REXPO highlights need for reducing carbon emissions

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Samir Sheikh, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, gives the keynote speech at REXPO in March.

STOCKTON–One of the first things attendees of the Revolution Against Air Pollution Exposition (or REXPO) is that there are not programs handed out. That’s because event coordinators at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce are being as eco-friendly with their planning as possible.

Held at the Stockton Gun and Bocce Club on March 14 and 15, the REXPO was a morning filled with educational insight into green practices that businesses and individuals can adopt.

“Our air quality is our primary focus,” said Kari McNickle, program specialist with DIBS, an organization that seeks to encourage carpooling, biking or walking to work and finding alternative ways to reduce the emissions created by commuting. “Vehicle emissions in the Valley are the biggest impact to air quality.”

McNickle was not only there to represent DIBS, but she moderated a panel as well.

DIBS works with businesses throughout the Central Valley to help bring awareness to employees about the impacts of vehicle emissions and what people can do to help reduce that.

“The Valley’s ozone and PM 2.5 precursor emissions are at historically low levels. These are the results of stringent regulatory programs the [San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD)] has implemented and significant investments made by Valley businesses and residents,” said County Supervisor Bob Elliot. “These successes are to be shared with, and are attributable to the efforts of not only the Valley residents but the Valley businesses, government and community leaders as well.”

In the past eight years, SJVAPCD has received $33.2 million from the United States Environmental Protection Agency “to support the District’s incentive programs, which seek to encourage the demonstration and deployment of various clean air technologies.”

The efforts have included such accomplishments as replacing 48 heavy-duty trucks, 147 long-haul trucks, 89 delivery trucks, 230 diesel tractors, 78 non-road ag engines, two locomotive engines and 5,105 residential wood stoves, according to SJVAPCD documentation.

“The bottom line is, if [businesses] can help the environment, [they’ll] be more successful,” said Doug Wilhoit, CEO of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, alternative energies such as solar power were a focus, as were electric vehicles (EV), which are making inroads to Valley consumers. All though, not as much as one would think.

According to Brad Contreras, a marketing specialist with the Ford Motor Company, 559,000 EVs were sold in 2017. Still, that only accounts for about 3 percent of vehicle sales, he said.

The strides in creating more green business practices and reducing emissions have been great, according to those who spoke at REXPO, however, challenges still loom.

“There’s really no way you can continue to ask businesses to do more without letting them know that the hard work and investment is paying off,” said Samir Sheikh, executive director of the SJVAPCD. “It’s a fact that we’re a bowl here, with a lot of geographical and topographical factors that make it a very, very difficult and unique challenge in respect to air quality.”

Sheikh went on to say that his agency has worked diligently to find ways to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

“We have the toughest air regulations on businesses, including ag, industries large and small, farms and dairies. We’ve spent $40 billion over the years in reducing air pollution in the Central Valley.”

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