FROM Tony Barboza
Building homes near freeways The 110 and 105 interchange in Los Angeles Photo courtesy of Rémi Jouan President Trump has proposed rolling back CAFE standards, the gas mileage levels set for cars and light trucks in the US. Meanwhile, there's a surge of home construction dangerously close to freeways, where air pollutants from car tailpipe emissions contribute to higher rates of asthma, heart attacks, lung cancer and other health risks. If the auto industry is incentivized to keep producing gas-fueled cars, that could mean more cars spewing more air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
The winds of change at the AQMD Ten months ago, Republicans held the majority at the South Coast Air Quality Management District. But the tide is shifting with the appointment of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, a Democrat.
Thousands Die Early Every Year Due to SoCal Air Pollution More than 2,000 people die prematurely every year in Southern California because of polluted air. That’s according to an analysis released this week by scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society. Their research shows that Southern California has more to gain than any other region in the the nation in terms of lives saved by cleaning up smog and fine particle pollution.
Shakeup at South Coast Air Quality Management District Southern California’s air quality has improved enormously over the past few decades, yet it’s still the smoggiest region in the country. Now the agency that regulates our air pollution might be looking to roll back its standards. The board that controls the South Coast AQMD says it wants to be more business-friendly and may oust the district’s top executive, Barry Wallerstein, who’s been a tough watchdog for almost 20 years.
Exide Battery Plant Contamination Continues Because of the gas leak in Porter Ranch, two schools have been temporarily moved out of the area, and residents of about 5,000 homes have been relocated. Last month Gov. Jerry Brown visited and declared a state of emergency. But in communities southeast of downtown, such as Bell, Commerce, Huntington Park and Boyle Heights, an estimated 10,000 homes have been contaminated over decades by toxins spewed from the Exide battery recycling plant. It has been almost a year since the plant closed permanently, but there has been no visit from Brown and most of the homes in question have yet to receive any testing or remediation. We get an update on those affected.
The Port of Los Angeles' Pollution Problem Ten years ago, the Port of Los Angeles signed a court-ordered agreement to reduce air pollution at a massive new terminal. Ships tied at the dock were supposed to turn off their diesel engines and plug in to onshore electricity. Trucks taking cargo up the Alameda Corridor were required to use natural gas. But Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Port Director Geraldine Knatz to be "flexible," and she was -- with an important customer, China Shipping. The new rules were not put into effect. Last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Gene Seroka the new port director, and he's in charge of setting things right.
Exide Battery Plant to Close in Vernon U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura announced this week that after more than 90 years, the Vernon battery recycling plant a few miles from downtown L.A. is shutting down for good. It was a notorious polluter. Now, after years of complaints and a federal investigation, Exide, the company that operates the plant, has made a deal to demolish the plant and pay for the cleanup. That’s estimated to cost at least $50 million. But under the agreement, the company will not be prosecuted. We look at how the settlement came about.
West Coast Sardines Vanishing, Threatening Ecosystem Maybe it's time to hoard those unopened sardine cans. The sardine population off the coast of California is disappearing. Last fall, scientists noted the population had dropped 72 percent since its peak seven years ago, and that means trouble up the food chain. Sea mammals and birds are dying of starvation, and local fishermen are losing a lot of money. Sardines populations have come and gone in the past. Is this just a natural cycle, or is this telling us something about the health of our oceans? Reporter Tony Barboza covers the environment for the Los Angeles Times .
Sewage Spills Pollute the Coast after Storms As Southern California braces for more wet weather late tonight, some areas along the coast are still trying to clean up after last week’s storms. Heavy runoff ruptured sewer mains and disabled pumps, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of waste into the ocean. Several beaches in Orange County and San Diego now remain closed. Tony Barboza covers beaches and coasts for the Los Angeles Times .
The San Bruno Explosion: Could It Happen Here? Four people were killed and 37 homes were destroyed when a natural-gas pipeline blew up with so much force that a 28-foot section landed 100 feet away from the crater left by the blast. Inspectors from the PG&E and agencies of the state and federal governments still don’t know what happened. Note: If you’re concerned about a gas smell or apparent gas leak, call 800-427-2200
The Impact of the Orange County Bus Strike The Orange County transit strike continues with a media blackout on negotiations. The LA Times reports that commuters are riding bicycles, walking and dealing with unlicensed cab drivers—especially in Santa Ana, which is highly transit dependent. The Rockefeller Institute of Government says it has the greatest level of “urban hardship” in the United States.
White House budget proposal slashes and burns President Trump's first budget request is considered dead on arrival in Congress — a familiar development in Capitol Hill. We hear what it reveals about the priorities of the new administration. What's likely to die… and what might survive?
Trump's 'America First' goes missing abroad In the Middle East, President Trump is changing some policies of the Obama Administration—and reversing his own campaign attacks on Islam as a religion that "hates us." We hear about his visit to Saudi Arabia and what's at stake for the rest of his foreign excursion.
Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos Venezuela, a country whose potential for prosperity is unmatched, finds itself on the verge of civil war. What sustains the repressive government? With time running out, guest host León Krauze looks at what the international community can do to pull the country from the edge of collapse.
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.