Alta’s Susana Perez has been closely tracking proposed California Air Toxics Health Risk Assessment (HRA) guidance changes. In keeping abreast of those changes, she recently attended several public hearings. Susana has been following this development closely since mid-2013 when the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released draft changes to the risk procedures. On June 20, 2014 OEHHA released the proposed changes to the Air Toxic Hot Spot Program Guidance Manual for the Preparation of Risk Assessment. OEHHA’s revisions included changes to provide enhanced protection of children. The changes include age sensitivity factors to account for the increased sensitivity children have to carcinogens and their breathing rates. Changes also include recommended adjustments to exposure duration, adjustment factors for fraction of time home, and duration of worker exposure.
We caught up with Susana to learn more:
Susana, you have been tracking the new guidance for a while. How might it impact businesses?
The changes to the risk guidance could have significant impacts. The proposed guidance increases calculated risks by around 3 times. As new policies are adopted to respond to the guidance they will be impacted. This includes new projects that require CEQA. It includes risk based permits both new source permits, modified permits, and existing facilities. San Joaquin staff have indicated that it will increase the public notification requirements and that sources such as gas stations, and hospitals, would no longer be able to obtain permits because they would not meet the limits or source control equipment would be too costly.
You just returned from the San Joaquin Valley APCD Meeting. What did you learn?
The San Joaquin Valley APCD is the first air district to address the new OEHHA guidance. It’s important to our clients that we keep close track of how each air district will be implementing or responding to the OEHHA guidance. It’s important because, if the current thresholds of 10 in a million are to remain, emergency generators and gasoline stations would be denied air permits. It’s a complex issue — although the actual toxic risks have decreased since 1990, the OEHHA changes will increase the calculated risks for some sources from 2.38 to 3.59 times higher than the current methodology. The San Joaquin Valley Governing Board has instructed staff to incorporate OEHHA’s Risk Assessment Guideline updates to both provide protection of infants and children and identify thresholds to prevent unreasonable restrictions.
Currently San Joaquin Valley APCD Staff is recommending incorporating the most conservative changes to the risk procedures while also revising the cancer risk threshold upward to between 24 to 36 in a million from the current 10 in a million. It is a trade off with the intent of not unreasonably restricting permits and projects. Staff is seeking public comment to the proposed changes by November 8, 2014.
How are other air districts responding to the new guidance? I’ve been tracking the agency response to the new OEHHA guidelines. At this point, only San Joaquin APCD has proposed a change in their policy. They are trying to find a middle ground to both protect children and infants and allow reasonable permit issuance. Their recommendation does propose increasing the threshold. However, it’s important to keep in mind that actual toxic risks have decreased in the past 24 years.
Air districts throughout the state are evaluating this issue and developing their strategy to address their issues. Some are waiting for the larger air districts to publish their strategy before deciding what to do.
What does this mean for industries in the San Joaquin Air District? Industries may have to repeat risk assessment calculations. These typically are updated every 4 years, however if changes are adopted they may need to update their assessments sooner. This is still unclear and I anticipate the APCD will have more specifics as they work through the changes to their policy.
Are other air districts expected to adopt changes to policy? We can anticipate every air district to have some response to the OEHHA guidance. How each air district will respond is difficult to predict and quite possibly districts will each differ in their approach. I will be tracking it very closely.
What do we know for certain? We can anticipate changes in regulatory policy. We will continue to track these changes and keep our clients abreast of the developments as we learn them.
Please give us a call if you would like more information. It will be important that businesses submit their comments on any policy changes during the comment periods. We are here to help keep you in compliance.
Scott Taylor, Vice President – Air Services (Scott.Taylor@altaenviron.com)
Susana Perez, SJVAPCD Certified Air Permitting Professional (Susana.Perez@altaenviron.com)
Or call us at (562) 495-5777.