Santa Barbara County Air Quality News January/February 1997
Index of Topics in Past Issues
On the Air is a bimonthly newsletter published by the Planning and Community Assistance Section of the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. For more information on items in this newsletter, or to be added to our print subscription list, contact Bobbie Bratz, [email protected] or (805) 961-8890.
On November 27, 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone. The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA to review air quality standards every five years, based on recent health studies.
The purpose of the new standards are to “provide new protection to nearly 133 million Americans, including 40 million children.” EPA and an independent Board of scientists reviewed 271 health studies, concluding that serious health effects would occur even if the current standards were being met, indicating the need for stronger health protection.
EPA estimates that the proposed particulate matter standard, along with clean air programs already planned, will reduce premature deaths by 40,000 per year and reduce serious respiratory problems in children by 250,000 cases per year. The proposed ozone standard is expected to reduce cases of significant breathing problems by 1.5 million cases, reduce hospital and emergency room admissions, cut illness in children, and prevent 1 billion dollars in agriculture crop losses due to ozone damage.
EPA’s proposal is voluminous. The proposed standards are accompanied by policies and requirements for implementing the new standards. APCD staff have reviewed the proposal to determine the implications to our planning and regulatory processes and to provide input before the close of the public comment period, February 18, 1997. Following is a summary of EPA’s current proposal, as we understand it.
Particulate matter is a mix of coarse and fine particles that can’t be seen individually, but often appear as haze, dust clouds, or sooty emissions. Sources of course particles include industrial crushing and grinding operations, materials handling, vehicle travel on unpaved roads, and windblown dust. Fine particles result from fuel combustion in industrial, vehicle, and power generating equipment, as well and wood and brush burning. Pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds also can form fine particles.
The current particulate matter standard regulates inhalable particles the size of 10 microns and smaller (PM10). EPA proposes to retain this standard and add a new standard focusing on the most damaging particles 2.5 microns and smaller (PM2.5). The proposed particulate matter standard is not expected to immediately affect Santa Barbara County because there are no data available to determine compliance. If we are required to monitor PM2.5, our equipment will need to be upgraded.
Ground-level ozone, the primary ingredient of smog, is easily formed in the atmosphere during hot, still weather. Smog results from a reaction between nitrogen oxides and reactive organic gases in the presence of sunlight. Nitrogen oxides come from on- and off-road motor vehicles and fuel-burning industrial equipment. Reactive organic gases come from vehicles, solvents, consumer products, and the petroleum industry. In addition to its harmful health effects, ozone makes plants more susceptible to disease and pests, and reduces agricultural crop yields for many economically vital crops. EPA is proposing to replace the current standard of 0.12 parts per million (ppm) averaged over 1 hour, with a standard of 0.08 ppm, averaged over 8 hours. They also propose to determine attainment of the standard based on a 3-year average, rather than the current method which allows no more than three exceedances in three years. The proposed ozone standard is more protective of public health and will be more difficult for Santa Barbara County to meet. The figure below shows that we exceeded the proposed 8-hour standard on more days than the existing 1-hour standard, but fewer days than the more stringent California 1-hour standard of 0.09 ppm.
Three-Year Averages at Six Monitoring Stations Throughout Santa Barbara County
Data is from Air Resources Board and APCD operated stations in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria. Each year represents an average of three years, a technique used to smooth the data and show trends.
Under EPA’s proposed implementation policy, we will be required to prepare a new Clean Air Plan to reduce ozone-forming emissions by an additional nine percent by 1999. Revisions to our New Source Review Rule will also be required — our current revision in progress (see Business Focus, this issue) will likely meet these requirements. All control measures currently in place must remain in place to prevent “backsliding.” However, it is unclear how this applies to contingency measures. Our 1994 Clean Air Plan identified an enhanced vehicle smog check program to be implemented upon failure to attain the existing 1-hour ozone standard (see On the Air, November/ December 1996). APCD staff have recommended that we proceed cautiously with implementation of this measure until the state resolves the more problematic aspects of the program. Our interpretation of the EPA proposed implementation policy suggests that we can delay implementation of this measure if we are able to show the nine percent reduction from 1996 through 1999. We will request that this interpretation be clarified in EPA’s final rulemaking, expected in June, 1997.
For more information, please call Tom Murphy of the APCD’s Planning and Community Assistance Section, (805) 961-8857.
EPA is hoping to hear from a wide range of the people on this proposal, from scientists and environmentalists to industry experts, small business experts, doctors, and parents. Written comments on the proposal should be sent to:
Office of Air & Radiation Docket & Information Center Air Docket (6102) USEPA 401 M Street, SW Room M-1500 Washington, DC 20460 Ozone Docket #A-95-58 PM Docket #A-95-54 Interim Implementation Policy Docket #A-95-38
On-Line Information on EPA’s proposal and other related EPA programs can be found on the World Wide Web at the following location:
1996 Report to the Community
Enclosed with this issue is the APCD’s first annual Report to the Community. The purpose of the report, much like a corporate annual report, is to give the community a comprehensive and easy to understand update on the activities of the APCD. The report does not replace the annual air quality report, a technical document that includes detailed air monitoring data and meets specific state and federal requirements.
The Report to the Community includes a description of who we are, our budget, 1996 air quality, notable achievements, how to stay informed, and how to reach us.
If you receive this newsletter by mail, you should have also received a copy of the Report to the Community. If you picked up this newsletter from a public location, or are viewing it on the web, you may request a copy of the report by calling Rose Pueschel, (805) 961-8822.
For questions or comments on the 1996 Report to the Community, please call Bobbie Bratz, Supervisor of the Planning and Community Assistance Section, (805) 961-8890.
Since December 1995, our Business Assistance Program has sent customer service surveys to every business who received a permit or facility inspection in the prior month. We’ve distributed over 780 surveys and, to date, show a 24 percent response rate.
In general, over 80 percent of the surveys returned indicate that businesses are satisfied or extremely satisfied with the permitting and inspection services we provide. We believe this is a good baseline to use in our continuous improvement efforts. We appreciate constructive comments as they provide us the opportunity to improve our performance and to work on changing misperceptions where they exist.
Permitees feel our engineers should be more helpful and solution oriented by assisting businesses complete applications and decipher rule requirements. To enhance our assistance skills extensive customer service training is planned in early 1997 for all of our technical staff.
Understanding the Permit Process
Businesses commented that the permit process is extremely complicated for the lay person and small companies cannot afford consultants. We are committed to working with businesses so that the routine permit process can be completed without the expense of a consultant. We currently offer pre-application meetings and will begin hosting periodic “open houses” where permitting staff will be available for small and medium sized businesses to discuss their application, free of charge. In addition to our Business Assistance Line, our Internet Web site also provides extensive details on our permitting process, fees, rules, and much more (see related article in this issue).
Streamlining the Permitting Process
Many commentors noted that permitting efforts should produce results, not paper. In the past several years we have implemented a number of measures to streamline the permit process. These measures are described in the March/ April 1996 issue of On the Air and we want to hear other measures people think are appropriate. We believe the permit process is resulting in cleaner air for all residents of the county.
The Inspection Process
Many businesses commented that inspections should be scheduled ahead of time to avoid disrupting daily operations. To maintain the integrity of the inspection, our policy is to conduct unannounced inspections. However, we are willing to work with businesses to determine which days of the week are better for them to accommodate inspections. This step has been successfully applied to the dry cleaning industry.
For more information on Customer Service Surveys, contact Bobbie Bratz, (805) 961-8890.
Old Car Buy-Back
The Old Car Buy-Back program ran out of funds in early November, 1996. The program began in April, 1993, and purchased over 1250 older model vehicles with smog controls that are less effective than newer models. The cars were dismantled to permanently remove them from county roads.
In February, the APCD Board will consider a request to continue the program with funds from the clean air surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees.
|AUG 1996||SEP 1996|
|ATC Applications Received||14||8|
|ATC Permits Issued||11||6|
|PTO Applications Received||8||21|
|PTO Permits Issued||16||12|
|Notices of Violation Issued||18||17|
|Administrative Infractions Documented (subset of above)||4||2|