As California utilities halted service to more than 2 million people last year, lines formed at hardware stores selling portable generators and many hospitals and businesses fired up their own. The prospect of the increased emissions from untold numbers of the machines, was troubling in a state already burdened with some of the nation’s worst air quality.
“It is a major concern,” said Dr. Laki Tisopulos, executive officer of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District. “Imagine if you are in a large metropolitan area like Los Angeles or the (San Francisco) Bay Area and you have hundreds or thousands of these engines kicking in. All of a sudden you have many localized sources of pollution that are spewing carcinogens right where we breathe. It can be next door to a school, a hospital.”
Government officials and experts said pollution from emergency power during intentional blackouts is one more wrinkle for policymakers and planners dealing with a constant threat of catastrophic infernos and more extreme weather.