Does this Research Lead to Action?

Using the incoming federal and State funds effectively to step up the pace of improving the non-automotive forms of transportation and taking other steps to improve air quality will require hard and in some cases controversial decisions, followed by well- lead and well-coordinated implementation programs. Here are excerpts from a letter that BATWG sent on December 19th to the California Air Resources Board expressing concern over a common public agency preference for studying a problem rather than addressing it.

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Dear Chair Randolph, other members of the CARB Board, Director Corey, and Ms. Sonya Collier, Staff Air Pollution Specialist:

As stated in your notice of the forthcoming 1.27.22 Public Meeting, CARB has been around for over half a century. During the ensuing five decades we’ve seen AB 32 and SB 375 adopted and a plethora of academic studies throughout the world about all aspects of air quality producing hundreds if not thousands of reports about the effects of fossil emissions on both public health and climate change.

It would therefore be helpful to know more about the seven additional research projects identified in the FY 2021- 2004 Triennial Strategic Research Plan that the CARB staff is now recommending be carried out in FY 2022 – FY 2023. BATWG’s three questions and seven priorities following the CARB statement are intended to help people better understand how research programs can lead directly to necessary infrastructure and societal changes.

From CARB’s Notice:

On March 25, 2021, the Board approved the Fiscal Years 2021-2024 Triennial Strategic Research Plan (Plan). The Plan provides details on past and current research activities, as well as remaining research needs that serve as a guide for the development of future research projects that will support the Board’s mission. Staff will present updates and progress on fulfilling the initiatives presented in the Plan, including CARB’s goal to operationalize racial equity in CARB research.

For Fiscal Year 2022-2023, CARB is proposing seven research projects that each address multiple research initiatives identified in the Triennial Strategic Research Plan. By investing in these projects, CARB can address long-term goals and challenges holistically. [1] CARB is also proposing two white papers that will analyze the state of the science and identify research gaps for emerging priority areas to shape future research projects.

The research program continues to focus on issues that are unique to California and its priority populations and communities and to leverage and complement research supported by other funding organizations. [2] The projects proposed for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 will inform the state’s efforts to maximize health, environmental, and economic co-benefits, create additional health endpoints to assess our programs, leverage new tools and methods to identify and refine mitigation strategies to support air quality goals, and support the equitable development of sustainable communities.

The proposed research projects will support the Board’s decision-making and effective program implementation. A research budget of approximately $3.8 million is anticipated [3] to fund seven new projects and two white papers in fiscal year 2022-2023. Staff will also outline additional potential research projects if more funding becomes available.

BATWG’s Three Questions:

  1. How will this additional research help CARB to get its work done more “holistically”?
  2. Please enumerate the issues that are unique to California and its communities that have not as yet been studied extensively?
  3. How would the expenditure of an additional $3.8 million or more in research money facilitate CARB’s implementation program?

BATWG’s Priorities:

In closing it is emphasized that research should always facilitate and further the general objectives of the sponsor agency or agencies. As anyone in California who pays attention knows, the following actions are needed:

  1. Advocating corrective State legislation as required.
  2. Reducing the Vehicle Miles Traveled in California.
  3. Continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions by less driving, higher engine efficiencies, sustainable energy sources, increased nuclear power, better building insulation, changes in land use and commuting patterns, or a combination of the above.
  4. Establishing and vigorously enforcing higher air pollution and greenhouse gas emission standards for all vehicles, particularly for large trucks and even more particularly for large trucks that pass through low-income areas adversely affected by too much traffic.
  5. Working with shippers, freight rail companies and the public agencies with jurisdiction to shift more long-haul cargo to freight rail.
  6. Creating incentives for gradually getting the gas guzzlers off the roads (and not by just shipping them elsewhere for additional years of use).
  7. Step up the effort to eliminate the public health danger posed by bunker fuel.

BATWG is 100% behind an effective, practical program for reducing California’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time to pick up the pace.

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