Thursday, 30 June 2005 17:00

ARB solicits feedback on stricter VOC limits

The California Air Quality Review Board (CARB) is holding a series of public meetings to elicit feedback on its proposed statewide regulations for auto refinishing. The proposed rules would set a tougher standard for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) than are in place today and would standardize rules throughout the state. 

As it stands now there are no state regulations for VOCs. Local districts regulate VOC emissions from automotive coatings, with 21 districts following local rules and fourteen districts complying with National Rule VOC limits.

ARB has the oversight authority to regulate VOC emissions and is proposing the development of the Suggested Control Measure (SCM) to serve as a model rule for districts. The objectives of the SCM are to increase consistency among district rules, improve rule enforceability, and protect public health by reducing VOC emissions.

Twenty people attended the first workshop, either in person or on the internet. Participants included autobody shop owners, jobbers, the California Small Business Alliance representing CAA, three paint manufacturers and a representative from the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA).

Overview of SCM proposal

The purpose of this rule is to limit VOC emissions from coatings and solvents associated with the coating of motor vehicles and mobile equipment. The proposal:

• Combines Group I and Group II VOC limits.

• Eliminates the composite VOC limit for multistage systems.

• Combines coating categories.

• Replaces specialty coatings categories with specific categories.

• Establishes VOC limits based on available technology.

• Establishes prohibition of possession.

• Lowers the VOC limit for solvents used in cleaning operations to 25 grams per liter.

• Simplifies recordkeeping.

• Improves labeling.

Proposed Coating Categories

Existing categories of coating are being revised. For instance, precoat, primer, primer surfacer, primer sealer, adhesion promoters, and plastic/flexible primers will all be a part of the "Primer" category.

Hot topics

Two hot topics dominated the discussion after the slide presentation. Regarding the specialty categories of coatings, some participants indicated that certain special coatings might need an even higher VOC limit.

What kind of equipment is needed to properly dry waterborne paint? It was indicated that a special dryer would be needed at a cost of about $500. Both of these issues will be reviewed by ARB staff before the next meeting.


Financial impact

According to ARB, "The limits we are proposing can be met with available coating technology. In September, the staff will have an economic impact assessment for the coating manufacturers as well as for the autobody shops."

In general, the price of waterborne paints is comparable to the price of solvent-based paints. Whereas the price of the paint may be comparable, there will certainly be added expense in adapting older tools or purchasing new equipment.

Why now?

David McClune, Executive Director of the California Autobody Association (CAA), explained that the impetus behind these stricter regulations is a result of new standards adopted in Europe. In 2007, waterborne paint will be used exclusively. This essentially places the burden of meeting the new standards on the paint manufacturers. CAA has been involved in meetings with the ARB with the goal of making sure that everyone involved in the process - manufacturers, collision repair shops, OEMs - all have adequate time and resources to meet the more stringent requirements.

Waterborne paint

Waterborne paints have been evaluated as alternatives to solvent-based paints. The VOC content of waterborne paints is significantly lower than conventional solvent-based paints, thereby reducing VOC emissions. Waterborne (or latex) paints are composed of synthetic resins and pigments that are kept dispersed in water by surfactants. They also contain small amounts of coalescing solvents.

Waterborne paints dry by evaporation of the water. The coalescing solvents allow the resin particles to fuse together (coalesce) as the water evaporates to form a continuous coating. Waterborne paints must be protected from freezing and applied at a minimum temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

SC AQMD cooperates

The South Coast Air Quality Manage-ment District (AQMD) also has SCMs relating to automotive refinish coatings - Rule 1151. The AQMD is providing input into the ARB proposed SCM and exploring the idea of amending Rule 1151 in October to present a consistent VOC emission management policy throughout the state.

Upcoming schedule

Mark your calendars for significant dates as the process moves forward. There will be a second workshop later this month. On September 20, 2005 there will be a proposed SCM and staff report released. October 20, 2005 has been tentatively set as a board hearing date.

How can industry personnel be heard?

There are several proactive steps collision industry personnel can take to make their voices heard regarding the SCMs.

• Visit the website: www.arb.ca.gov/ coatings/autorefin/scm/sc m.htm for specific language regarding the proposed rule.

• Sign up for List Server to get updates on developments as they occur.

• Provide comments showing either support or expressing dissatisfaction with the proposed rules.

• Meet with ARB for more detailed information and to express concerns face-to-face.

• Attend board hearing (can participate via internet).

These public sessions create an opportunity for collision repair professionals make their opinion known. This is an opportunity to step forward before regulations are enacted and let your voice be heard.