AB 617 Background
In September 2017, the California State Legislature and Governor agreed to extend Cap and Trade as part of a legislative package that included the appropriation of $1.5 billion in Cap and Trade funding. The Cap and Trade deal also included the passage of AB 617 that requires the state Air Resources Board and air districts to develop and implement additional emissions reporting, monitoring, and reduction plans and measures in an effort to reduce air pollution exposure in impacted communities.
Overall direction of the program must be set by CARB by October 1, 2018. Local air districts also have specific roles and responsibilities. The District will actively participate and facilitate input by Valley residents.
The framework for AB 617 is only in draft form, but the timeline has been expedited and changes continue to be made to the program. Some of the implementation falls on the California Air Resources Board, with the San Joaquin Valley Pollution Control District to enforce the rest. Given the many "unknowns" about this legislation, MCCV members need to become informed and involved in this process. Here is what we know now...
Workshops and Meetings
As part of their efforts to obtain input from Valley residents, CARB hosted an AB 617 workshop in Bakersfield in March. The meeting was attended by MCCV's Executive Director, Jennifer Shipman, who provided testimony. "This is a huge issue that could affect stationary sources immensely, so it was important for the manufacturing community to have a voice at the workshop," declared Shipman.
Participation from industry groups and commodities at the Bakersfield workshop was limited, starkly contrasted with a large presence of environmentalists.
"Due to the lack of input from northern San Joaquin Valley manufacturers, MCCV invited CARB and Air District to give a special presentation overview of AB 617," Shipman explained. "What's more, a majority of the Central Valley was bypassed by holding the only workshop in Bakersfield. So we invited the District and CARB to attend our last working committee meeting on February 21 in Modesto."
There are a number of major components to the AB 617 program:
Community Emissions Reductions Programs
Selected Community Monitoring Programs
Community Advisory Committees
Once communities are selected and emissions reductions programs created, pollution monitoring equipment will be placed within those communities. Steering committees will determine what can be done to reduce emissions in their particular community.
MANUFACTURER CONCERNSWhat's a "Community"?
In the San Joaquin Valley, a portion of Cap and Trade revenues will be directed to projects in areas that are already disproportionately impacted by air pollution. A pollution mapping tool, CalEnviroScreen, has been developed by environmental justice groups to identify such disadvantaged communities.
A big concern about the draft legislation is that the term "communities" is undefined. At the Bakersfield workshop, Shipman asked a number of questions requesting for more specifics on this term, but CARB did not provide clarification (please see the Valley Air District website for Shipman's testimony). When asked if it could be a city like Fresno, the answer was that it unlikely it could be as big as a city. When Shipman asked how small a community might be--could it be as small as a stationary source, like a single company location that would have to comply--they did not provide an answer.
"We are concerned that this legislation could lead to red-lining of individual stationary sources i.e. individual farming operations, processors, manufacturers," asserted Shipman.
No "Objection Process" for Stationary Sources
The chance of a stationary source being wrongfully blamed for emitting pollution is a very real possibility with AB 617. The data pulled from mobile monitoring units will be made available online in real-time. Thus, the public can log in and see immediately what kind of pollutants are being emitted near a particular monitor. The following scenario will show why this should concern all stationary sources.
Scenario: A small community has a single monitor placed next to a large food processor. The monitor is positioned next to a building that is adjacent to a busy 4-lane road that sees a great deal of diesel-spewing trucks and fuel emitting vehicles all day. When the public views the monitoring results from this location, they could easily assume all of the pollutants are being emitted from the food processor.
Nowhere in framework is there a vetting/objection process, which Shipman emphasized the need for at recent District and CARB meetings. Shipman explained, "There has to be some sort of protection for companies to say, 'Hey, this isn't us.' We know there will be quality monitors put in place by the District, so our concern isn't the quality of the data. Rather, we are concerned about the source of the emissions being misleading and the public's perception of the monitoring data. We want companies to be able to protect themselves from being falsely accused of polluting."
Community Advisory Committees and Action Plans
Action plans have to be determined by individual Community Advisory Committees. "MCCV is participating in the development of all the major program components to make sure manufacturers are protected as much as possible," assured Shipman. "We will continue to remind them that manufacturing needs to have a place on the Community Advisory Committees."
How Will This Be Funded?
The District allocated $80 million for support of AB 617 implementation. Funding will be used for the development and implementation of additional emissions reporting, air pollution monitoring, Best Available Retrofit Control Technology (BARCT), and emission reduction plan requirements and measures.
Funding has been made available for the first year, only. "It's most likely that future funding will come from stationary sources," explained Shipman. "Thus, this becomes another unfunded state mandate. MCCV's hope is that the financial burden will be shared with mobile sources which create the majority of the issues."
Regulatory and incentive components will be awarded to individual communities. Funding for these incentives could potentially come from Cap and Trade, so that companies don't have to carry all of the financial burden.
Voice Your Concerns
"This is an issue that we really need members to voice their concerns about to CARB and SJVPD. There's simply too much that is left undefined, and that is extremely worrisome," Shipman asserted.
MCCV will attend every workshop going forward, actively participating in the development process. Shipman confirmed, "We also plan to have the District or CARB come to every environmental committee meeting to continually provide updates as the process moves forward."
MCCV members are encouraged to attend future meetings, participating in the process. The next meeting date has not yet been set, so please keep checking the CARB AB 617 website or ValleyAir.org. Feel free to also contact Jennifer Shipman at email@example.com