Valley of the Sun (and Smog)

Photo by The American Lung Association

Today, the American Lung Association released its annual report card, State of the Air (pdf). The news for the 4,281,899 residents of the Valley of the Sun (the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area) is not so good. We are now the city with the most polluted air in the United States. The study measures the average fine particle concentration in the air of each city, a key factor in asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory and heart ailments.

Where do the particles come from? Here’s what the report has to say about that:

Particle pollution is produced through two separate processes—mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical processes break down bigger bits into smaller bits with the material remaining essentially the same, only becoming smaller. Mechanical processes primarily create coarse particles.26 Dust storms, construction and demolition, mining operations, and agriculture are among the activities that produce coarse particles.

By contrast, chemical processes in the atmosphere create most of the tiniest fine and ultrafine particles. Combustion sources burn fuels and emit gases. These gases can vaporize and then condense to become a particle of the same chemical compound. Or, they can react with other gases or particles in the atmosphere to form a particle of a different chemical compound. Particles formed by this latter process come from the reaction of elemental carbon (soot), heavy metals, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds with water and other compounds in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels in factories, power plants, steel mills, smelters, diesel- and gasoline-powered motor vehicles (cars and trucks) and equipment generate a large part of the raw materials for fine particles. So does burning wood in residential fireplaces and wood stoves or burning agricultural fields or forests.

One more reason to move quickly to a CLEAN energy economy. See if your city is on the list below, or go here to view the highlights and lowlights of the report.

25 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

Bakersfield, CA

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA

Visalia-Porterville, CA

Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA

Fresno-Madera, CA

Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL

Hanford-Corcoran, CA

Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, OH-KY-IN

St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL

Charleston, WV

Detroit-Warren-Flint, Ml

Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH

Louisville-Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, KY-IN

Modesto, CA

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, GA-AL

Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH

Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, OH

Macon-Warner Robins-Fort Valley, GA

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV

Knoxville-Sevierville-La Follette, TN

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC

Indianapolis-Anderson-Columbus, IN

Parkersburg-Marietta, WV-OH

York-Hanover-Gettysburg, PA

Arizona Alert | Solar Power Incentives About to Expire

Keep those solar roofs coming

And now a word to solar advocates in Arizona from our friends at the Vote Solar Initiative:

It’s officially scheduled: early this afternoon your legislators will vote on whether to extend one of Arizona’s most important solar policies. Can you take just a few minutes of your lunch hour to help send solar bill HB 2700 across the finish line?

Send them a quick email by clicking here.

Or if your boss isn’t looking (or likes solar too), a telephone call works even better. Just tell them you support HB 2700 and hope they’ll do the same. You can find your Senator’s contact information here.

A quick reminder of what’s at stake: As a part of the effort to build a renewable energy economy in Arizona, the state has seen fit to provide some tax incentives for solar. Unfortunately, these benefits are due to sunset. HB 2700 would extend key solar tax incentives — specifically, sales tax exemptions (TPT), commercial and industrial tax credits, and exemption from increased property tax valuation.

The bill already passed House, so this afternoon’s Senate vote is the only thing standing between Arizonans and continued strong solar energy growth. As you may know, senators have not been very friendly to tax bills this year, so please do what you can to help send HB 2700 across the finish line.

Speak now or forever hold your peace.

For more information about this and other state solar initiatives, visit The Vote Solar Initiative website.

Arizona Immigration Bill Coverage


Sorry I haven’t been covering solar power much recently. Here’s why: Arizona SB1070.

If you haven’t heard about it (???), the bill is the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation to be signed into law. There are large demonstrations taking place at the Arizona State Capitol grounds and I’ve been covering them, and the bill itself, in Brief Back, the blog I write for True/Slant.

I’m also busy with a series of investigative pieces on energy and the environment for OnEarth magazine. And the occasional book review (like this one for Grist) on the extraordinary new book, Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erick M. Conway.

There’s a lot of news to report on the solar front, too, and I’ll be covering it soon. Thanks for your patience.