Experts eye S.J. for green boom
STOCKTON - The Valley has the potential to attract solar, wind and biomass power plants - clean energy sources in a region where air quality fails to meet standards even after decades of improvement, experts said at the first State of Sustainability conference Wednesday.
The half-day conference, organized by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, summarized sustainability efforts to date in the areas of renewable energy, air quality and recycling. The meeting was an offshoot of the chamber's Green Team San Joaquin, which seeks a melding of environmental stewardship and the bottom line for businesses.
Carla Peterman, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Energy Commission in January, told the group that 2,000 megawatts of alternative energy projects were issued permits last year in the Central Valley. If all of those projects were built, that would provide enough power to light up as many as 2 million homes.
And with 2011 not quite half done, an additional 10,000 megawatts worth of projects are under review, Peterman said.
"We've been heavily reliant on natural gas and petroleum - this must change," she said.
Air pollution generated by San Joaquin Valley businesses has dropped 80 percent since 1980, said Seyed Sadredin, chief of the Valley Air Pollution Control District. But that improvement hasn't been cheap, he said; businesses bore the brunt of new rules and regulations requiring them to change their operations.
Even now, the Valley is not in compliance with existing ozone standards, requiring at least an additional 80 percent in reductions. And an even stricter standard may be proposed this summer, Sadredin said.
"I'm not here with a 'Mission Accomplished' sign, unfortunately," he said.
The district lacks authority to regulate tailpipes from heavy-duty trucks, which is the biggest piece of the pollution pie. The good news, Sadredin said, is that the district has $220 million this year in local, state and federal funds that it can give away for energy efficiency projects, cleaner school buses and lawn mowers and mass transit projects.
As for recycling, California as a whole has increased diversion rates from about 10 percent in 1989 to just less than 60 percent today, said Rosalie Mulé, director of government affairs for Waste Management. Recycling businesses employ 85,000 people and generate $4 billion a year in wages and salaries.
No longer do people think of recycling as "an environmental thing all the Birkenstock people do," she said.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/breitlerblog.