New California Air Quality Reporting Requirements May Apply to Over 50,000 Businesses

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In late 2018, the California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) proposed a new statewide reporting program for air quality of both criteria pollutants and toxic air contaminants. The new reporting rules will apply to more than 50,000 businesses in California, including auto body shops, retail gas stations, print shops, dry cleaners, and facilities with backup diesel generators or emergency fire pumps among may others. Many of these businesses may need to hire engineers and consultants to assist in calculating the emissions and in the preparation of the new reporting as early as January 2020.

The new reporting regulations implement Health and Safety Code section 39607.1 (added into law in 2017 by AB 617). The new reporting rules lower the current 250 ton per year threshold down to only 4 tons/year – a very low threshold that would put thousands of into the new annual reporting program. Section 93400(a)(4)(A). It would also include facilities whose emissions come primarily from portable equipment used at a facility. The goal is to have a uniform statewide baseline of emissions to then identify ways to reduce those emissions in the most highly impacted communities in the state.

Thus, as the data from the reporting comes in, the ability to map the pollution improves and the program progresses, businesses may be required to install and operate ambient air monitors and/or retrofit emissions sources on an accelerated schedule. The exact implementation will be determined in the future, but it may result in a heavy burden to businesses in highly impacted communities. Also of concern is that CARB’s enforcement policy treats errors in reporting severely, even if they are paperwork in nature only.

The regulations were proposed in October 2018, subject to an initial 45 day comment period and public hearing in December 2018. In May 2019, some modifications to the proposed regulations were made and an additional 15 day comment period ended on June 7, 2019. See the current proposed regulatory text here. It is anticipated they will now be finalized and adopted before the end of 2019.