Going to great lengths, this time heading to the far reaches of the region, Michael Cacciotti found himself in San Bernardino County earlier this week doing what he does best – fighting for clean air.
Taking the 50-mile one-way mile trip in his vehicle of choice, an electric car, the environmentalist who became mayor Wednesday night for a fifth time in his 21 years on the South Pasadena City Council, traveled the long distance for the health and concern of others, most importantly South Pasadenans.
Not only is Cacciotti strongly tied to local government, but he’s also a current board member with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the primary air pollution control agency for greater Los Angeles.
On this day in Ontario, he visited a composting site at Circle Green, as he watched a Volvo electric equipment demonstration, featuring a battery-powered wheel loader tractor and compact excavator used on irrigation and freeway projects in action.
“It’s part of a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) targeted air shed grant from the SCAQMD to reduce pollution in construction equipment,” explained Cacciotti, who was joined by other civic leaders from Southland cities including Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, and representatives from Athens Waste Services, which serves South Pasadena, and the LA County Sanitation District.
“We administered a $2 million grant with Volvo to test compact construction equipment, and it’s exciting to see this kind of progress,” said Cacciotti, talking about SCAQMD’s role. “When you talk about sources of pollution in our district, we often talk about it in cars, trucks, and freight trains, but the off-road equipment is something we really haven’t hit yet. It’s important because the pollution from diesel-driven construction equipment blows everywhere, all the way into South Pasadena.”
As the wheel loader was busy moving compost around, Cacciotti and others watched its effectiveness, going through its paces barely making a sound.
“Notice how quiet it is,” he exclaimed, watching it closely move compost. “You hardly hear it. Further, I hope we can make use of this kind of battery-operated machinery in South Pasadena.”
Pollution from diesel-operated machinery, which Cacciotti hopes will soon focus aggressively on electric, is the root cause of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, and particulate-matter filling the air, he insists.
As the Volvo construction equipment was being demonstrated, Ray Gallant, the company’s vice president of sales support, noticed Cacciotti’s enthusiasm, saying: “Michael has a real passion for cleaning up the air.”
Becoming the town’s next mayor, his passion runs high in making South Pasadena the best it can be, especially when it comes to the environment. On the clean air front, Cacciotti hopes the same vehicle he drove to Ontario, a Tesla Y, will someday be driven by the South Pasadena Police Department on patrols around town. A recommendation by both the city’s Public Safety Commission and the Natural Resources and Environmental Commission is on the books to make that happen. Cacciotti said the issue of purchasing all-electric vehicles for the SPPD is expected to come before the council in the next several months.
“Some police departments in the area have tested the Tesla and they have exceeded all performance levels,” he said. “If they like them, our police department could be the first approved in the world to convert an entire fleet to electric,” said Cacciotti. “It’s good to see there’s a big push in this area. Joining cars, you’re going to see more and more heavy-duty trucks going electric, along with lawn and maintenance, locomotive trains and now construction equipment. There’s finally a real strong movement in electric use. It’s long overdue.”
In a significant ordinance passed recently in South Pasadena, a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers will go into effect in October 2022, pushing independent gardeners and residents to use battery-operated lawn equipment.
Cacciotti points out that using a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits the same amount of emissions as driving from South Pasadena to Denver. “What comes out of the gas-powered leaf blowers contributes to climate change, which are severe storms, wild fires in California, flooding, and droughts,” he said. “But they also impact our health. Lawn equipment in California that is gas-powered now has surpassed cars and light-duty trucks as a source of toxic pollution in our state.”
The step toward electric in any capacity is a positive one for South Pasadena, stressed the new mayor.
“I feel like it’s a mission,” he said. “I’ll go all over the South Coast AQMD basin, covering four counties, 10,000 square miles, 17 million people, 100 different communities if that’s what it takes to clean up the air so the health of others is protected and we can exist as a human race.”
Much work still needs to be done says Cacciotti when it comes to electric power and more, launching into another year as mayor, grateful for the opportunity to do it at least one more time.
“I really want to thank my colleagues here on the council for your vote of support,” he said, before showing his appreciation to the city staff, the city attorney, and city manager for their work, especially through the pandemic.
Selected by those on the council to be the next mayor pro tem is Jon Primuth who said, “I always think of leadership as a wheel. You know, you take your turn at the wheel. When you have a city that believes in collaboration, it’s important to pass that baton, it’s important to pass the wheel. So, I’m really excited for Mr. Cacciotti and his leadership to come.”