Our latest post provides updates on environmental and legal developments in Los Angeles and adjacent counties, as well as the Southern San Joaquin Valley.  We welcome your comments and contributions.

Legislation and Ordinances  

Implementation of AB 617, CARB’s Community Air Protection Program. AB 617 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by October 1, 2018 to identify the highest priority communities affected by a high cumulative air emissions exposure burden (“impacted communities”); to establish the criteria for air monitoring and local emissions reduction programs; and to develop a statewide strategy for reducing emissions, to be updated every 5 years.  Additional timeline for required actions:

  • May 2018:  CARB Draft Community Air Protection Program Framework and planning documents posted for public comment. (CARB projection.)
  • January 1, 2019:  Districts with sources subject to a “market-based compliance mechanism” (for the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), that would be RECLAIM) is required to adopt an expedited schedule for implementation of Best Available Retrofit Control Technology (BARCT) to those sources by the earliest feasible date, but not later than December 31, 2023. Subject sources are to be prioritized according to age of existing control requirements, and not to include those sources that were subject to BARCT by permit since 2007.
  • By July 1, 2019:  Districts encompassing CARB-identified communities must deploy a community air monitoring system, which may include requirements for fence-line monitoring paid for by industries emitting in those communities.
  • By January 1, 2020, and every year thereafter:  CARB is required to add additional impacted communities.  Air districts with added communities must deploy air monitoring systems within one year.
  • Within one year of CARB’s identification of locations around the state for preparation of community emissions reduction programs (deadline not stated: to follow CARB steps required by October 1, 2018):  districts are required to adopt a community emissions reduction program to achieve emissions reductions for the location selected using cost-effective measures.

In addition:

  • AB 617 applies to stationary sources that report GHG emissions to the ARB; are authorized by a district permit to emit 250 or more tons per years of any nonattainment pollutant or its precursors; or receive an elevated prioritization score re health impacts.
  • These sources will be required to report criteria and toxic emissions to the ARB under its uniform statewide system, to be developed.
  • Before adopting rules imposing BARCT, districts must:
    • Identify one or more potential control options that achieve reductions required by the rule;
    • Review cost-effectiveness data for each potential control option;
    • Calculate the incremental cost-effectiveness of identified control options;
    • Consider and review at a public meeting: effectiveness of the proposed control option to meet ARB requirements under Cal. Health and Safety Code § 39610 re mitigation of emissions transported into the district from upwind; consider the cost-effectiveness of each control option and the relative cost-effectiveness among potential control options; and make findings at the public meeting of the reasons for adopting a particular option.

SCAQMD is moving rapidly to implement AB 617, along with its program to distribute air quality monitors to community members.  Staff informed the District’s Stationary Source Committee meeting on April 20 that 28 public meetings had been held since the beginning of February 2018.  It is CARB’s job to identify impacted communities, and the SCAQMD is moving forward on this effort to provide recommendations to the CARB.  The District has created a preliminary list of almost 50 communities under consideration.

Interim Abatement Orders under SCAQMD-sponsored AB 1132 (effective January 1, 2018).  Allows an air pollution control officer to close a business without a hearing if the business is violating rules or requirements and causing an “imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare, or the environment.”  Requires a hearing before the district hearing board within not more than 30 days.  SCAQMD implementation requires the District to meet with the alleged emitter and work on an Order  upon which both can agree.

LA City Council and LA County Strike Force –Update on Herb Wesson Motion to require large set-backs for O&G production.  (As background, in 1970, the LA City Council voted to allow “islanding,” i.e., allowing residential development to build immediately adjacent to production facilities.)  LA County is developing an updated oil and gas ordinance.  City will follow.  It is expected that the County ordinance will include set-back requirements.  County ordinance is anticipated in about 1 ½ years before a draft.

Other Air Quality Issues – South Coast Air Quality Management District

SUNSET RECLAIM – Transition away from a cap and trade regulation of NOx and Sox emissions to command and control.  SCAQMD shutting down RECLAIM, the Regional Clean Air Incentives Market.  In its 2016 air quality management plan (AQMP), the District established control measure CMB-05, and observed:

As many of the program’s original advantages appear to be diminishing, and orderly sunset of the RECLAIM program may be the best way to maximize emissions reductions, create more regulatory certainty, and potentially reduce compliance burdens for RECLAIM facilities. (2016 AQMP, p. 4-15.)

Based on District data, between 1994 and 2012 stationary sources under RECLAIM achieved a 69% NOx reductions, while stationary sources subject to command-and-control achieved a 44% NOx reduction and mobile sources achieved a 55% reduction.  As noted above, AB617 requires that all sources subject to RECLAIM be subjected to best available retrofit control technology (BARCT) expeditiously starting in 2019 and not later than 2023.  Reportedly, the District wants to bring BARCT in line with best available control technology (BACT) the level of control required in California for new and modified sources.

SCAQMD is working hard on development of “landing rules” for the regulation of sources currently covered by RECLAIM.  A facility will not be transitioned out of RECLAIM until there are landing rules that cover every piece of regulated equipment at the facility.  The current rulemaking agenda includes Reg XIII (New Source Review), Rule 1110.2 (Stationary IC engines); Rules 2001 and 2002 (RECLAIM applicability and allocations), Rule 1134 (NOx from stationary turbines), Rule 113 (Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting (MRR) for NOx and SOx sources); Rules 218 and 218.1 (CEMS); Rule 429 (start-up and shutdown exemptions for NOx sources), Rule 1147.1 (misc. NOx sources); and of course Regulation XX (RECLAIM).  Under RECLAIM, equipment exempted from regulation under Rule 219 are required to be accounted for, and covered by reclaim trading credits.  District Staff are proposing to extend this “non-exemption” to transitioned sources and perhaps all sources, to preserve “anti-backsliding.”

The core issue of the fate of RECLAIM Trading Credits (RTCs) remains uncertain.  Scenarios include transforming RTCs to emission reduction credits (ERCs) required for new and modified sources to elimination of RTCs, with some hybrid approaches in between.

Regulation of Warehouses and Rail Yards as “Indirect Sources” – SCAQMD Governing Board voted 7-6 on May 4, 2018 to direct Staff to regulate stationary facilities that support the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in an effort to control emissions from big rigs, trucks and locomotives.  The District asserts that heavy-duty diesel trucks, off-road construction equipment and ships and boats emit 267 tons of NOx per day, while cars and light- and medium-duty trucks emit 106 tons of NOx per day.  Diesel emissions also account for more the half of all toxic emissions in the District.  By this action, the South Coast Air District is regulating indirect sources for the first time, and approach that the San Joaquin Valley Air District adopted in 2006.

Non-Refinery Flares, Proposed Rule (PR) 1118.1. Set for a Governing Board vote on September 7, 2018.  PR require reduction of emissions from flaring at non-refinery facilities, including by alternate uses of gases. The rule would require use of flares that meet Best Available Control Technology at sources such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and oil and gas production facilities.  After 20 years from the manufactured date of the existing flare, the District could require a BACT flare or a beneficial use for the produced flare, or limit operation to 200 hours per year.

“Any Credible Evidence,” Proposed Rule 120.  Governing Board voting date is now uncertain, to be decided (TBD)  As described by the District:  “Proposed Rule 120 will allow any credible evidence to be used for the purpose of establishing that a person has violated or is in violation of any plan, order, permit, rule, regulation, or law. This rule will establish presumptively credible evidence.”

Control of NOx from Boilers, Steam Generators and Process Heaters, Proposed Amended Rules 1146 (NOx from boilers,), 1146.1 (same – smaller equipment), and 1146.2 (small boilers and process heaters). Scheduled for vote at the June 2018 Governing Board meeting to allow adequate time for preparation of the CEQA document and to respond to comments.  The amendments will incorporate requirements for BARCT resulting for the transition out of RECLAIM (see that topic, above).

Rule 408, Circumvention.  The District Governing Board also adopted at the May 4 meeting Rule 408, intended to prohibit efforts to conceal violations, reading in pertinent part as follows:  “A person shall not build, erect, install, or use any equipment, the use of which, without resulting in a reduction in the total release of air contaminants to the atmosphere, reduces or conceals an emission which would otherwise constitute a violation of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 41700) of Part 4, of Division 26 of the Health and Safety Code or of these [District] rules.”

Rule 430 amendments – Reporting of Breakdowns. Adoption vote date TBD.  No draft rule amendments appear on the District’s website.  June 2016 amendments to Rule 1110.2, which regulates emissions from engines over 50 bhp, set and limits on the number of incidences per quarter exceeding specified levels of excess emissions that would be eligible for 24-hour breakdown protection.  This recent action may be the course set for the Rule 430 amendments.

Rules 1148.1 and 1148.2 – Oil & Gas production wells and notification and reporting.  Adoption Vote Date TBD.  From the AQMD:  “Amendments to Rule 1148.2 may be needed to address community notification procedures, the inclusion of water injection wells, and potentially other measures based on an evaluation of information collected since the last rule adoption.”

South Coast Hearing Board Appointments for Attorney Member and Engineer Member.  The following were presented to the Governing Board on May 4, 2018:  Julie Prussack, Attorney Member; Alternate: Douglas Lofgren.  Mohan Balagopalan, Engineer Member; Alternate: Edward Camarena

SNAPS – CARB Study of Neighborhood Air near Petroleum Sources.  After aerial monitoring near the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon Storage Field, and finding that 0.1 % of emissions came from oil and gas production fields, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) developed a project to better characterize air quality in communities near oil and gas operations. The SNAPS project includes limited-term, intensive air quality monitoring with a particular focus on production facilities, which may also feed into the AB 617 Program.  CARB  monitoring will be by mobile monitoring trailers to identify areas of elevated health risk within the community.  After this screening effort, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) may perform a more in-depth health analysis, potentially including a risk assessment. Staff will post real-time air monitoring data and publish the analysis of results for each site in a report. Staff will also share the results with communities in local meetings.

GHG Regulation/ Climate Change Regulations

CARB Methane Rule:

  • CARB’s EXCEL reporting tool – when are reports due?  Districts vary – Mar 1 for San Joaquin Valley APCD.  SCAQMD – due date is not clear and appears to be covered by submittal to ARB.  Nonetheless, it may be best to submit to the districts to avoid potential CARB enforcement.  Reporting will be of data that is one year old, and available, and CARB Staff found this acceptable.  Industry has pushed for March reporting date for the immediately preceding year, but the CARB Staff would not agree to this.
  • CARB is developing an on-line reporting tool for Oil & Gas.  For now, under the Methane Rule, use the existing CARB reporting rule.  A SCAQMD inspector recently stated that the District is “enforcing the methane rule.”  No one has seen an MOU between CARB and the District, which would cover this topic.  The District has been challenged many times over the years on the issue of lack of authority and has lost those challenges.