Air Quality Management Plan, Air Quality Permit Application Backlog Reduction, and Air Trading (RECLAIM) Credit Restrictions
Update on AQMD Progress – October 2016 Governing Board Meeting
The October 7th, 2016 South Coast AQMD Governing Board meeting had several important items on the agenda.
A presentation was given on the revised Air Quality Management Plan, a draft of which was to be issued that afternoon. The AQMP is largely based on the fact that 88% of the emissions in the basin come from mobile sources which are not under the jurisdiction of local air districts. Over 100 tons of additional reductions need to be made by 2023 and those cannot be found by regulatory means alone and therefore incentive funding remains a large portion of the plan. Staff reviewed the various comments they received from the public and which were considered and incorporated when possible into the AQMP. One of the major revisions to the draft AQMP includes tighter permit restrictions on diesel back-up generators with an eye for coming up with alternative power systems and fuels. Hospitals and other institutions where reliable power in the event of an emergency is critical will be exempt from these new regulations. However, there was discussion on looking for ideas to reduce monthly testing and maintenance time which results in a large amount of emissions or restricting the time frames in which these activities could take place. Another revision involved requiring lower emissions on new commercial and residential appliances. Possibly the most impactful revision in terms of its effect on hundreds of stationary sources is the goal to seriously consider long-term transition of the RECLAIM program to a command-and-control regulatory structure. It has long been contended by environmental advocacy groups that the program is ineffectual in reducing air pollution. There was discussion on how sources would have to meet BACT in order to permit new equipment instead of being able to buy credits.
Another presentation was given on the Permit Application Backlog Reduction Plan. Staff had been directed to come up with a plan to reduce the over 7,000 permit applications that have been on backlog for years and increase customer service and transparency. The plan involves increasing both capacity and efficiency. Capacity will be improved by hiring more engineers to replace the many who have retired, speeding up training of new engineers, weekend work, use of temps, and more active management and supervision. Efficiency will be improved increasing interdepartmental coordination, revising outdated policies, and using automation and electronic tools such as online submittals. It was also suggested that there be streamlining the permitting of basic common processes and pre-certified equipment.
There was then discussion on the revision to Regulation 2002 to restrict the sale of RECLAIM Trading Credits (RTCs) by large facilities upon shutdown. It was emphasized that the provision only applies to originally allocated credits – not purchased credits – and the regulation is not retroactive. However, a facility shutting down that no longer holds its originally allocated credits beyond the date of shutdown, would have to purchase an infinite year block of RTCs. There were a few protests by some municipal utilities that the definition of shutdown was too vague but staff insisted that was addressed and that there would be no arbitrary declaration by the SCAQMD that a facility is shut down without discussion with the facility operators to determine if there was indeed a permanent shutdown. The discussion concluded with a vote by the board to pass the regulation changes and it was supported unanimously.
Need more information? Contact Alta Environmental at 888-608-3010.