Friday, September 28, 2007

The Healthy Heart and Lung Act, AB 233 (Jones) awaits the Governor's Signature

Sierra Club California and the American Lung Association of California have sponsored AB 233, the Healthy Heart and Lung Act, because of the need to reduce emissions of hazardous diesel exhaust. Assemblymember Dave Jones, Democrat of Sacramento, continues his impressive record of clean-air advocacy by authoring the bill.

Soot from diesel-fueled engines is an extremely dangerous air pollutant that has been linked to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, asthma episodes, heart attacks and strokes, hampered lung growth in children, and premature deaths. The California State Air Resources Board (CARB) has linked diesel particulates to approximately 3,000 premature deaths each year as well as thousands of hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses. Recent research in Southern California found pronounced deficits in attained lung function for children living within 500 meters of a freeway. A recent study of women’s health found that particulate pollution substantially increases the risk of heart disease in older women.

AB 233 would reduce public exposure to dangerous diesel emissions by improving enforcement of diesel control regulations, increasing penalties for violators, and increasing education and outreach to vehicle owners regarding state idling requirements. The bill would require CARB to develop a plan for consistent, comprehensive and fair enforcement of diesel control regulations, including education and outreach efforts. AB 233 would also raise the penalty for violation of CARB diesel idling limits to $300 per violation, in line with penalties for other diesel violations. In addition, operators of commercial motor vehicles would be required to clear their citations for violating emissions rules before having their registrations renewed.

CARB has recently adopted major new diesel control regulations affecting off-road diesel engines and idling limits on all diesel vehicles and sleeper cabs, and soon will adopt additional regulations for on-road diesel engines. Expanded enforcement staff is needed to ensure consistent enforcement and public health protection.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature on the Healthy Heart and Lung Act would add some necessary enforcement muscle to the state’s aggressive program of reducing Californians’ exposure to toxic diesel exhaust.

Bill Magavern
Sierra Club California

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