Last week, in Clearing the Air - Part 1, I introduced Klamath County’s clean air quality dilemma. I call it a dilemma, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand and apparently, that line cannot be modified, reformed, corrected, or crossed. Klamath County must maintain the PM2.5 standard for not exceeding 35 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air volume during every 24 hour (daily) period.
It is not good enough to try, compliance is a requirement.
Mind you, I don’t object to any notion regarding high standards for air quality. What I do object to is the unrelenting enforcement of the regulation without any concern for extenuating circumstances, local conditions, or our community’s current economic situation.
First, Klamath County had three violations with regard to the PM2.5 standard in 2011. (See Part I for a chart with dates.) Peterson School, in the south-suburbs, is the only air quality monitoring station in the entire Klamath Basin. How does the EPA know where the pollution comes from?
Smoke particulate matter is discernible, but is it entirely from wood stoves? Does it stem from local agricultural burns? Could it be from prescribed fires in our surrounding forests? Could it originate from some other location?
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), along with the EPA are apparently choosing to rely on their single data source rather than engage in a retrospective analysis of existing collection methodologies that might prove them to be outmoded, ineffective, or insufficient.
For example, to the right is a series of snapshots from AIRNow.gov. This series of images, from the dates associated with one of the County’s recorded violations, reveals that the contaminants (colored orange) within the Klamath Basin Air-shed are not confined to Klamath County.
Indeed, these pollutants might not originate in Klamath County. Therefore, the size and scope of any regulatory effort in the Klamath Basin will certainly be fruitless, and entail unwarranted expenses, if the the source of the pollution is in California.
When viewing the online animation of this event it becomes obvious that a fair portion of the pollutants might originate in California. (Available here - highlight and click the AQI Animation tab.) To ensure the accuracy and unbiased objectivity of the data, ODEQ should install more Air Quality Monitors within Klamath County. It will be impossible to provide any meaningful level of accuracy without the appropriate means for monitoring our County’s air quality.
The EPA’s motto is supposed to be “Protecting People and the Environment.” In this original motto, protecting people is first and foremost, while the environment gets a no-less-important, but secondary, position. However, not in today’s EPA. Perhaps today’s EPA motto should be “Rules are Rules - Human Obedience is Required.”
Human obedience is required because the EPA can’t control anything else. They can’t control the Barred Owl’s subjugation of the Spotted Owl. They can’t arrest Sea Lions for enjoying Salmon steaks in the Columbia River gorge. They are powerless to control an air mass’s inversion status, wind speed, direction, or its movement across the landscape. The EPA is helpless in controlling smoke from a forest fire. In fact, today’s EPA is completely impotent when it comes to dealing with smoke stemming from the spontaneous combustion of a haystack. (Which also occurred during one of Klamath’s recorded violations.)
Today’s EPA, however, can demand compliance from innocent, unsuspecting and unwary citizens. The desire for central control over every detail of our lives is at the heart of the EPA’s threats for economic sanctions. It is truly unfortunate because these sanctions will harm the health and productivity of Klamath County’s citizens much more than they will help.
More next week in Clearing the Air Part - 3