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LA earns ‘disappointing’ C grade for its sustainability efforts

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The Los Angeles basin still has some of the worst air quality in the U.S.

Los Angeles County still has a long way to go in its quest for sustainability, a new report from UCLA shows.

The university released its 2017 environmental report card today and gave Los Angeles County a meager C grade. The report card rates the county’s efforts to become more energy efficient, curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and clean up the air.

“Although there is progress towards meeting local and state goals, and a number of new standards and regulations that will undoubtedly have a positive impact in years to come, these grades would not get you on the UCLA Dean’s list,” the report’s authors wrote.

The results were “a surprise and a disappointment,” Mark Gold, of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, told KPCC. “We thought the grades would have been better than they were ... There has been so much great policy, so many great programs.”

Air quality: C

“Los Angeles is well known for its hazy skies. Although clearer today than in the past 40 years, the basin still has some of the worst air quality in the U.S.” the report says.

It concluded California’s drought probably hurt air quality by contributing to increases in ozone and particular matter. “Toxic industrial air emissions also continue to pose neighborhood-scale concerns, and asthma-related emergency room visits, linked to poor air quality, are on the rise,” the report said.

Greenhouse gas emissions: C+

The report recommend implementing better plans to create and track emission reduction goals; as of now, only seven of the 88 cities countywide have plans to do this.

Transportation: C-

With support from taxpayers, the region’s transit network is growing and improving, but the county saw “large increases in diesel fuel sales, declining use of public transit for commuters, and almost no change in total vehicle miles traveled,” the report said.

Building energy use: C

The county area is “barely scratching the surface” on reducing how much energy buildings use, the report found. Making real headway will require looking beyond just making sure new buildings are efficient. More focus needs to be put on making energy-efficient improvements to the buildings we already have, the report said.

It notes that many wealthier residential neighborhoods used more than 10 times as much energy per capita as the average user in 2010, “despite having newer and more energy efficient homes.” In lower-income communities, the report found, older homes were less efficient and used more energy per square foot.

Renewable energy: B

Though much of the county is “still far too reliant on coal,” LA County is the third largest producer of solar energy in the state, and has the second most solar infrastructure installed in the state.