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EPA prepares to return air permitting program to California

Release Date: 10/9/2003
Contact Information: Contact: Laura Gentile (415) 947-4227

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed returning California's Title V permitting program for agricultural sources back to the state.

The EPA is accepting comments from the public on its proposal for the next 30 days. If the rule is finalized, major agricultural sources, such as farms with diesel irrigation pumps, will be required to apply to the state for air operating permits.

The EPA withdrew a portion of the state's permitting program in October 2002 and began developing a program for permitting agricultural sources, which were left out of the program due to an agricultural exemption in Californian law. Last month, Governor Davis signed a series of bills aimed at cleaning the Central Valley's dirty air, including SB 700, which repealed the agriculture industry's historic exemption from air operating permits.

"We are pleased that California has removed the permitting exemption," said Wayne Nastri EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. "This enables the program to be implemented at the local and state level rather than the federal."

In December 2001 the EPA approved California's Title V air operating permitting program. In its approval, the EPA allowed the state three years to study agricultural pollution sources to make a determination which sources should be permitted and develop a program to do so.

The agency was sued on its approval of the state's permitting program last year. In a settlement outlined in May 2002, the EPA agreed to withdraw its approval of the agricultural portion of the state's permitting program and to permit those sources until the state removed the agricultural exemption. The EPA's action triggered sanctions clocks that could have required new sources to obtain twice as many emission credits as reduction credits prior to operating a new or modified air source starting next month. The EPA's actions also triggered sanction clocks that would have eventually led to a highway funding freeze in those same areas throughout the state in May 2004.

The EPA will transfer to the local districts all applications it received from farmers during the time it was implementing the federal program.