Air Quality and Economic Growth?

Air Quality and Economic Growth?

The June 10 quarterly meeting of the Clean Air Partnership (CAP) explored linkages between air quality and economic growth, with a focus on Yolo and Solano counties. The event was held at the Community Center in the City of West Sacramento, where a group of over 50 participants – representing a cross-sector of local, state and federal governments, business and health advocacy organizations and environmental groups – were welcomed by West Sacramento City Manager, Martin Tuttle.

The topic of air quality and economic growth was explored by three sets of speakers, making the case that improving air quality and boosting economic growth are not mutually exclusive. The first set of speakers provided background on air quality management in Yolo and Solano counties. John M. Vasquez, Solano County Supervisor, District 4 and Chair of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District (YSAQMD) Board of Directors, provided background on the history of the Clean Air Act and the formation of the YSAQMD.

“It was 86 years ago that leaders around the globe realized that air quality was then, and is now, a public health issue,” said Vasquez. In 1967, then-Governor Ronald Regan signed into law legislation that created the California Air Resource Board, merging the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board and the Bureau of Air Sanitation into one body. This was the same year in which the Federal Air Quality Act was enacted, setting up the framework to establish ‘Air Quality Control Regions.’  “For nearly 50 years, the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District has worked to make our air safer to breathe,” Vasquez continued. Regulators have a responsibility to uphold these important policies for improving public health. With many of the low-hanging fruits of air quality improvement already harvested, Vasquez sees an opportunity to step out of the silo as regulators and help “plan healthier communities and practice what I like to refer to as ‘Regulation with Compassion.’”

Paul Hensleigh, Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer for the YSAQMD, provided an update on the status of air quality in the District and covered the permitting process for sources covered within the District’s authority. “While the process does take some time,” Hensleigh said, the District has worked to ensure the process is responsive to business needs.

The second set of speakers highlighted economic development opportunities within Solano County. Sandy Person, President of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, shared the key economic growth clusters of opportunity and explained how Solano County connects the Bay Area to Sacramento and the greater Capital Region into a “mega-region perched to compete on a global basis.” City Council Member Dilenna Harris and City Manager Laura Kuhn presented a case study on how the City of Vacaville partnered with the YSAQMD, and other local, state and federal government partners, to recruit an innovative advanced manufacturing business, ICON Aircraft, to locate its headquarters and manufacturing operations in Vacaville. In highlighting the importance of partnerships, Kuhn stated, “We all need to work together, not just on air quality but on workforce development. We will not be successful without this cooperation.” 

The final set of speakers shared their perspective on what cities can do to improve air quality and boost economic growth, highlighting examples from Yolo County.  Tom Stallard, Mayor of the City of Woodland, discussed the City’s Climate Action Plan and the three key strategies the city has employed to address climate change. These include expanding tree canopy; installation of alternative power; and improving building energy efficiency. Taking action against climate change has the added bonus of improving air quality and opportunity for economic growth. To this end, the City of Woodland has planted over 7,000 trees; installed over 40 megawatts of alternative power and is working with PG&E to support the implementation of energy efficiency measures in commercial buildings. Stallard also mentioned the reduction of solid waste and reuse of waste water as key strategies for sustainability. From Stallard’s viewpoint, sustainability serves as a hub of economic development. He wants to see sustainability move from the periphery into the center of decision making. “There’s no excuse for wasting,” Stallard said, making the case for sustainability as a strategy that both conservatives and liberals should be able to get behind.

From the City of West Sacramento, Aaron Laurel, Director of Economic Development & Housing, spoke of innovative projects currently underway to expand affordable housing and advance sustainable development on the riverfront. “These projects will create a walkable environment that will get people out of their cars and enable active transportation alternatives for commuting to jobs, recreation and entertainment venues,” said Laurel. Active Transportation Specialist Chris Dougherty shared highlights of active transportation projects in the City of Sacramento West Sacramento, including the update currently in progress of the city’s Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Master Plan.


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