The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is the agency responsible for protecting the people and the environment of this county from the effects of air pollution. We accomplish this by implementing state and federal air pollution control laws in order to attain all ambient air quality standards and to minimize public exposure to airborne toxins and nuisance odors.

Violations of these air quality laws may result in fines, an order to temporarily shut down your business, or in extreme cases, jail. However, the APCD realizes that there may be valid reasons why you can’t immediately comply with air pollution control requirements. The only legal way to continue operating while you solve the problem is to obtain a variance.

What is a Variance?

A variance is an administrative order granting a temporary exemption from the requirements of an APCD regulation or permit condition. If you receive a notice of violation or otherwise become aware that your equipment or process is out of compliance, a variance may allow you to continue operating while you take steps to come into compliance. Variances are granted only by the Air Pollution Control District Hearing Board, not by APCD staff. This page explains the steps you must take to request a variance. The conditions under which a variance may be granted are listed under Granting a Variance.

The Hearing Board

The Air Pollution Control District (APCD) Hearing Board is a decision-making body appointed by the APCD Board. The Hearing Board makes decisions on individual cases involving the applicability of state air pollution control laws and local APCD rules and regulations. The Hearing Board consists of five members. By law, the Hearing Board must include an attorney, a professional engineer, a medical doctor, and two members of the general public.

The Hearing Board, like a court of law, hears evidence from various parties and considers the provisions of law to make determinations on permit appeals, variances, and requests for permit revocations and abatement orders.

Types of Variances

Emergency If your violation occurs without warning, you can request an emergency variance. An emergency variance allows you up to 30 days to correct the violation and does not require a hearing before the full Hearing Board.

Short Term If you can comply with the regulation or permit condition within 90 days, request a short term variance. This type of variance requires a hearing and a 10 day public notice period.

Regular If you need more than 90 days to comply, you should request a regular variance. The variance period may extend beyond one year only if you commit to a specific schedule for final compliance. A regular variance requires a hearing and a 15 day public notice period.

Interim If you need coverage during the time you wait for a hearing before the full hearing board, you must request an interim variance. Request the interim variance at the same time you file for either a short term or regular variance.

Requesting a Variance

If you need to request a variance, fill out a variance petition form.  For emergency and short term variances, a single copy of the variance petition should be filed by mail or in person at the APCD, 260 North San Antonio Road, Suite A, Santa Barbara, CA 93110, Attn: Variance.  All other variance petitions require the submittal of an original plus 12 copies.  For ease of initial submission, Petitions may be sent electronically to [email protected], so long as the original wet signature Petition is delivered to the APCD within 3 business days.  You will be charged a variance filing fee which helps to offset the costs of the Hearing Board process.  Current variance filing fees may be found under Fees (look for the latest CPI adjustment), Schedule F, sections 12a and 12b on Download Rules.  After you submit the completed variance petition form and fee, someone from the District will contact you to discuss the time, date, and place of your hearing.

Granting a Variance

The Hearing Board analyzes the following elements before approving a request for a variance:

  • The law, rule, regulation, or permit condition that has been or will be violated.
  • The nature and severity of the violation, and whether the situation was beyond your reasonable control.
  • Your efforts to curtail operations and reduce emissions, and to monitor emissions.
  • Your increments of progress to achieve compliance.
  • The impact to the public.
  • The benefits and costs to your business.

A variance will not be granted for any condition that threatens public health, property, or causes a public nuisance.

At the Hearing

Variance hearings are similar to courtroom proceedings. Evidence is presented under oath and the applicant may be questioned by the Hearing Board members. The APCD may make a recommendation for or against a variance, and may suggest conditions of approval. The public is invited to present any information relevant to the case. The Hearing Board then closes the hearing and discusses the case openly before reaching a decision.

How to Prepare

You may choose to retain an attorney to present your case, or you may represent yourself. You should have a copy of your current air quality permits with you. Be familiar with your permits and the law, rule, regulation, or condition with which you are unable to comply. You should also know your excess emissions and how and when you plan to come into complete compliance. Bring along any technical experts who are helping you. If you submit written documents, the Hearing Board needs the original plus 12 copies.

To Request a Variance . . .

Develop a compliance schedule with specific milestones and dates. Decide which type of variance will meet your needs (see above). Submit your variance application and compliance schedule. If applying for a short-term or regular variance, you may also need to request an interim variance to cover you while you wait for your hearing. Come to your hearing prepared to answer questions regarding your variance application, your permit, the nature of and reasons for the violation, and your compliance schedule. Keep to your schedule. If you are unable to meet your milestones, notify the APCD as early as possible.

State laws regarding hearing boards and variances are contained in the California Health and Safety Code Sections 40800 to 40865 and 42350 to 42364.


Contact us via email at [email protected]

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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.