Will we ever reduce air pollution enough in the valley to meet EPA standards? The Valley Air District says if the regulations keep getting stricter, we may not.
While the air district wants cleaner air, they say the EPA's requirements may be unattainable in the valley.
"We have some of the worst air quality in the nation," said Jaime Holt, Chief Communications Officer with the Valley Air District.
The worst because we live in a valley surrounded by mountains that trap pollution. But, we're making improvements.
"The air is much cleaner than it was 15, 20 years ago," said Holt.
We still don't meet many EPA standards, some that were set 15 years ago.
"There's no other place in the nation that has the challenges that we have," said Holt.
Here's how close we are to compliance in the valley.
By 2010, we needed to have zero days that exceed the one-hour ozone pollution standards. We still do not. We had three bad days in 2011.
The district hasn't released the 2012 data yet.
By 2024, we have to have zero days that exceed the eight-hour ozone pollution standard. Two years ago, 124 days didn't meet that standard.
By 2017, we need to have zero days that exceed EPA recommended PM 2.5, which are fine particle emissions like smog and dust.
Only six days in 2010 exceeded that requirement.
The problem is, even if the valley meets those deadlines, more deadlines will come.
"You have to remember that the EPA is a very liberal organization and they set these standards, and they just come back and make them lower and lower," said Harold Hanson, the Bakersfield representative on the Valley Air District Board.
In fact, they set new standards every five years. In the future, they may be so low the valley may never be able to reach them.
"We anticipate that there is a chance that it will be low enough that the background pollution levels in the valley will be right around that new threshold," said Holt.
The head of the Valley Air District testified to Congress about this issue in November.