Op-Ed: California makes it too hard for schools to shield kids from extreme heat
Editor’s note: This story is part of KQED’s ongoing series of stories, in partnership with the ACLU of Northern California, about the effects of California’s cap-and-trade system of pollution.
For years, California’s cap-and-trade system of pollution regulation has prevented air pollution from reaching schools. But as the number of polluting factories continues to grow, the state’s current pollution cap won’t be sufficient to clean up the air.
Meanwhile, communities that depend on public transportation face a new threat: heat waves. In the summer, when the air is hot enough to melt the city’s asphalt, local bus riders have to struggle with the risk of being struck by moving metal or concrete. The average school bus driver spends more than seven hours a day stuck in traffic.
California’s current pollution cap, established in 2013 is woefully small, and will be unable to protect the community’s health and prevent thousands of deaths in future years.
The state’s approach to regulating its pollution has become so convoluted and inconsistent that it’s led to major safety concerns. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is in charge of protecting Californians from chemical exposures, has refused to test whether dangerous industrial chemicals such as TCE and benzene have been found on school buses—despite evidence that they have. And a key component of the pollution cap established by the state in 2013, the “sulfide caps,” is poorly designed. They do not have any limits on the amount of sulfur dioxide allowed to reach the atmosphere.
“This is a complete and total failure,” says Mark McAfee, a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s School of Environmental Studies. “The pollution cap is not going to prevent these problems or protect our communities.”
For years, California has sought to make its pollution regulations fit the changing world of manufacturing and manufacturing-related pollution. But, as manufacturing has grown around the world