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.