CalChamber Objects to Massive Expansion of Air Emissions Reporting Mandate

No Public Hearing Set as Proposed Rule Now Encompasses Small Businesses

Small businesses, including many without in-house air specialists, may soon be required to report air emissions, according to a draft regulation that is advancing without a public hearing.

The California Chamber of Commerce raised concerns this month about the latest draft regulation the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has proposed for reporting air emissions.

CARB is attempting to create a statewide approach to collecting and monitoring data to avoid piecemeal collection and ensure the use of best available technology to measure air emissions across the state.

In contrast to the first draft of the regulation, which applied to three categories of stationary sources of emissions, the latest version proposes adding a fourth category of entities required to report emissions: any entity to which an air district has granted a permit to operate if that entity has emissions greater than a specified threshold.

CARB estimates that 1,300 facilities are included in the three categories of stationary sources, but 48,700 facilities would be covered under the fourth category, including about 17,200 small businesses.

The 2017 legislation establishing the monitoring program (AB 617; C. Garcia; D-Bell Gardens; Chapter 136) authorized monitoring requirements for defined stationary sources. Many of the emission sources in the proposed fourth category of entities required to report fall outside the definitions in the legislation.

No public hearing has been set to allow the business community to discuss the criteria for the fourth category of entities required to report emissions.

Magnitude of Costs

The CalChamber has significant concerns about the cost of the reporting program, especially to the extent that it duplicates or complicates data submissions the air districts already are collecting.

Original estimates were that the data collection program would cost about $20 million. With the expansion of the program, the estimated cost has more than quadrupled to exceed $80 million.
The costs will be passed along to the regulated entities on top of the estimated costs to the regulated industries.

In addition, CARB still must incur additional costs to develop an electronic reporting system to fully integrate and streamline the process.

The CalChamber called for an analysis of alternatives to determine other options for data collection that do not require similarly substantial costs.

Other Concerns

Abbreviated reporting is appropriate and needed to avoid a burden on sectors of the economy that should have little or easily quantifiable emissions. Some sections of the regulation dealing with abbreviated reports need clarification.

Emissions reporting requirements: Using existing district reporting methods, forms and processes while CARB develops a more streamlined electronic submission program is crucial to prevent backlogs and mistakes. Reporting deadlines should be phased in to coincide with district deadlines until the two can be reconciled to the same date.

Duplicative reporting: CalChamber remains concerned that much of the significant amount of data that the draft regulation requires for submission may already be submitted to the air district in other forms and expressed hope that CARB and the air districts will continue to work together to reduce possible duplicative reporting to the maximum extent possible.

Confidentiality: The CalChamber emphasized that information submitted to CARB should be subject to the same confidentiality and trade secret protections that prevent unnecessary disclosure under the public records act.

Enforcement: CalChamber recommended that only the defined stationary sources of emissions be subject to the proposed enforcement and civil penalties, and that the regulation’s language be clarified to confirm that facilities are not subject to double penalties by CARB and the local air district for the same violation.

What’s Next

It is unclear whether CARB will heed stakeholders’ requests to hold a public hearing on the new draft. The CARB staff will prepare a final version of the rule and report to CARB at a future meeting (not yet set) for a vote on adoption.

Staff Contact: Leah Silverthorn

Leah B. Silverthorn joined the CalChamber policy team in May 2018 as a policy advocate. She specializes in climate change, air quality, energy, environmental justice, marijuana/cannabis, and transportation and infrastructure issues. In April 2021, she was named a senior policy advocate in recognition of her efforts on behalf of members. She brought to the CalChamber more than decade of legal experience in environmental, energy, and land use matters. Immediately before coming to the CalChamber, she was the principal owner of Silverthorn Legal, based in Seattle, Washington. She focused on environmental litigation, contaminated property redevelopment, and environmental cost recovery and defense. She is an honors graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington, with a B.S. in public affairs and environmental management. She earned her J.D., with honors, at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where she was articles editor for the Indiana International and Comparative Law Review and a member of the Moot Court Board. See full bio.