Air Resources Board Changes Anti-Smog Rule for Small Business
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to balance economics and environmental clean-up, the Air Resources Board (ARB) has adopted changes to anti-smog requirements that will provide regulatory relief to thousands of small businesses, ranging from service stations and dry cleaners to auto body shops, primarily in Northern and Central California.
Under the Board's decision, made late Thursday after a day-long public hearing in Sacramento, emission standards for businesses that typically emit low levels of pollution would remain unchanged and they would still be required to install pollution control technology to limit their emissions.
The estimated 70-80 percent of these businesses with emissions below 10 to 15 tons per year, however, would be exempted from an additional -- and more expensive -- requirement to control pollution from adjacent facilities to compensate for the remaining emissions after the technology was installed; a concept known as "pollution offsets," and one that can increase costs of an air quality permit by tens of thousands of dollars.
The ruling will affect small businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Ventura areas. Because of the severity of air pollution problems in Southern California, state law does not allow the ARB to extend the relief to businesses in that area.
"Strong environmental programs desperately need a strong economy to support pollution clean-up measures," noted Jananne Sharpless, ARB chairwoman, during public testimony on the ruling. "Governor Wilson and I both believe that we need to come up with a delicate balance between the activity that runs the economy and good environmental standards."
"We are not changing any of the emission standards that will make the air more breathable," she continued, "but we also have to give these businesses some breathing room so that they can operate in our economy," noting that most of them are run by entrepreneurs who don't have the finances or technical staff that are available to larger industrial facilities."
The pollution offsets are required to prevent increases in regionwide pollution while allowing industrial facilities to expand or modernize. In recent years, however, these offsets have been more difficult to obtain as an increasing number of pollution sources have been covered by new anti-smog rules. In addition, as the amount of uncontrolled pollution sources that generate the supply of offsets has dwindled, the price for them has increased, in most cases outstripping the budgets of small businesses.
The Board acknowledged that easing the requirements for "pollution offsets" would increase emissions in each region slightly, by an estimated one half of one percent. The Board noted, however, that the cost savings to small business was significant and that local air quality agencies could tighten other standards to compensate for the mild emissions increases.
In exempting these small businesses from obtaining the required pollution offsets, the Board followed guidelines adopted last year by the Legislature in amendments to the California Clean Air Act (AB 2783, Sher).