Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CARB Levies $532,875 Fine to Close Out 2016

“Punitive…Rather Than Compensatory”

Make no bones about it, they will find you. And when they find you, they will fine you…eventually. Now that CARB has audited some of the largest fleets operating in California, requesting smoke testing data, truck and bus compliance, contractor info, ECL proof, drayage compliance, TRU compliance, idling polices, maintenance practices etc…it is just a matter of time before they lock their sights on the remaining fleets who have been flying under the radar and avoiding the rules for years.

CARB performs thousands of roadside inspections annually. In 2015, they executed close to 18,000 inspections on diesel trucks alone. While 129 “diesel investigations” for the truck and bus rule were settled in 2015, only 26% of all investigations across the diesel program suite resulted in a compliance finding. Although 26% is a low compliance rate, in reality, the smaller number comes from a more efficient approach.

CARB has shifted their enforcement tactics away from “complaint and referral” to a “smart audit” approach.  This new tactic is leading them towards the non-compliant carriers and away from the law-abiding folks who can’t be bothered anyway since they are constantly on the road, turnin’ and earnin’ to pay for all the new equipment has CARB scooched them into over the last 5 years.  

Smart audit or otherwise, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that if you register your trucks with the DMV, then CARB has carte blanche access to that data for enforcement purposes. Despite what many would call the “shortcomings” of DMV customer service, you can bet dollars to DEF fluid that with the push of a button all registration information for any particular carrier registered in California can be shuttled over to CARB headquarters lickety-split.
So, one has to wonder how a massive, nationwide leasing and rental company like Penske could drop the ball so badly going all the way back to 2013. While their fleet is in the thousands or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands (231,000 according to their website), the only trucks that matter are the trucks that are operating in California. Regardless, CARB nailed the nearly 50 year old company for numerous violations including truck and bus rule and periodic smoke inspection (PSIP) compliance. Settlement Summary Click Here

During an audit, CARB throws pretty much everything at the fleet to see what sticks. In Penske’s case, it's likely that they didn’t realize they had 3 MHD vehicles with pre 1995 engines actively registered  as non-compliant for almost 24 months until CARB told them. Typically, each violation of the truck and bus rule is supposed to receive a $1000, per month, per truck fine. However, several factors come into play in how severe the citation is.

Factors such as, "extent of harm to public health, safety and welfare caused by the violation; Nature and persistence of the violation, including the magnitude of the excess emissions;  Compliance history of the company, including the frequency of past violations; Preventive efforts taken by the company, including the record of maintenance and any program to ensure compliance....Efforts of the company to attain, or provide for, compliance; Cooperation of the company during the course of the investigation and any action taken by the company, including the nature, extent, and time of response of any action taken to mitigate the violation; and finally, The financial burden to the company".

Notice the very last consideration is the financial burden of the company. It is not that CARB is full of leather clad sadists; it’s that they need these penalties to sting. In part to punish the company in violation but to also act as a deterrent to any would-be scallywags who are skirting or thinking of skirting the rules (not to be confused with skirting the trailer).

Nevertheless, Penske is not alone.  Hundreds of fleets (and hundreds more) have received citations or can expect something from the air police sooner than later. CARB’s smart audit approach has already shown its effectiveness and the 2016 enforcement efforts should eclipse the 2015 statistics. They are sighting the non-compliant carriers, punishing them with fines and releasing them back into the wild as tagged game. For those who have already spent the money for compliance this is promising news; better late than never, but eventually, nonetheless.  

Stay Tuned!

Friday, December 23, 2016

California Has Done It Again….

EPA Grants Petition for Lower Engine Standard

Well, just when the light at the end of the tunnel was drawing near, the trucking industry is again seeing the one eyed freight train of environmental regulation headed right at them. This week the EPA released a response the petition filed by CARB, SCAQMD and SJAPCD et al. requesting a federal rulemaking for a lower NOx engine standard to take effect in 2024. EPA has granted their request and will begin a 24 month technical research period with a rulemaking coming in 2019 for a 2024 implementation date.
While this may all sound familiar, these new standards are not the kind that are designed to enhance fuel economy, like the Phase 1 and Phase 2 GHG standards,( Click here for More Info )  these are the type that directly control criteria pollutants and tend to degrade fuel economy. In this case, the criteria pollutants under control are the directly emitted oxides of nitrogen or NOx, which forms ozone in the atmosphere when it reacts with sunlight, eventually resulting the ever familiar shroud of smog that blankets many major cities and metropolitan areas in the world.

Since California is under strict federal standards to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone attainment, their main focus to meet those standards outside of recent rulemakings, is the low NOx engine standard. Now that CARB is done decimating the in-state fleet through in-use rules, they have been granted passage into the next phase of their quest for clean air, a federal engine standard that no one can escape.

The challenge in California, especially southern California and the central valley, is that the NAAQS cannot be met without a lower federal NOx engine standard because the majority of trucks operating on California roads are from out of state.

These fleets (for the most part) turn over to newer engine technology through natural attrition due to  higher mileage accumulation and therefore avoid in-use standards because the technology they are using is ahead of the California rules. So, enter the federal government.  With a federal standard (More Info) the natural turnover would eventually lead to the implementation of the lower NOx standard across the out of state fleet with the in-state legacy fleet following close behind. In theory anyway (cue the Pre-Buy!).

Of course there will be a formal rulemaking procedure beginning sometime in 2019, where California will be leading the charge for the standard they feel they need, the .02 standard, while the OEM’s and possibly the EPA might take a more reasonable approach with a slightly higher, but lower than current standard, possibly with a maintenance and warranty enhancement such as the ARB is currently pursuing.

The new administration has been quiet on the new engine standard so far. Nevertheless, any attempt in unwinding what the Golden State has started may prove more complicated then it appears. The first hurdle is that California is mandated to meet the NAAQS as directed by the Clean Air Act .If they can't meet the goals, the EPA steps in to do it for them.

The quandary for the new administration  will boil down to if they are going to play nice with California or face imminent litigation which will result in California getting their way anyway. Unless congress changes the clean air act, California will get its engine standard one way or another nationwide or California only. For the golden state, there is no other way and currently, the EPA agrees.  

Based on California’s emissions modeling , they cannot meet the federal standards without the low NOx engine. It has been made clear to industry and everyone else that the 2010 technology will not be enough to get them to their attainment goals. This is relatively bad news for a just recently beat up California based trucking industry. While the ARB has given indication that no new, in-use, on-road rules will be implemented, there is little stopping local districts in pursuing facility caps in Environmental Justice areas to force the turnover to the cleaner standard.

While the in-state fleet thought they were out of the woods with the 2010 technology, the worse news is that according to recent research findings, cold engine operation and deterioration of emissions controls in 2010 engine technology is resulting in much higher in-use emissions than anticipated. So, CARB has the data and will be able to make a compelling case for the cleanest standard because, in their collective mind, there is no other pathway. If the feds try and stop them, they will sue, they will win and we will all be back to square one, maybe a couple years later, but square one nonetheless.  Never a dull moment….

Stay Tuned!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid…

Legislature passes and Governor seals the future fate of transportation in California.

While cap and trade has been kicked down the road until the legal dust settles, the state of California is focusing their air quality sights on the transportation industry. Sacramento has been very busy committing to GHG reductions through legislation while the regulatory apparatus is waiting in the wings to begin the scorched earth policy that is Air Quality regulatory development here in California. Meanwhile, on a local level, a whole other cap and trade program may emerge as the perfect cover for a second forced truck turnover across the state.

It is no secret that unique emissions challenges exist within the air districts across California, especially the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). A major focus for SCAQMD and other metropolitan regions are oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a basic precursor to smog and something that is directly emitted from practically every vehicle out there, especially trucks.
The state of California has made NOx a priority after having had tackled the pesky Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) problem with a slew of regulatory measures, aimed most recently at the on-road transportation industry, dating all the way back to the 90’s. Transportation has always been a major contributor to emissions, and with ever tightening ambient air quality standards that are set by the federal government, it is obvious that the industry would be the target of strict control measures now and well, forever.

Many measurers are currently in effect and being enforced on the transportation sector here in California. Beyond existing in-use measurers, the state has its own diesel fuel blend and has very recently petitioned the federal government for a cleaner federal diesel engine standard. California may also have buy in from 11 to 13 other states to also require the engine standard once it is all said and done. All the while, lurking in the shadows of the existing state regulatory lexicon is a whole new set of potential standards, both up front regulatory measures and backdoor turnover requirements. The leviathan never rests.  

At the local level, SCAQMD is embarking upon a mission to ratchet down on facility operators to monitor and control emissions from any facility associated with transportation, e.g. warehouses, seaports, airports, railyards etc, operating in the South Coast. The concept, known as a “facility cap” (FC), will be forced upon particular locations that fall within the covered facility definition, and depending on proximity to sensitive receptors, emissions levels will be capped appropriately.
In other words, equipment operating at a facility will count towards an overall emissions profile. Every diesel or gasoline or jet fuel or otherwise emitting engine will all be counted, if an operator gets close to the cap, activity may have to be curtailed or the facility operator will face fines or sanctions or public shaming or all of the above. All of the specifics will be determined once the SCAQMD Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) is adopted in December.
Nevertheless there seems to be a clear commitment to control and cap emission at freight facilities, continuously. Incentives and other grant or voucher type programs have been suggested, but without serious public subsidies, some operators may find themselves looking for a buyout just to get out of debt and away from the clean air tornado. Because of course, it is always a question of money, not necessarily how much, but who's paying?
Part of the FC scheme may include something similar to a cap and trade program. In fact, it will be exactly like a cap and trade program. It will likely be a forced participation; at least the cap part will be, with covered facility operators left with little or any choice but to participate by meeting the standards or buying their way to more time. 

With the massive NOx reductions being sought in the SCAQMD and really across the Central Valley and the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley as well, the only way to get those reductions from the trucking industry is to force a second engine turnover beyond the existing truck and bus standards which are already forcing a full engine turnover in 2023. This turnover could possibly include a renewable natural gas engine platform or at least the cleanest diesel engine technology available to humankind; until something cleaner comes along that is.

This backdoor approach to a forced turnover removes the burden of regulatory scrutiny because it will be a private business merely making the determinations in how they will get below the cap.

You want to do business with that business, then standards will need to be adhered to or, you guessed it, no business (in theory anyway).

Nevertheless, without a truck turnover, it is unlikely the cap can be maintained. The bar is already so low with the existing PM and NOx control technology that they will have to go lower with zero or near zero emission engines (read: Electric etc..) to maintain levels below the cap. Adding more H2O to the grease fire is the fact that in all likelihood the cap will become stricter as the years wear on.  

Of course, the lower you go, no matter how well intentioned, like a limbo contest at the senior center, someone is going to get hurt.

Likely, the SCAMQD will be sued over the whole thing. Despite the “business friendly” tone of the SCAQMD Board as of late, many groups are already gearing up for a major legal battle if SCAMQD moves forward with a facility cap.

Of course all of this fits directly in line with the “Moonbeam Daydream”. No, not your uncle’s psychedelic jam band from the 70’s, but the Governor’s full frontal assault on emissions and greenhouse gasses (GHG) from the transportation industry, better known as Executive order B-32-15. CARB has been tapped as the headliner for this bureaucratic love fest that is combining the forces of agencies across the state to create the ultimate super group that will change the face of transportation in California and by doing so, solidify the Governor’s low carbon vision now and forever.
Between the new commitments in recently signed SB32 to reduce GHG down to 40% below 1990 levels, the new engine standard petition, the facility cap proposal and the logic defying efforts of CARB through their mobile source strategy in the Statewide Implementation Plan (SIP), the transportation industry across the country should take notice.

There needs to be a concerted effort to fully recognize the magnitude of what is happening here in California. It is getting serious. Or wait, it is getting even MORE serious, much more serious, indeed.

Stay Tuned!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What the Truck?

Major developments in On-Road Truck and Bus Rule, Sustainable Freight and Mobile Source control in the South Coast
So far, 2016 has been a tumultuous year in the world of air quality here in the Golden State. Although within the past few weeks most mainstream air quality news tidbits have been related to the lack of cap and trade activity, the transportation sector is facing the perfect storm.
Strict new engine standards, facility caps and a potential zero emission last mile rule are all part of a larger complex web that is weaving the future for transportation here in the Golden State. It is no secret that California has the strictest regulatory standards for the trucking industry across the US. What may or may not be of a surprise is that the state of California is far from writing the final chapter on their air quality saga. While many believe that what happens in California stays in California, a closer analysis will demonstrate that what happens in California eventually makes its way across the US.

Within the larger universe of both the California and local air quality planning documents is a major reliance on a lower federal NOx new engine standard to meet air future federal air quality goals across the state. It is no secret that if the feds don’t act in implementing the lower standard, then California will seek an exemption to set their own standards with several other states possibly opting in under section 177 of the Clean Air Act. Although some have backed out, over a dozen states could also require the sale of the California engine if California receives the exemption.
However, according to CARB, a California only standard may not be enough. A federal standard is preferred since the majority of trucks operating in California are from out of state. The state and districts feel that a new engine standard will eventually be implemented by fleets across the country through normal turnover, thus resulting in the needed reductions as the engines trickle into California operation.  Furthermore, according to the state, the Federal standard is needed despite the major reductions achieved by current in-use rules, including the crown jewel of the on-road regulatory lexicon, the on-road truck and bus rule.
The on-road rule was initially adopted in 2008, changed in 2010 and implemented in 2012 as part of an effort to reduce criteria pollutants to meet federal air quality guidelines. The rule has forced the turnover of thousands of pieces of Heavy Duty equipment over the last 4 years. These efforts have resulted in significant improvements to air quality throughout the state but ironically enough may also be to blame for the slow adoption of the cleanest diesel technology available, the 2010 emissions and Phase I GHG standards.   

Despite the California only in-use standards under the truck and bus rule, when compared to other states, the in-state California fleet lags far behind in the deployment of the cleanest existing diesel technology. According to the Diesel Technology Forum, only 18% of the California fleet has 2010 or newer engines.
Speculation abounds that the on-road rule may have been the reason for this slow adoption since fleets have been focusing on interim targets instead of looking at normal turnover. The thought is that normal turnover may have resulted in greater penetration of 2010 engine technology since fleets would not be forced to install particulate traps on existing equipment and could instead retire and replace with newer technology.
Nevertheless, CARB could not rely on natural turnover to meet air quality standards, so back in 2008 a rule was imminent. Today, according to CARB, despite the on-road reductions, a federal engine standard is needed to meet the air quality goals were shooting for with implementation of the on-road rule. And adding even more irony to the fire, during their relentless pursuit of federal attainment since adoption in 2008, CARB, by their own admission, has been directly responsible for an actual increase in on-road emissions because of a rule modification that took place in 2014.

Although the complex exemption and phase in pathways provided relief for those who took advantage under the rule prior to the 2014 amendments, the strict standards were “unattainable” for small fleets and so a set of amendments that loosened the rule for this particular sector and others was adopted in 2014.
While CARB was playing the Good Samaritan in helping small fleets with the 2014 amendments, larger fleets felt they were left holding the bag while their smaller and non-asset competitors were given a free pass. Subsequently, a lawsuit was filed shortly after the amendments were adopted and on June 7th 2016, a superior court in Fresno ruled the 2014 amendments were invalid since proper administrative procedures were not adhered to during consideration, adoption and eventual implementation.
Although all amendments were essentially thrown out by the ruling, what this means is CARB will appeal and file for an injunction pushing a final resolution out months if not years. The regulation will exist in its current form until further notice, so although a major event in the CARB zeitgeist, it is not impacting the immediate future for the majority of the industry.
What is impacting the immediate future of the industry in addition to the potentially lower federal engine standards is a collaborative effort by CARB and several other executive agencies to fulfill the Governor’s low carbon vision for transportation trough a sustainable freight plan. The plan has been laid out on a document that to say the least is a comprehensive vision for a lower emission future, if not at a minimum, a wish list. The document is setting specific targets for the trucking industry and looking towards a future where zero emission equipment is everywhere feasible and near zero emission engines everywhere else.

Simultaneously, the South Coast has released a mobile source plan that amounts to an outline for a massive facility cap program across the southern California region. Although the South Coast plan is being ridiculed by environmentalists as business friendly, it still amounts to stricter control of emissions from otherwise currently unregulated “magnet sources” like warehouses and other transportation facilities such as ports and railyards where trucks operate. The plan also looks toward federal money to incentivize the turnover to ultra-low NOx near zero engines, but the money isn’t there yet and many wonder if it will ever be.
The two plans taken together and combined with a formal request to the feds for an even cleaner engine standard should leave the transportation sector with California much to ponder staring in the face of these tumultuous seas. And despite the potential fallout from a significant rule change back to the 2012 standards should CARB lose in court (again) nothing is standing in the way of more air quality improvement measures, compulsory, incentivized or otherwise.

Stay Tuned!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Cold as Ice 
CARB Throws Down Gauntlet on Cold Storage
2020 isn’t that far away. It looms only a mere 3 years and 5+ months as the world turns. Many, many things can happen between now and then and without going into detail, I think the picture is there. Life’s uncertainties sometimes drive intentions.  In the world of air quality, regulatory agencies use their best intentions when planning control measures, but oftentimes they are merely throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

The latest effort of the CARB regulatory leviathan is part of a larger sustainable freight plan that was introduced in 2014 and is set to be re-introduced, new and improved, this summer. The Sustainable Freight Initiative (SFI) is looking for emissions reductions across the transportation network and as of today, one segment of the supply chain, the refrigerated transport sector, is first up on the chopping block, again.
This isn’t the first time at the dance for refrigerated trailers and their cold blooded counterparts. First it was the engines, now this time around, it’s how and where those refrigerated engines are operating when not on the road.

It is obvious that refrigerated trailers are used for transport over the open highway and down the street, but maybe not so obvious is that they can also be used for stationary storage when there is no available cold space under roof or behind doors, hence, “cold storage”. The engines run, the trailer stays put and the stuff stays cold.

Since the engines in this situation are stationary while running to maintain temperature sensitive cargo awaiting transport or consumption, CARB sees an opportunity to get off the diesel and plug into the grid, thereby reducing thousands of tons of CO2e in the atmosphere. In order to hasten this transition to the electric future, CARB has begun the grinding process of regulatory development, starting with outreach which will be followed by reflection on their outreach.
The initial offering from CARB on the cold storage rule proposes a 2020 start date for a long list of potential covered entities. Truck stops, rest stops, grocery outlets, county fairs and of course the all-encompassing category of “other” are all up for a potential control measure that will limit and eventually eliminate, cold storage time.

And like it or not, whether we know it or not, one way or another, everyone relies on cold storage.
All perishable food and medicine is transported in a truck equipped with a refrigerated unit of some kind, truck box or trailer. While ice cream and strawberries may be at the top of many lists, the refer transport industry also moves highly sensitive explosives, lifesaving pharmaceuticals and pretty much every perishable item out there.  

Oftentimes, trailers are used during peak operation time to store temperature sensitive items out in the yard when facilities run out of cold storage space behind the doors. This is commonplace amongst grocery stores and distributors during thanksgiving, the super bowl or whenever they run out of space for anything that needs to be kept cool. It also may happen at distribution centers or ports or railyards, where refer units must sit and wait if they do not have a place to unload. Or at outdoor events like state or county fairs, festivals and the like.
While no formal details exist, previously a staggered ban on cold storage was proposed where the first limit was at 24 hours, then 1 hour then basically nada. But it was slated for initial implementation in 2023, the latest info from CARB today is looking at the 2020 timeframe for initial implementation and no proposal for a staggered phase in.  

Basically, all of this is leading up to the elimination of the diesel engine for cold storage in California. While CARB will be also be looking at efficiency improvements to eliminate cold storage, they are seriously leaning heavy on plug in or some non-diesel based technology to reduce CO2 emissions from the sector.  
With a potential three year window before initial implementation, CARB will have their work cut out for them. No one really has a firm grip on how much cold storage is happening out there so in order to grasp at one CARB will be sending out a survey or possibly a number of surveys. 

The agency wants to get an idea of how much time trailers spend idling for cold storage and where it is happening. This will give them an idea about how far they need to go to regulate the practice and more importantly, what infrastructure needs are out there.  Costs range from five to seven thousand dollars per plug, either pedestal or on-dock.  So, it can get expensive. Not to mention peak energy costs when pulling off the grid during certain times. The list of potential challenges does not end there.

Food safety and availability of universal plug-in infrastructure for electric refer trailers or eTRU’s are a major concern, near the top of the list in fact. Then again, pretty much everything is at the top of the list. For instance, FMCSA Hours of Service rules may force truckers off the road for mandated rest periods and without a pedestal or something to plug into, there will be no choice but to run the diesel engine if there is even a diesel engine to run.

Additionally, since truck parking is a major issue in this state, there is concern that the existing truck parking network will need to be reconfigured to allow for plug-in infrastructure which may result in a loss of available spaces. At a minimum it will require a major cash outlay on behalf of the facility operator at the other end of the spectrum it may put facilities out of business.

Equally as concerning is how distribution centers will need to reconfigure in order to provide idling trailers something to plug into when waiting for an open dock. And adding even more salt into the frozen margarita of refer operation is the fact that most existing refer engines DO NOT have the capability of being retrofitted to run on electric standby. For the equipment operator, that means they need a new engine that can run on electric standby after possibly just purchasing a Tier IV final engine to comply with the TRU rule that didn’t come equipped with electric standby in the first place.

Of course the icing on the cake is the fact that with these type of rules, typically CARB figures that if you are going to buy a new engine anyways, why not get the best available technology? That best available technology in their minds may in fact be an electric or cryogenic or cold fusion or hydrogen or whatever engine, as long as it’s available and it is not diesel.

Once the SFI is released we should get a bigger picture on how this cold storage piece fits into the whole freight emissions enchilada. Until then the cold storage rule will go through the regulatory outreach process with workshops and of course, you guessed it…. surveys. If you want to know more visit www.cafleetsoltuions.com.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Truck This?
Statewide Rules go Beyond Local Politics

For better or worse, some folks in the transportation industry have mused that the recent SCAQMD developments will somehow translate into abandonment or loosening of existing rules in the on-road trucking sector.

Since the Republicans sitting on the SCAQMD Board have made jobs a priority, it is only natural to assume that one of the largest employment sectors in the state (transportation/logistics) would also feel some of the relief.

Not so. In fact, the real outcome may be a state sponsored tightening down on an already heavily regulated industry.

Outside of threats to expand the Board through legislation, the basic bottom line is that for the most part, the State and the state alone has jurisdiction over mobile sources of emissions.

California is not about to start loosening up rules that are directly in line with achieving NAAQS.

Beyond federal responsibilities, the state has specifically targeted the transportation industry for reductions and the governor has made no secret of his desire to run emissions from the freight sector off the highway.

Last year an Executive Order was issued calling for the shift of the freight network to zero or near zero emissions while increasing the competitiveness of the industry.

"Governor Brown issued Executive Order (EO) B-32-15 which directs the California State Transportation, California Environmental Protection, and Natural Resources Agencies to lead other relevant State departments, including the California Air Resources Board, the California Department of Transportation, the California Energy Commission, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system through an integrated freight action plan and pilot projects”

Along with the emission mandates, the governor wants to see efficiency mandates and other creative endeavors to save the freight network from itself (SEE Government Efficiency ) all the while increasing industry competitiveness.

A multitude of state agencies have been tapped to develop this freight strategy. It is slated to be re-released this summer under the banner of the new and improved Sustainable Freight Initiative. Both the Sustainable Freight Initiative (SFI) and the mobile source strategy in the statewide SIP will both have specific regulatory measures focused on the trucking industry and the larger transportation network. Efforts are already underway to implement concepts put forth last year.

Within the previous incarnation of the SFI was an initial action aimed at cold storage and the facilities where off dock, cold storage is happening. This rule development will directly impact refrigerated facilities that utilize refrigerated trailers for off dock cold storage during peak operating times.

CARB has already started outreach for the rule and although the concept had been on ice for a few years leading up to the previous draft, it is now officially one of the first regulatory measures that will be part of the SFI.

The question persists? Are these recent efforts baby steps into a larger control of emissions under a potential facility cap (SEE Facility Cap )? While no new details have emerged, the concept is alive and well. The SFI, due this summer will decide its fate. For now.

Regardless of the facility cap’s ultimate fate, CARB is seeking to send a strong signal with the development of the cold storage rule and the eventual release of the SFI as well as the mobile source strategy within the statewide SIP that they will not be backing off from their plans, despite local developments. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

NOx and NAAQs and SIPs, Oh My!

Shift in local air board politics brings state into the fold on localized risks

For anyone who is remotely interested in southern California’s Air Quality, these past couple weeks have been chalk full of major developments that may or may not sit well depending on which side of the smokestack you are on.

Late last year, the SCAQMD Board adopted a less stringent NOx standard for stationary sources within the District. Since then, many have mused that jobs and the economy in southern California can now breathe a sigh of relief; the local economy was finally being considered in future air quality planning efforts.

In February, keeping with the importance of the southern California economy, the newly minted republican majority sitting on the AQMD Board removed a hurdle to their redirected efforts when they unceremoniously sacked long time Executive Director of SCAQMD, Dr. Barry Wallerstein.

Despite criticism, opposition and litigation, the Board has maintained their stance and the removal of Dr. Wallerstein is a blatant indication that things will be different in the South Coast. The firing was immediately met with the threat of expanding the Board with community, health and environmental representatives through state legislation, but, until such a bill comes to pass, we can expect more of the same from those on the Board. For now.

On the flip side of the political shift are legal commitments to maintaining national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) or at least endeavoring to get there with the utmost haste. Just last week,  the EPA described the existing SCAQMD NOx plan for stationary sources as “ineffective” as it is  not achieving the needed reductions due to an “artificially low” price for credits in the local cap and trade program.  While the EPA has brought the existing plan into question, CARB has publically stated that the recent amendments to the existing plan adopted last year “falls short” of the needed reductions to meet NAAQS.

The SCAQMD responded to EPA by claiming that the recent amendments adopted in December would address the insufficient reductions in the existing plan once when they were submitted as part of the larger Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) that is due later this summer.

The question does persist, how will the amendments that are described as falling short by CARB, help fix a plan that itself has been deemed by EPA as falling short ?

The state will be hard pressed to approve any plan that doesn't measure up to federal guidelines, especially since CARB is ultimately accountable to the EPA. The mounting drama should all be coming to a head this summer when the South Coast AQMP and the statewide SIP are released.