Air permitting requirements vary throughout California due to regional differences in air quality. Distributed generation facilities that burn fuel may be required to obtain air permits if equipment size or total projected emissions will exceed thresholds set by the air district. Air districts in regions designated as non-attainment areas under the Federal and Clean Air Acts may require distributed generation projects to install Best Available Control Technology and to offset their emissions of criteria pollutants. The air permitting process typically takes three months.
Air Quality Management District (AQMD)
There are 37 Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) in California each with a different set of rules. The mission of the Air Quality Management District is to provide healthful air quality for its residents. The Air Quality Management District is responsible to issue permits governing the operation of any stationary equipment that emits or controls the emission of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxides (SOx), particulate matter, and toxics. Emissions that are typically regulated by the AQMD include:
- Particulate matter
- Organic compounds
- Nitrogen oxides
- Sulfur dioxides/oxides
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Photochemical smog (ground-level ozone)
- Acid deposition
A permit for a piece of equipment is required from the Air Quality Management District prior to construction, installation, or operation unless it is specifically exempted from the permit requirement. The Air Quality Management District recommends obtaining the permit prior to the purchase of equipment in order to know all that will be required during the construction and installation stages.
Permit requirements and district rules can be enforced by districts through actions for civil penalties (up to $50,000 per day of violation is authorized), by local prosecutors through actions for misdemeanor criminal penalties, and by seeking injunctive orders.
Hearing Boards in each district are authorized to issue temporary variances to sources having difficulty complying with air pollution rules. Hearing Boards can also hear appeals of permit decisions by the district staff, and can issue orders for abatement -- i.e., administrative injunctions to comply.
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
SB 1298, signed into law in September, 2000, required The California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt uniform emission standards for distributed generation technologies that are exempt from air pollution control or air quality district permit requirements. The statute also directed CARB to establish a certification program for technologies subject to these standards. CARB was also required to issue guidance to the air districts on the permitting or certification of electrical generation technologies that are subject to district permits.
CARB's board adopted new standards and certification criteria as well as air district guidelines at its November 15, 2001 board meeting. The new rules will go into effect on January 1, 2003.
A press release regarding the new rules can be found at:
CARB's Staff Initial Statement of Reasons for the Regulatory Changes can be found at:
CARB Guidance and Regulations Documentation can be found at: