This is air quality?

Air-quality board fails to approve minimal smoke-avoidance measure

What does it take to have healthful air in Chico?

We’re shaking our heads following the Butte County Air Quality Management District board’s failure, at its Sept. 24 meeting, to approve a new rule that would have controlled wintertime wood-smoke pollution in the city by instituting mandatory no-burn days when pollution levels became unhealthful. (See our report.)

Board members did so despite being told that voluntary no-burn days weren’t working and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could impose stiffer rules countywide—and withhold highway funds—if Chico pollution isn’t lessened. And they did so despite the fact that all three Chico reps on the AQMD board—as well as six of the seven members of the Chico City Council—favor the new rule.

The decision, in other words, was a no-brainer.

Thing is, it required six aye votes (out of 10 possible) to pass but got only four, with three opposed. Supervisors Kim Yamaguchi and Steve Lambert didn’t even show up for the meeting, even though it was the culmination of two years of staff work. Supervisor Bill Connelly left 30 minutes before the vote. And three other members apparently left their brains at home.

Biggs Councilwoman Angela Thompson said she thought more could be done with a voluntary program, even though staff had said such a program wasn’t working. Gridley Mayor Jerry Ann Fisher worried the mandate might creep her way, even though the rule applied only to Chico. And Oroville Vice-Mayor Jamie Johansson voted no because nobody had said just how many lives would be saved by reducing pollution levels, though there is unshakeable evidence that wood smoke is extremely harmful.

We give up on this board. It’s time for the Chico City Council to take charge and pass its own ordinance instituting mandatory no-burn days. If the people whose job it is to keep our air clean aren’t up to the task, others should step in.