Department of Ecology News Release - August 24, 2012

12-280

Ecology seeks comments on proposed changes to air quality fees

OLYMPIA – The public is invited to comment on proposed changes to how the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) charges fees for certain kinds of air quality work.

The changes include funding for 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. Ecology proposes changing 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 proposes reinstituting a gasoline vapor recovery inspection program. 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.

Inspections ensure gas-dispensing facilities meet federal requirements, reduce health risks from exposure to benzene and reduce the formation of harmful ground-level ozone. Properly working dispensing systems save operators money by reducing loss of gasoline due to evaporation.

To hold down costs, inspections would be done by current staff in Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program who already inspect underground storage tanks. This reduces travel, supervisory and administrative costs.

The fee of $130 per tank would start on July 1, 2013. It would only apply in counties where Ecology has primary air quality jurisdiction – Adams, Asotin, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, San Juan, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties.

The Washington Department of Revenue would collect the fee as part of annual business licenses.  Facilities regulated by a local clean air agency would not be included in the Ecology inspection program. The local clean air agencies currently charge their own fees for inspections.

Ecology will accept comments on these and other proposed changes through Oct. 2, 2012. You can review the proposed changes, along with related documents, on Ecology’s air quality rulemaking website.

Here’s how you can submit comments:

Ecology will review, consider and respond to all comments. The proposed changes may be modified based on public comments. Ecology expects to adopt the rule in late 2012.

###

Media Contact: Seth Preston, Ecology communications manager, 360-407-6848; 360-584-5744 cell; seth.preston@ecy.wa.gov

Read more about proposed changes at Ecology's air quality rulemaking website (www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/wac173455/1107.html)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)