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Ecology adopts changes to air quality fees

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has adopted changes to three rules that guide the agency’s air quality work.

The rule changes are related to fees Ecology charges for certain kinds of air quality work, required updates to the state’s “clean car” standards, and revisions to the general air quality regulations to bring the State Implementation Plan up to date with federal requirements. Here’s a quick look at the three rules:

Air quality fees: Ecology charges fees to fund the program that registers and inspects certain small- and medium-sized businesses that emit air pollution. The Washington Legislature has directed Ecology to shift the cost of funding the registration program away from general taxpayer dollars to fees charged to program users.

The current $400 annual fee has not changed in more than 17 years. Starting Jan. 1, 2013, Ecology will change from a single-tier fee of $400 to three tiers ($450, $700, $1,000) based on how much pollution each source emits.

Also, in the 18 counties where Ecology regulates air quality, the agency will reactivate a gasoline vapor recovery inspection program as of July 1, 2013. The program was eliminated several years ago due to budget cuts. The proposal calls for facilities that dispense gasoline (mainly gas stations) to pay a yearly fee to fund the inspection program.

Check online here for more information about Chapter 173-455 WAC.

“Clean cars” update: In 2005, Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Washington Legislature adopted California’s vehicle emissions standards. Washington’s clean cars regulation requires many new vehicles to meet California’s standards to be registered for use in Washington. The controls limit emissions of greenhouse gases and common air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.

The standards apply to 2009 and newer model year passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles (such as most vans and SUVs). They don’t apply to older vehicles already owned by Washington residents.

The Legislature requires Ecology to update Chapter 173-423 WAC (Low Emission Vehicles) when California changes its clean car regulations, which the agency has done. Ecology’s latest updates take effect Dec. 29, 2012. Check here for more information.

Chapter 173-400 WAC: Ecology amended this rule so Washington can gain federal approval for its new source review and prevention of significant deterioration permitting programs in the State Implementation Plan (SIP).

The SIP is a complex collection of documents that describes how the state implements, maintains, and enforces National Ambient Air Quality Standards for specific air pollutants. Those pollutants are ozone, lead, fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

The rule revisions take effect Dec. 29, 2012. Once they do, Ecology will develop a SIP submittal package for the public to review and comment before submitting the rule to the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) and asking for approval to include the revised rule in Washington’s SIP. Check online here for more information.

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