The 2016 Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) focuses a large portion of its efforts to reducing particulate pollution, PM2.5, in an effort to meet the new federal attainment levels of 12 milligram per cubic meter annually. The South Coast Air Basin reached attainment levels for the 1997 standards in spite of it being during a large growth period and the AQMD feels that striving to meet the new standards will help them meet both the state and federal levels for particulate matter in general.
PM2.5 which is particle pollution that is 2.5 micrometers and smaller (smaller than the width of a human hair), comes in solid and liquid form and has many sources of generation. High levels of PM 2.5 has been associated with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and injuries, reduced lung function, chronic bronchitis, and increased mortality from lung cancers.
In the South Coast Air Basin, commercial cooking is the largest direct (as opposed to indirect sources which form particles through complex chemical reactions) source of PM2.5 pollutants. In fact, the grilling of meat contributes 20% of the organic carbon-based particle pollution in the South Coast Basin.
Chain-driven charbroilers that are often used in fast-food type restaurants are well-controlled and contribute little to the problem. They are already strictly regulated under South Coast rule 1138. It’s the under-fired grills that are the current source of most – 80% - of these particle pollutants that come from restaurants. The problem is that the purchase and maintenance costs of equipment with cleaner technologies for this type of cooking is very high. The SCAQMD is completing a study with University of California Riverside, in partnership with the U.S. EPA and other air agencies in PM2.5 nonattainment areas, to identify cost-effective and more affordable under-fired charbroiler controls. Types of devices being evaluated are filter-based equipment, electrostatic precipitators (ESPs), catalysts, scrubbers, and other technologies, some of which are close to being available for commercial use. The SCAQMD is also looking at ways to implement regulations that might include having tiers for equipment (not unlike the current tier system for diesel engines). Better controlled, higher-efficiency grills might be required for larger restaurants while smaller restaurants will be allowed less costly and less efficient (lower tier) equipment.
They are also exploring the possibility of incentive programs in which better equipment would be more financially viable for small businesses that otherwise could not afford it. There may be grant programs in the vein of Carl Moyer and SOON in which the district would subsidize the purchase of better controlled under-fired grills than the business would be as yet required to obtain. In other words, they would be rewarded for cleaning up their act before they are required to do so and already have the equipment they need on hand when the time comes that it is required.
The Bay Area AQMD passed a rule in 2009 controlling emissions from both chain-driven and under-fired grills. The SCAQMD has considered amending their rule 1138 to include under-fired grills in the past and is looking at it again under the 2016 AQMP. Since this kind of grill is such a large contributor to the PM2.5 problem in the basin, it seems highly likely that they will adopt a similar approach to meet the new state and federal standards.
This is the second in a series of informative articles on the regulatory changes coming as a part of the SQAQMD’s 2016 Planning. Blog post authored by Kimba Spencer. For more information contact us.