Smog Ceiling Debated

Air Pollution Control District Will Soon Set Emission Limits

The county’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) will soon establish a greenhouse-gas-emissions ceiling for projects in its jurisdiction, with the APCD Board of Directors set to pick a limit at a special meeting on April 30. On Thursday, the board had another special meeting to discuss the possible thresholds. Whatever limit the APCD goes with would apply to new or modified stationary sources under the agency’s purview. The APCD’s ceiling would also be encouraged for use by other jurisdictions in Santa Barbara County that don’t have a pollution threshold of their own.

A concurrent process has been playing out at the county’s Planning and Development department, whose limit would apply to new oil and gas projects, among other new stationary pollution sources. Last week, the Planning Commission voted in favor of imposing an annual limit on projects of 1,000 metric tons, meaning that companies whose projects surpass that would need to buy reduction credits. The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on that limit May 19.

On April 30, the APCD board will have two options before them. One would hold projects to 10,000 metric tons per year, the same limit imposed by the Board of Supervisors in 2013 on Santa Maria Energy’s bid for 136 cyclic steam injection oil wells. The 10,000-metric-ton ceiling is also in place at several air-quality agencies throughout the state, including San Luis Obispo County’s.

The other option, preferred overwhelmingly by the board’s advisory panel, would force polluters that emit 10,000-25,000 metric tons to scale back by 15.3 percent. (Projects that release more than 25,000 metric tons would have to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program.) That second option falls in line with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Oil industry representatives have spoken strongly in favor of the 15.3 percent reduction, while environmental groups are pushing for a net-zero emissions limit.


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