board approves the Air District's 2001 Ozone Attainment Plan, designed to bring the Bay Area closer to attainment of state ozone standards.
The Air District amends Regulation 2 and Regulation 9 to regulate and permit small emergency standby diesel generators.
The Air District and the California Air Resources Board, in cooperation with EPA, establish an ambient air monitoring network for dioxins.
The Air District begins to make daily air quality forecasts for PM2.5.
The Air District updates its open burning regulation, Regulation 5, to further reduce the negative public health impact of open burning smoke and to prevent emissions from causing excesses of air quality standards.
The Air District adopts a flare monitoring regulation for refineries, Regulation 12, Rule 11, requiring refineries to monitor the volume and composition of gases burned in refinery flares, to calculate flare emissions based on this data, and to report the information to the Air District. This is the most stringent flare monitoring rule in the country.
The Air District's Board of Directors names Jack Broadbent as Executive Officer. Broadbent comes to the District with an extensive air quality background at the federal and local level.
The Air District's pilot Wood Smoke Rebate Program offers rebates to Santa Clara County residents for replacing wood-burning stoves and fireplaces with gas-burning appliances. This program is one of the first of its kind, with funding resulting from an agreement between the Air District and the California Energy Commission with Calpine Corporation and Silicon Valley Power.
The Air District sponsors the first of several planned "Community Environmental Tours" of neighborhoods affected by air pollution. Air District Board members, the Executive Officer, and staff join community residents and environmentalists to listen to resident concerns.
The Air District embarks on an ambitious Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) Program to provide a better understanding of the cumulative impact of toxic air pollutants on smaller communities throughout the Bay Area.
The Air District partners with the Port of Oakland to undertake the Emulsified Fuel Pilot Program, testing a cleaner blend of diesel fuel on a truck fleet hauling shipping containers to and from the Port's terminals.
For the first time, in partnership with the Air District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), BART offers free morning commute rides on a select number of Spare the Air weekdays.
2004 ends as the cleanest year on record for air quality in the Bay Area, with no exceedances of the federal one-hour or eight-hour ozone standards, and only seven exceedances of the more stringent state standard.
The Air District will continue to work towards a future that ensures a vibrant, healthy quality of life in the Bay Area. Future challenges – like climate change and reducing diesel emissions – will require sound science, creativity and community involvement.
The 50th anniversary of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District affords the opportunity to reflect on the past, celebrate our accomplishments and plan for the clean air journey ahead.
We have a lot to celebrate. Bay Area air is substantially cleaner than it was fifty years ago. 2004 was our cleanest year on record. We met federal standards for ground level ozone every day, and today, the Bay Area has the cleanest air of all of California’s major urban areas.
But the biggest challenges may lie ahead. Maintaining what we have may be the biggest challenge yet. Even in our cleanest year, the Bay Area is still not in attainment with State ozone and particulate matter (PM) standards. Expected increases in population, motor vehicle ownership and distances traveled and climate change will exacerbate this situation and could turn the clock back if we do not begin to address these issues now.
Air quality in the Bay Area has improved significantly since the Air District was created in the fall of 1955. But the region will face many challenges in the years ahead, as we work with Bay Area residents to keep the air clear and the skies blue.
The Air District has a good track record, but with appropriate foresight and planning, we can do more. To succeed, it will take leadership, an integrated approach – from cutting edge science to implementation of smart growth measures – even stronger relationships with all of the Air District’s partners and the active engagement of communities and individual citizens.
Looking ahead – to the next 50 years – the Air District envisions a Bay Area that remains a healthy, vibrant, and beautiful place to live. Yet, our greatest challenges are yet to come – energy consumption will increase with population and economic growth, and that, particularly when combined with a warmer climate, could cause significant increases in air pollution. The region’s ability to overcome these obstacles will be largely dependent on a major shift in public perception and a stronger movement towards personal responsibility for clean air.
Today, the Bay Area’s largest source of smog forming emissions – over 60% – comes from mobile sources like cars, trucks, buses, and construction equipment. The number of mobile sources will rise considerably along with expected population growth. The Bay Area’s population is forecast to increase by 29% by the year 2030 – from 6.8 million in 2000 to 8.8 million in 2030 with the number of jobs increasing to 5.2 million. Even with anticipated gains in transit ridership and carpooling to work, the region is projected to have a minimum of 35% more – or 7.5 million additional vehicular trips a year.
The earth’s surface and ocean temperatures are rising, with the 1990’s the warmest decade on record. Today, most scientists agree that man-made (or anthropogenic) sources of greenhouse gases are, at least partly, to blame. The largest source of greenhouse gases in the Bay Area is mobile sources. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant of the greenhouse gases; however, other gases like methane and nitrous oxide are also involved.
Unless we make substantial cuts in emissions to counterbalance the heat affect, or mitigate the effect of the warmer temperatures in other ways, we should expect more unhealthy air days.
Finding emission reductions will not be easy, because warmer temperatures also cause an increase in harmful air emissions. When it’s warmer, more fuel evaporates, engines work harder, and demand for electric power results in more pollution from power plants. Warmer weather can also have other bad health effects – extending blooming seasons and exacerbating conditions for those with allergies and asthma.
Photographs taken of the Arctic ice cap in 1979 (left) and 2003 (right) clearly show the effects of rising global temperatures. The Air District passed a Climate Change Resolution in June of 2005 indicating the agency's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area.
Individual behavior must be changed if we are to succeed because the majority of Bay Area air contaminants come from activities that involve individuals, like driving motor vehicles and using consumer products and gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment. While there is still work to be done to reduce industrial and commercial emissions to even lower levels, individual consumers must change their behavior if we are to make substantial reductions.
Cutting edge science will continue to form the fundamental basis of all of the Air District’s work. Core programs like permitting, planning, air monitoring, forecasting, and enforcement will remain a priority and will be enhanced in the future. In addition, there will be targeted initiatives to respond to emerging challenges.
Some initiatives are underway, including reducing wood smoke, diesel particulate matter and other air toxics, and supporting conversions to alternative fuels. Others – like reducing greenhouse gases, expanding the Air District’s message to help reduce asthma related triggers and actively promoting smart, clean air choices – are still in the formative stages.
On June 1 st , 2005, the Air District’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution to address climate change and climate protection through outreach and education, data collection and analysis, technical assistance and leadership and support for local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative is still in the formative stage, but much of the work the Air District is already doing to reduce air pollution will be incorporated into it because making reductions in criteria pollutants has the co-benefit of reducing greenhouse gases too.
Many municipal and community-based climate change programs are underway in the region. Supporting the development of local greenhouse gas inventories, similar to the inventory the Air District funded for Sonoma County in 2004, is an option. Developing appropriate model ordinances is also being considered, along with incorporating greenhouse gas information into the Air District’s educational materials. The Air District is also working with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which is the leading the effort to get cities involved in climate change worldwide.
The Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) program was launched in 2004 to assess and reduce health risks from toxic air contaminants in Bay Area neighborhoods, particularly diesel particulate which has been identified as a carcinogen and a contributor to non-cancerous respiratory diseases like asthma.
At the heart of CARE is a technical study to find out which Bay Area neighborhoods experience the highest levels of air toxic emissions including diesel emissions. To make this determination, the Air District is developing emission inventories that include not only stationary sources of air pollution but also mobile sources – like cars, trucks, ships, trains and other transportation vehicles, as well as area sources like paints and consumer products. The data will be entered into Geographical Information System software and displayed on a gridded Bay Area map. The Air District can then dedicate resources to reducing toxic air emissions in the most impacted communities.
Wood burning is a major source of PM air pollution in the Bay Area during winter months, and the Air District’s wood smoke initiative focuses on promoting model ordinances that reduce wood smoke and educating the public about the health risks associated with breathing it. On a typical winter night, wood smoke from the Bay Area’s 1.7 million wood burning fireplaces and stoves produces about 30% of the particulate pollution in our air. On nights when there are temperature inversions, the percentage can be higher.
The Air District is promoting a model ordinance that applies to new housing or renovations of existing homes when a fireplace is involved. The model ordinance allows the installation of natural gas fireplaces, EPA certified equipment and pellet stoves. These “cleaner” burning appliances reduce wood smoke pollution from 75 to 99% over traditional open-air fireplaces. In addition, the ordinance prohibits burning wood when Spare the Air Tonight advisories are issued and air quality is expected to be unhealthy to breathe. As of September, 2005, 37 out of 101 Bay Area cities and 7 of the 9 Bay Area counties have adopted some version of the wood smoke ordinance.
The Air District is also actively encouraging the use of advanced technology, low emission vehicles. Several grant programs help fund the purchase of alternative fueled light and heavy-duty vehicles and the fueling infrastructure to support them, as well as replacement or retrofitting of diesel engines. These programs are expected to expand over the next few years, both in terms of the amount of funding available and the availability of incentives to convert private sector vehicles.
One of the Air District's two hydrogen fuel cell cars was displayed on World Environment Day in June of 2005.
The Air District is also supporting a hydrogen-fueled bus demonstration project involving AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and San Mateo County Transit. The goal of the project is to find the most effective way to operate a hydrogen-fueled bus fleet. The Air District is also taking part in a demonstration project using two Daimler Chrysler hydrogen fuel cell cars to gather data on their performance.
The Air District will be developing messages aimed at individual consumers. The messages will focus on personal responsibility and things that anyone can do to reduce air pollution – most with little effort – but which collectively can have a big effect on energy consumption and air quality. Giving the public the information they need to make wise choices, like buying the cleanest car, public transit subsidies, or purchasing green appliances improve air quality and are money-saving measures as well.
Almost 12% of Californians have asthma - with the greatest incidence among children from 12 to 17 years old. Asthma is greatly affected by air pollution both indoors and outdoors. The Air District’s concerns about poor air quality do not stop when someone goes inside and closes the door. A typical pollutant released indoors has a 1,000 times greater chance of being inhaled as the same pollutant released outdoors into urban air. In addition, most people spend the vast majority of their time indoors – California adults an average of 87% and children under the age of 12 only slightly less, 86%.
There are many sources of indoor air pollution that may trigger asthma and other health conditions like smoking, improperly vented gas stoves, off gassing of toxics used in building materials and furnishings, ozone creating air cleaners, mold, asbestos and even outdoor air. Most of these sources can be reduced substantially with education. The Air District is currently exploring ways of being involved in this effort.
The Air District is committed to doing everything possible to assure that Bay Area residents will have clean air to breathe, well into the future. But we cannot succeed without the involvement and participation of all the diverse communities living in the nine Bay Area counties.
The Air District has decided to use this occasion our 50th Anniversary to officially invite you to join us in this effort. Everyone who lives in the Bay Area has a stake in preserving and improving our quality of life. Partner with us, become educated about the challenges and take personal responsibility for making the changes that are necessary. Join us as we embark on the clean air journey ahead.
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Air Quality Widgets
Last Updated: 8/20/2014