A blueprint for better air quality

See APCD’s current Clean Air Plan


What is a Clean Air Plan?

The state and federal governments have established ambient air quality standards for several air pollutants. The standards tell us how much of each pollutant can be in the air without causing harm. The APCD is required to monitor air pollution levels to ensure these standards are met, and if they aren’t, to develop a strategy to reduce air pollution so they can be met. The air in Santa Barbara County meets all of the clean air standards except the federal and state ozone standards, and the state standard for particulate matter less than ten microns in diameter (PM10).

The APCD uses the term clean air plan to describe the strategic plans we are required to prepare. Also called air quality attainment plans, and recently, a rate-of-progress plan, these plans are the foundation for most of what we do. The goal of the clean air plan is to reduce air pollution so that the air in this county meets the state and federal health standards.

Why So Many Plans?

Clean air plans are required by the Federal Clean Air Act and its amendments of 1977 and 1990, and by the California Clean Air Act of 1988 and its amendments. Each law contains specific mandates regarding who must prepare a plan and what the plan must include. Plans prepared under the California Clean Air Act must be updated every 3 years. Often, the information prepared for one plan is used as a basis for developing the next plan. In order to be effective, however, each plan must contain a current emission inventory and examine new methods for controlling air pollution.

Santa Barbara County is very close to meeting the federal standard for ozone. If we are able to meet this standard, the Federal Clean Air Act still requires us to prepare plans, called maintenance plans, to ensure we continue to meet the standard.

What Information Goes Into a Clean Air Plan?

1. Emission Inventory

The first step in preparing a clean air plan is taking a comprehensive inventory of all sources of air pollution in the county and estimating how much air pollution is emitted by these sources on an annual or daily basis. We call this an emission inventory. For the emission inventory, pollution sources are divided into two categories. Stationary sources of air pollution are businesses, industrial equipment, and other pollution producing activities such as painting, fires, landfills, and consumer products. Mobile sources of air pollution are transportation vehicles, for example cars and ships, and motor driven equipment that moves, like lawn mowers and portable generators. We estimate emissions from stationary sources from information submitted by businesses, or by multiplying an average rate of pollution for a particular type of activity by the number of businesses or individuals performing that activity in the county. Mobile source emissions are calculated based on the number and types of vehicles and equipment in the county and how much they are likely to be used.

2. Control Measures

Every clean air plan recommends ways to reduce air pollution. These ideas, called control measures, may call for certain equipment or materials to be used by a particular industry, or may suggest simple procedural changes. Some may be as general as public education. Each measure is evaluated for its potential to reduce air pollution in relation to the estimated cost of implementing the measure. These measures form the basis for future APCD rules.

The APCD uses an advisory committee representing industry, environmental, citizen, and government interests to assist in developing and ranking control measures. For some plans, it may not be necessary to develop new control measures. The 1993 Rate- of-Progress Plan, for example, relied on measures evaluated in the 1991 Air Quality Attainment Plan, plus a few contingency measures, to meet the 1993 mandate.

Control measures designed to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks are developed by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), in conjunction with the APCD. Implementation requires the cooperation of SBCAG, APCD local governments, and transit providers.

3. Emission Forecast

The final step in a clean air plan is to predict future air quality to demonstrate that we can (if we can) meet the health standards by implementing the measures proposed in the plan. We do this by first projecting our emission inventory into the future, taking into account changes in population, housing, employment in specific business sectors, and vehicle miles traveled. These data are obtained from various sources, including the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the California Air Resources Board. Then we adjust the resulting emissions to account for regulations and control measures scheduled for implementation during the same time period. Additional adjustments are made to reflect large facilities that are expected to start up, modify, or shut down. The resulting inventory is an emission forecast, and is usually expressed in tons per day of particular pollutants for a given year.

Additional steps may be required to determine how the forecasted quantities of air pollution will affect the overall air quality. One way to accomplish this is through computer modeling. A computer model simulates how pollutants disperse, react, and move in the air. The inputs to such a computer model are complex. They include weather patterns, terrain, and the chemical nature of air pollutants.

Who Adopts the Plans?

The clean air plans are adopted by the Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors at a public hearing, usually after several public workshops and a long public comment period. The transportation portions of the plans are also approved by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) Board of Directors. SBCAG is the regional transportation planning agency for Santa Barbara County, and is generally responsible for developing measures designed to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks.

The California Clean Air Act requires that the plans also be approved by the California Air Resources Board. The Federal Clean Air Act requires approval by the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Once approved, the plans become legal mandates for the APCD.

Then What?

Once a clean air plan is adopted and approved, our work is by no means finished. We work with businesses to develop and adopt the rules described in the plan. We enforce the rules through our permit and inspection programs. We monitor air quality to demonstrate the effectiveness of our strategy. We work with other government agencies to ensure their actions are consistent with our clean air goals. We respond to public inquiries and complaints. We help businesses understand and comply with federal, state, and local air pollution laws. And we search for additional ways to reduce air pollution through public education and the implementation of new technologies.

This answers a few commonly asked questions about clean air plans. If you have additional questions, please call the APCD’s Attainment Planning Section, 805-961-8800.

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New Phone Numbers
The District has new direct lines for all staff, as well as for all of our phone lines, including our main phone number and Complaints line. You can find our new phone numbers on this webpage.

Nuevos números de teléfono
El Distrito tiene nuevos números de teléfono para comunicarse con el personal directamente, así como también para todas nuestras líneas telefónicas, incluyendo nuestro número principal y el de las Quejas. Puede encontrar nuestros nuevos números de teléfono en esta página web.