State Air Resources Board Drops Expansion of Emissions Reporting to Small Businesses

In response to objections raised by the California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has dropped—for now—its proposal to require many small businesses to report air emissions.

The newest draft of the air emissions reporting regulation does not require the duplicative data collection and reporting by a catch-all category of facilities based on their emission levels.

That category includes 48,700 businesses, among them about 17,200 small businesses, not specified in the 2017 legislation establishing the emissions monitoring program (AB 617; C. Garcia; D-Bell Gardens; Chapter 136).

By CARB’s own estimates, expanding the data collection program to the businesses in the catch-all category would have more than quadrupled the cost of the program to exceed $80 million, compared to an original cost estimate of $20 million.

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.

CARB estimated that 1,300 facilities are covered by the three categories of stationary emission sources AB 617 placed in law:

  • Sources covered by the cap-and-trade regulations;
  • Facilities in districts that are out of compliance with the Federal Clean Air Act and have permits authorizing emissions greater than 250 tons per year;
  • Elevated priority for air toxics.

CARB suggested it would consider adding emissions reporting requirements for the fourth catch-all category of businesses in a future rulemaking or update.

Draft Improvements

Other changes in the latest draft regulation show a substantial improvement over the previous draft. Those changes include:

  • Clarifying that emissions collection and reporting are on a phase-in schedule;
  • Adding explicit language to clarify that entities will not be liable for the failure of air districts to provide data to CARB.
  • Expanding the agricultural irrigation pump exclusion;
  • Clarifying emissions data collection methods;
  • Clarifying the overlapping enforcement authority of CARB and local air districts;
  • Making the requirements for portable equipment more consistent with the existing portable equipment registration program;
  • Changing definitions for certain emissions to be monitored so that they are more consistent with federal definitions.

Continuing Concerns

Still in need of work are sections of the regulation dealing with:

  • Confidentiality of data submissions;
  • Approval of emissions reporting methods;
  • 30-day time for responding to CARB requests.

What’s Next

The CalChamber will continue to work with CARB to clear up remaining business concerns. CARB has yet to announce whether a future public hearing will be held on these changes, but public comments were due by midnight on August 1.

Staff Contact: Leah Silverthorn

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.