Release 97-18

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       CONTACT: Jerry Martin
June 30, 1997                                                                                                     Allan Hirsch
                                                                                                                           (916) 322-2990

ARB Audits Sacramento Air Quality Program

        SACRAMENTO - The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today announced the findings of its1996 review of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (SMAQMD). According to the ARB report, the district needs to improve its enforcement and permitting programs.

        John Dunlap, ARB Chairman said, "It's clear from our review that the district needs to improve its compliance program for local pollution sources that either violate their permit obligations or operate without approved permits. We will do everything possible to assist the district in improving its program, including giving added staff training and technical assistance."

        ARB inspectors found a number of small businesses that were operating without proper air quality permits. The report notes that, "Even our very limited study was able to detect a total of 12 unpermitted coating/graphic arts operations with little effort by screening potential unpermitted sources from business listings." In addition, the ARB found emission violations in five of the seven industrial sources it reviewed. ARB inspectors also found record keeping violations at another of the seven facilities. Further, the ARB report said that many older operating permits issued by the district were vague, insufficient or unenforceable. "Unlike other districts, Sacramento AQMD has not developed a program to undertake an annual review of permits to update them for enforceability and compliance with current state law."

        "ARB inspectors had little trouble finding Sacramento area businesses violating their operating permits or actually operating without permits. The district should augment its business outreach efforts and take more aggressive action against violators," said Michael Kenny, ARB executive officer.

        The evaluation also determined that nearly 60 percent of area dry cleaners inspected had emission violations of perchloroethylene, a compound identified by the ARB as a Toxic Air Contaminant. The report does point out, however, that because these controls are relatively new a high noncompliance rate is not surprising.

        According to the report, a reason for this high noncompliance rate is that the district does not have enough field inspectors to provide adequate guidance and training for businesses subject to air quality rules. Because of that shortage, the district does not follow the recommended practice of annually inspecting pollution sources that emit less than 25 tons of smog-forming material every year. Instead, most of those facilities are inspected only once every three years.

        Another ARB finding was that the district failed to develop written procedures for all program elements such as: referral of cases to the District Attorney that could not be resolved through mutual settlement procedures, analysis of Best Available Control Technology and New Source Review implementation.

        In addition, the ARB report expresses concern over the issuance of Notices to Comply for lesser emission violations, instead of actual Notices of Violation that often carry financial penalties. The ARB also noted that the length of time between the issuance of a Notice of Violation and case settlement is excessive and should be shortened from the current average of 200 days. During the review of the district's settlement records, ARB inspectors found that only 25 of 120 notices of violations filed in 1995 had been settled, an average of just 21 percent.

        The ARB report notes that Sacramento air quality is still most influenced by emissions from cars, trucks and buses with 54 percent of its hydrocarbons and 91 percent of nitrogen oxides emitted from mobile sources. The ARB report points out, however, that with the introduction of cleaner fuels and newer, clean-running vehicles the contribution of emissions from stationary sources will most likely increase.

        The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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