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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

State board approves air plan for Shafter

 

February 20, 2020 | View PDF

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Bianca Santoyo, an Arvin resident and organizer for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, spoke about the board's decision to address community members' concerns about the use of pesticides.

The California Air Resources Board held a meeting on Feb. 13 at the Shafter Veterans Hall to vote on the proposed Community Emissions Reduction Program for the city of Shafter.

The AB617 Steering Committee has been working on the program for the past year. The committee has met 17 times to create a plan that would reduce emissions in a seven-mile radius around the city.

The committee was created by the San Joaquin Valley Air District and CARB with the passing of Assembly Bill 617, which concentrates on reducing emissions in the communities of California.

Shafter and the South Fresno area were chosen to be the first two communities to form committees and address these concerns. They were chosen based on the high risk factors that exist in both communities, including high cancer rates and emission levels higher than the state's mandated levels for a safe environment.

The Committee is made up of 19 Shafter community members, as well as members of different air quality agencies in the state. They met between December 2018 and January 2020, developing a program that focuses on reducing exposure to fine particulate matter, toxic air contaminants and oxides of nitrogen.

The committee targeted a variety of sources of emissions, including cars, residential energy usage, heavy duty trucks, oil and gas fugitive dust and agriculture sources, including pesticides. The program is making $29 million available for the different programs that will work to reduce emissions in the community.

The program was passed by a unanimous vote by the CARB board.

One of the highlights of the program that will be implemented is the addition of more monitoring stations in the community to measure the level of contaminant in the air. There are currently two monitoring stations in the city.

Another part of the program to reduce emissions and to protect the community from contaminants is the building of green barriers around schools, residential area, and heavily populated areas of the city.

The issue of pesticides has been a major concern for the entire process, with local farmers speaking up for the use of the pesticides and environmental groups speaking up against their use.

A pesticide notification program has been proposed that would notify residents and businesses before a pesticide will be applied in their area. There is also a plan to have barriers, including trees, as well as solid barriers around areas that need to be protected from the exposure of the pesticide being used.

Programs were proposed that would give farmers incentives to utilize machinery that will reduce the creation of dust in the area when harvesting crops and products from trees in the area. Committee member Gustavo Aguirre Jr. said that the committee fought hard to get where it is.

"A pesticide notification system needs to be in place and urban greening to provide barriers with industry," he said.

He also said that steps need to be taken to keep the $29 million in funding within the Shafter area.

Another committee member, John Guinn, a former Shafter city manager, said that the plan must be sustainable both economically and environmentally. The execution of the plan has to enable the community to know each other better, adding that the process has been a tough one. "The ability of governmental agencies to work together is very important," he said.

After the presentation of the plan, people gave their thoughts on the proposal. Among those who spoke was Manual Charles Jr., of the Nisei Farmers League, who said that the incentive money needs to be more to develop low-dust harvesting machinery.

Michele McManus commented that there needs to be more incentives for Shafter residents to stay here in Shafter for their jobs. "There are too many people from Shafter who travel to Bakersfield for work," she said.

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Samir Sheik, director of the San Joaquin Air Resources Board, spoke to attendees about the plan to reduce emissions by 50% by the year 2025.

Kenny Kirschenmann, a Shafter farmer, said that he planted a green barrier to contain dust. He also commented that the High Speed Rail Authority Rail Construction has contributed greatly to the dust in the area by hauling – uncovered -- large amounts of dirt.

The pesticide notification program expansion drew several comments. Including from Jesse Rojas of the Kern County Farm Bureau

"The expansion of the notification system is not necessary and will not reduce emissions," Rojas said. He offered to hold workshops in Shafter to explain the process.

After public comment, board member Diane Takvorian offered several amendments to the resolution that ensure the continued involvement of the Steering Committee in the implementation of the plan and change the reporting from annually to semiannually, with the approval of the Steering Committee.

The committee now has six months to begin implementation of the measures laid out in the plan. The board plans to meet in Fresno in six months for the first review.

 

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