Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ag-emissions rule to be confined to SJ Valley

A state air-quality official shocked an audience at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference this morning by pledging that new ag-specific diesel regulations to be written this year will apply only in the San Joaquin Valley.

California Air Resources Board pollution specialist Timothy Hartigan (pictured, left) added that even producers there won't notice much of a difference because they'll be given credit for steps they've already taken to reduce emissions.

"We tend to look at it region by region," Hartigan said, explaining that diesel emissions from tractors and other ag machinery represent about 1 percent of the Bay Area's pollution while making up 15 percent of emissions in the San Joaquin Valley.

His announcement comes as farmers and ranchers throughout the Golden State have been girding for the state's push for them to replace older, less efficient equipment. The ARB plans to begin workshops on the In-Use Off-Road Mobile Agricultural Equipment Regulation next month, and the board is slated to vote on a final rule by December, Hartigan said.

The promise that the new rule will apply only within the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's boundaries was "a bombshell," said Theodore Hadzi-Antich, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

But Hadzi-Antich cautioned the roughly 75 people who crammed into the Shasta District Fair grounds' horse-betting facility not to take Hartigan's word for it. He noted that nothing has been put in writing, and he urged farmers and ranchers throughout California to stay engaged throughout the decision-making process.

"I'm sure these are fine people, but I'll believe it when I see it," Hadzi-Antich told me in an interview. "It was a bombshell, but I've just heard too many promises from our government."

The regs for ag-specific equipment represent the third round of diesel emissions controls the air board has enacted under the 2007 state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act.

Rules for trucks and buses are already in place, and restrictions on non-agricultural off-road equipment are set to phase in beginning next year pending a required waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which Hadzi-Antich said is typically a formality.

For more on this, check CapitalPress.com soon.

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