Award is a breath of fresh air for Auburn

Breathe California honors city for sustainability efforts
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn has received a Clean Air Sustainability Award – a breath of fresh air for the city that has been receiving a failing grade by the American Lung Association.

The award is the first the City of Auburn has received from Breathe California of Sacramento Emigrant-Trails since at least 2001, and Mayor Kevin Hanley said it is a product of ongoing work during the past 15 years.

“It’s just a tribute to the city being creative and being aggressive and how can we lower our costs and improve air quality in a wide range of areas,” Hanley said. “So I think it’s on the minds of city staff, council members, we’re always kind of looking for ways to improve the air quality.”

Kori Titus, CEO of Breathe California of Sacramento Emigrant-Trails, said Auburn is not alone in that it fails the ALA test, but it is doing what it can with the hand it has been dealt.

“The entire region gets an ‘F,’” Titus said. “Unfortunately, there are some issues with the rankings, but the reality is we have very unhealthy air compared to many people around the country – not necessarily always because of anything we do.”

Titus said 70 percent of the region’s air pollution is from mobile sources such as trains and automobiles, and since there isn’t a large-scale emitter that is causing the problems, “the low-hanging fruit” for improving air quality is gone.

“It’s really just about changing people’s behaviors,” she said. “If you can make a city more walkable and more bike-friendly … those are the kind of things that are going to make a difference in the long run.”

The award is chosen by a regional panel with elected officials, agricultural experts and policy leaders, and Auburn is one of six honorees across three categories. An awards ceremony will be held May 29 at Sacramento State.

The panel had been “struck” by Auburn’s “holistic” approach to a clean-air environment, Titus said.

“They are really taking an overarching look at their policies and procedures, so whenever they’re making purchases they think about how this is going to impact our air quality,” she said.

The application for the award cited everything from the $1 million sidewalk and bicycle lane project on East Lincoln Way and Maidu Drive to the purchase of a compressed natural gas transit bus in 1998.

It also touted the 2012 project to retrofit 70 street lights and 48 parking lot and facility lights at the Auburn Station with LED fixtures.

Hanley, who has been on the Breathe California council in the past, said there about 20 projects in the city’s capital improvement plan that ends in 2017 that could improve air quality in the future.

Councilman Mike Holmes, who is also a board member of the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, along with encouraging more bicycling and walking, he wants the city to be electric-car friendly.

Holmes plans to apply for an electric charging station at Auburn’s Conheim Multimodal Station in the future, he said

“That may be next year,” Holmes said. “But all these things, hopefully, as people start to shift from regular gasoline powered vehicles to electric vehicles, that this will encourage people in the Auburn area to seriously consider making that shift.”

He also is leading a proposed ordinance to ban smoking from the School Park Preserve.

The City Council approved the development of that ordinance 4-1 in January, and it is currently working its way through the city attorney and staff before making its way back onto the council agenda for potential approval in coming months.

Union Pacific Railroad is also receiving a Clean Air Award for innovative strategy.


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews