The global recession hasn't been all bad. The down economy has had a salutary effect on the state's air quality. Because fewer trucks are on the road, California Air Resources Board scientists report, diesel emissions are down 20% this year below levels they had previously predicted.
That's the good news. The bad is that truckers are hurting. Many firms have had to idle their fleets, lay off drivers and cut shipping rates. Some have gone out of business. Those left don't have the money to pay for the soot traps and cleaner burning engines California's new, toughest-in-the-nation air regulations require. They can't even borrow the money, because so many banks have stopped lending.
Faced with those harsh economic realities, state air regulators wisely relented. They decided to slow the phase-in of the new rules and expand exemptions. The board did not walk away from the rules altogether, as some truckers demanded, and that's good. After all, dirty air takes a toll on public health and the state's economy too. Faced with compelling and competing interests, in the end, the air board chose a flexible middle ground. It won't satisfy everyone, but it was the right thing to do.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.