The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has some of the country’s most stringent air quality regulations.
So what does this mean for businesses that operate within this jurisdiction?
It means quite a bit.
The South Coast Air Basin (SCAB)
Most of what we know as “Southern California” falls in a 10,000-square-mile area called the South Coast Air Basin (SCAB).
Geographically, the SCAB includes all of Orange County and the urban parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
Now, it is well known that folks living in the area called the SCAB are exposed to some of the poorest quality air in the nation. But this isn’t a new problem. The fact is that folks living in SCAB have been battling air pollution since 1947.
There are three primary reasons why the SCAB experiences some of the worst air quality in the nation.
Population: With nearly 17 million people, the SCAB is the second most populated urban area in the U.S. Along with all those people comes an abundance of cars, and limited public transportation, when compared to other metropolitan areas of its size.
Sunshine: The SCAB experiences the most days of sunlight out of all major urban areas within the U.S. (with the exception of Phoenix). While folks flock to the sunshine, it is also the same sunshine that causes the formation of air pollutants in the atmosphere.
Ports: The SCAB is home to two of the busiest ports in the U.S. — Los Angeles and Long Beach.
All of these individual elements contribute to Southern California’s severe air quality problem.
What Does This Mean for Businesses in Southern California?
To answer this question, you first need to understand what it means when an area has an “air quality problem.”
Generally speaking, when an area has an “air quality problem,” the given area does not attain one or more of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). And, in fact, the SCAB does not meet the NAAQS for one or more of the criteria pollutants.
That means that a business operating within the SCAB must comply with stricter air quality rules and regulations than in other regions (e.g., the Bay Area, Hawaii, Nevada).
But who imposes these regulations?
Introducing the SCAQMD
The SCAQMD is just one of the 35 air quality regulatory agencies in California. Each of these agencies was created with the sole purpose of controlling air pollution within its jurisdictional boundaries.
Here in the SCAB, the SCAQMD regulates air quality through programs and initiatives that include the use of permits and compliance checks for more than 28,000 businesses that range in size from corner gas stations to large petroleum refineries.
Because the SCAB experiences some of the worst air pollution in the nation, the SCAQMD is often at the forefront of the nation’s regulatory efforts in air quality.
At the same time, severe fines are imposed for non-compliance (up to $1 million per day, depending on the severity of the problem).
How Is the SCAQMD Structured?
The SCAQMD is comprised of ten offices that range from policy making to human resources. Three of the most notable are:
Governing Board: This group of thirteen officials holds monthly meetings to establish policy and approve or reject new or amended rules.
Executive Office: This group converts goals and objectives of the district into programs and enforceable regulations to meet air quality standards.
Engineering & Compliance: This group handles permits and compliance for the district. As a result, it works closely with local businesses.
The SCAQMD’s Role in Regulating Air Pollution
When you look at the sources that are emitting pollutants, you can break them down into two broad categories:
- Stationary sources
- Mobile sources
Stationary sources are factories and facilities that manufacture a specific product, while mobile sources are cars, trucks, buses, ships, trains, etc., that are involved in transportation.
In case you were wondering, more than 75 percent of emissions within the SCAB are due to mobile sources; the remaining 25 percent comes from stationary sources.
The SCAQMD focuses their efforts on controlling pollution from stationary sources, while the regulation of mobile sources is handled by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
The fact that the SCAQMD does not have the authority to regulate all sources of air pollution is an example of the complexity that surrounds air quality regulations in California.
Instead, the CARB, SCAQMD, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must all work together to ensure that air quality standards are met in one of the most severely polluted regions in the nation.
As you can imagine, that is not an easy task.
Now you know why the SCAQMD has some of the most stringent air quality regulations in the world. Wouldn’t you like to know how to comply with their air quality regulations?
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Bryant Vu is a contributor at Envera Consulting. He has a BS degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.