By Jorge Casuso
March 31 – Despite taking major strides to be environmentally conscious, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus -- whose logo is “ride blue, go green” -- was slapped with a $21,000 fine this month for violating State emissions requirements, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) said Monday.
The fines were levied on the bus system for failing to “test, measure and maintain records of smoke emissions from its heavy duty diesel transit fleet in 2006 and 2007," according to the ARB.
In addition, the Big Blue Bus also violated the state's "fleet rule for transit agencies," which require diesel emissions to be kept to no more than 60 percent of 2005 levels, board officials said. On Dec. 31, 2007, the agency’s diesel emissions total surpassed that amount.
"Santa Monica may be known for its refreshing sea breezes, but that doesn't mean it's exempt from air quality problems," said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols.
"Even coastal cities have to do their part to protect the environment and make sure our air is as clean as possible," Nichols said.
The Big Blue Bus will pay $15,768.00 to the California Air Pollution Control Fund, which provides funding for projects and research to improve California's air quality.
An additional $2,628 will go to the Peralta Community College to help support emission education classes conducted by the California Council for Diesel Education and Technology.
Another $2,628 will be paid to the California Pollution Financing Authority, which “guarantees loans to off-road vehicle fleets that need to buy exhaust retrofits to comply with state regulations,” according to ARB officials.
In addition to the fine, the agency’s settlement requires that “all staff responsible for compliance with the State's smoke testing regulations attend diesel education classes, and that all heavy duty vehicle operators obey state limits on engine idling.”
The Big Blue Bus also must provide copies of all smoke inspection test compliance records for 2008 to 2011, said officials of the ARB, a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1998, the ARB identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant in order to protect public health, board officials said. Exposure to diesel emissions can increase the risk of cancer and serious heart and lung disease.
“California has worked aggressively to cut diesel emissions by cleaning up diesel fuel, requiring cleaner engines for trucks, buses and off-road equipment, and limiting unnecessary idling,” ARB officials said.
The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.