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Monitor Notes: EPA Rule Rollback, I-680 Lanes, Birding, COVID-19 Food Chain Impacts

Welcome to Monitor Notes, a weekly roundup of news items, event announcements, and updates on past Bay Area Monitor articles.


Pollution Rule Rollback

The Trump administration announced new fuel economy standards for cars and pickups on Tuesday, March 31, replacing a 2012 rule set by President Barack Obama to help fight climate change. The Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule raises emissions standards by 1.5 percent each year, compared with 5 percent annual increases issued eight years ago. The final rule, prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation, “strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a press release, adding, “This rule supports our economy and the safety of American families.” But health, science, and consumer experts are concerned about the environmental and economic consequences, many of which are laid out in a Mother Jones article. Gina McCarthy, Natural Resources Defense Council president and CEO said in a statement that “gutting the clean car standards makes no sense. It will harm the air we breathe, stall progress in fighting the climate crisis and increase the cost of driving.”


Express Yourself

MTC and ABAG want to hear from the public about planned Interstate-680 express lane upgrades in Alameda County. So between now and April 24, consider reading and submitting comments about draft amendments to Plan Bay Area 2040 and the 2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), along with a draft transportation air quality conformity analysis. Under the amendments, PBA and TIP would include the cost and description of the I-680 express lane gap closure project, and a new air quality conformity analysis would be required. Click here for directions on submitting comments.


Free as a Bird

Spring marks migration season for birds. Whether you’re outside at a safe distance, or watching from a window, there’s a lot to see and appreciate, said Kenn Kaufman, a field editor for Audubon Magazine in a March 30 article. He eloquently details the pattern of spring migration, noting how native sparrows and tiny kinglets can be seen flying well into April and singing robins everywhere offer solace. Each week, different species are beginning to appear. Read more about Kaufman’s observations and the ways in which journeying birds can bring some comforting sense of order. The Audubon Society has many resources on its site, as well as a mobile app to identify birds in your backyard or on a quiet trail.


Food for Thought

While panic-stricken shopping has depleted store shelves in recent weeks, there are many bigger issues to consider when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic’s food chain effects, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Labor shortages and restaurant closures are among the uncertainties facing farmers, said Cannon Michael, a sixth-generation farmer and member of the PPIC Water Policy Center Advisory Council. “For most farmers, the immediate focus is on our workers—not only keeping them safe from the virus, but also being mindful of the pressures they’re facing at home right now,” Michael said. Click here for the PPIC’s March 30 blog post featuring more of Michael’s perspective on farm safety and policy changes needed to address risks farmers and their workers are facing.

Here are a few other online events and reading materials to consider:

  • Hop on SPUR’s 12:30 p.m. webinar on Thursday, April 2 about “The Pandemic’s Disastrous Impact on Transit Funding” with panelists from BART, MTC, and SFMTA. Register here. $10 for non-members.
  • Learn about the ways our indoor sheltering activity could help on the outside, based on early air pollution readings from technology company Aclima. It recently shared insights from its scientists, with more air measurement updates to come.
  • Tap into new analysis and learn more about how rising sea levels will impact people in the Bay Area, the environment, and our transportation systems.


Monitor Notes is produced by Cecily O’Connor. To receive it by email, scroll to the bottom of this page, enter your email address in the box under “RECEIVE EMAIL UPDATES,” and click the red “SIGN UP” button.


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