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Clean air campaign kicks off sooner than usual

The Associated Press
Friday June 07, 2002

FRESNO – To help people breathe easier, air quality officials kicked off a voluntary program designed to cut pollution Thursday — much earlier than usual, and with a stricter monitoring scale. 

“We usually don’t have ’Spare the Air’ this early in the year,” said Josette Merced Bello, a spokeswoman for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. “It’s not a good indicator for the rest of the year.” 

Under Spare the Air, valley residents are asked to avoid unnecessary vehicle trips and avoid gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers in favor of equipment powered by electricity. 

Air quality officials originally planned Thursday as a drill but later designated it as an official day when high temperatures and a pressure system pushed over pollution created in the central and southern regions against the foothills, Bello said. 

Spare the Air also is being invoked this year when the valley reaches 151 on the air-quality index, a system that rates air from the healthiest at zero to hazardous at 300. 

The air pollution control district previously asked residents to cut back on pollution-causing activities when the index reached 170. 

Valley residents can expect as many as 30 Spare the Air days this summer. A typical season includes 10 to 15 restricted days.