Politics & Government

Air meeting focuses on older, dirty diesel trucks

VISALIA -- Getting dirty diesel trucks off the roads would go a long way toward cleaning the air in the San Joaquin Valley, air officials said Wednesday at an air pollution symposium here.

But incentives to help owners of heavy-duty trucks install clean-air devices on old trucks or replace aging fleets with new rigs won't be cheap.

The Valley's air district plans to ask for $100 million out of $250 million available statewide this year to retrofit and replace older, polluting trucks. The money is part of $1 billion in clean-air funds from Proposition 1B, approved by voters in November.

The $100 million "is only a good down payment on what we need to do," said Rick McVaigh, deputy air pollution control officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Participants at the meeting, which continues today at the Convention Center, were asked to share ideas on ways the Valley can reduce smog to beat a 2024 federal deadline for meeting health standards.

Wednesday's meeting concentrated on diesel trucks and cleaner ways to move goods from sea ports along the California coast. Today's meeting will include discussions on how city and county governments can help clean the air and ways the public can get involved.

Diesel trucks contribute the most to the smog problem in the Valley, and they are a top priority, but there is no silver bullet for cleaning the Valley air, said Seyed Sadredin, air district executive director.

Symposium participant Jim Ganduglia, owner of Ganduglia Trucking of Fresno, said truck owners want to do their part in the air cleanup, but economic as well as environmental costs should be considered.

Ganduglia said a 2004 heavy-duty truck with a clean-air device costs $63,000 to purchase.

Incentives that help truck owners replace trucks with cleaner-running models are great, he said. "They're just not enough."

But Gloria Arredondo-Malarchick, a registered nurse and member of the Kings County Asthma Coalition, said policymakers and the public also should consider the health toll from breathing polluted air. "Hopefully, they realize the health costs and look at it as an investment rather than a burden."