Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:44

Pasadena/Glendale CAA Chapter Meeting Gets Heated on Rulemaking and Fraud

This meeting at Brookside Country Club by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was the last chapter meeting of 2010. With the end of 2010 fast approaching and new rules taking effect, a major focus of the meeting was to help members gain an understanding of what SCAQMD Rule 1147 is all about and how it could affect them. The deadline for Rule 1147 takes effect January 1, 2011, and will have a major financial impact on many body shop owners.

One of the speakers on the subject was Wayne Barcikowski, a chemical engineer with 20 years at the AQMD, who wrote the Rule. The major concern for shop owners and managers is how permits required by Rule 1147 will impact them financially. Ms. Van Huong N. Phan, 23-year AWMD veteran and senior air quality engineer for the compliance office handled the questions about “Permits.”

Although Rule 1147 originated in 2008, few shop owners and managers have focused much on costs they may incur to comply with the rule after January 1st. The rule states: “The purpose of this rule is to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from gaseous and liquid fuel fired combustion equipment as defined in this rule.” The equipment at collision repair facilities that fall under this rule include ovens, dryers, dehydrators, heaters, and afterburners. Essentially the age and volume of usage of a unit determine the parts per million (PPM) of NOx emissions limits of the unit, and the date when Rule 1147 will take affect for that unit. For example, spray booth make-up air heaters installed after December 5, 2008 and before January 1, 2011 are exempt until July 1st of the year the unit is 15 years old.

There were many questions directed at Ms. Phan about permits, but most were focused on costly meters that must be installed to determine usage and emissions output.

One shop owner noted that meters for his four spray booths could run into many thousands of dollars. Further complicating the issue is the fact that each booth is rated differently depending on when it was installed, amount of usage, and when Rule 1147 would take effect for each booth.

There are further complications resulting from the requirements for whoever does the emission testing. If a test is found to be invalid, the shop owner who thought he or she complied with the rule could be fined for non-compliance.

Needless to say, these issues generated many heated exchanges during the meeting. Ms. Phan retained her “cool” and addressed each question carefully in great detail. She also provided a “hot line” number, (909) 396-3393, for those who found the rule confusing.

Substantial additional heat was generated by the differing viewpoints of the next two speakers. Auto Club Fraud S.I.U (Special Investigation Unit) speaker Victor Valdez, said to be one of the most educated and informed investigators on fraud, came up against criminal defense attorney Dyke E. Huish, from Irvine. Huish recently defended some of the collision repair personnel caught up in a “sting” operation in Orange County.

Mr. Valdez claimed that his visit to a shop was only to “obtain information and report” and not to incriminate shop personnel.

Attorney Huish said CAA  members should be very careful when visited by an S.U.I. agent. He stressed the importance of using our constitutional right to “remain silent.” He said that, when asked for specific information, you should never respond immediately. Ask to have the questions in writing, or write them down yourself. Then review the questions when not under any pressure for an immediate answer. Also consider getting professional advice from your accountant or attorney before responding. In fact, he noted, much of the time there is no obligation to respond at all.

The meeting was scheduled to end at 9:00 p.m., but continued on until 10:00 p.m. due to many heated questions and answers. Attorney Huish went on for quite a while, but he added so much humor to his presentation no one objected. He got a great laugh when he said your best defensive tool is to simply, “Shut up!”

Linda Holcomb, Co-Chapter President, said a Holiday Mixer is being planned for December 3rd. Sponsors for the meeting were Filice Insurance Agency, specializing in health insurance for collision repair facilities, and Update Promise software designed to keep collision repair customers updated on repair progress.

Steve Harriman from Filice Insurance offered some valuable advice on defensive measures that shops can take when the Affordable Care Act (“OmbamaCare”) legislation kicks in. He can be contacted at 909-748-7073.

Curt Nixon also spoke briefly about Update Promise. He can be reached at 626-926-3975.

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