Tuesday, 31 January 2006 09:00

AQMD tightens up VOC standards

The South Coast Air Quality Manage-ment District (AQMD), the Southland's air quality agency, has adopted stricter standards to significantly reduce smog-forming emissions from coatings used in nearly 1,800 auto body shops in the region. The standards will take effect in 2008. 

"Technology advancements in recent years will help transition this industry away from conventional solvent-based products to the less-polluting materials currently available for automotive refinishing," said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD's executive officer. "The Southland will see a significant reduction in smog-forming hydrocarbons from this measure."

This action represents a major shift in the chemical composition of automotive coatings and a move away from conventional solvent-based products to more environmentally-friendly waterborne coatings.

Amendments to Rule 1151 - Motor Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Non- Assembly Line Coating Operations - lower the limits of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) previously established in 1998. The new limits are consistent with the California Air Resources Board's recently adopted statewide Suggested Control Measure for Automotive Coatings adopted in October.

The new limits, effective in July 2008, will reduce VOC emissions by 3.7 tons per day by 2010 and affect the nearly 1,800 small to medium-size automotive refinishing facilities and coating manufacturers in the Southland.

Rule 1401.1 revisited

In other news, AQMD reversed an October 2005 decision in which it failed to pass Proposed Rule 1401.1, a rule to prevent businesses emitting certain levels of toxins from locating near schools.

The adoption of Rule 1401.1 fulfils one of the measures outlined in AQMD's 2003 strategy for reducing cumulative impacts from air pollution. Historically, some parents and community groups have expressed concerns that some existing facilities near schools, such as chrome plating shops, may pose a health threat to school children.

Rule 1401.1 will reduce the potential cancer risk to students near such facilities by requiring that new facilities locating within 500 feet of a school (or 1,000 feet in certain cases) not create a total cancer risk greater than one in 1 million. Currently, new facilities must meet a maximum cancer risk threshold of one in 1 million for each individual piece of equipment with toxic emissions, or 10 in 1 million if the equipment meets requirements for best available control technology.

In addition, the new rule requires that for relocated facilities, their health risk must not increase from a previous location to a new location within 500 feet of a school.

The new rule is expected to affect a mere handful of new facilities each year, primarily large gas stations.

Opposition from collision industry

While the environmental community has supported the rule and encouraged even stronger restrictions, the California Autobody Association (CAA) remains in opposition.

In addition, the California Small Business Alliance (CSBA), of which CAA is a member, previously testified that the rule is "costly and burdensome" and will cause loss of tax revenue and jobs.