California Targets Manufacturing Industry to Reduce Pollution

By Michele Nash-Hoff

On September 14, 2022, I had the pleasure of attending the California Metal Coalition quarterly meeting in San Diego held at the offices of C & H Machine in Escondido. The CMC website states: “California is home to 4,000 metalworking facilities, employing over 350,000 Californians with high-paying manufacturing jobs and health benefits.   Jobs provided by our industry are the path to the middle class for many Californians.”

After introductions, Executive Director James Simonelli provided an overview of legislation and rules changes that could adversely affect the metals industry in California. 

First, he discussed AB 423 - San Diego County Air Pollution Control District: members and duties. This bill was sponsored by Assembly Member Todd Gloria (elected as San Diego Mayor in 2020) on May 28, 2019 and was signed by Governor Newsome on Oct 11, 2019

He pointed out that while “existing law provides for the establishment of air pollution control districts and air quality management districts,” San Diego’s air pollution control district was handled by the County Board of Supervisors. AB 423 required the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District to become a separate agency with a specified membership as of March 1, 2021. It required local governments to appoint members to the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District governing board in a specified manner and appoint a specified liaison to consult with the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard. AB 423 greatly expanded the authority of the SDAPCD for permitting, compliance/enforcement, local air monitoring, and new rule making.

Next, Mr. Simonelli reported further developments with regard to AB 617 that was passed and signed by the Governor on July 16, 2017.  “It requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and air districts to develop and implement additional emissions reporting, monitoring, reduction plans and measures in an effort to reduce air pollution exposure in disadvantaged communities. It mandates a statewide strategy to reduce emissions, with a review at least once every five years. Through grants to community-based organizations, locals can more easily analyze data and participate in new air pollution reduction programs.”


The bill is supposed to provide the following benefits to disadvantaged communities:


“Quicker review of pollution control technology - In districts exceeding air pollution limits, the new law supports an expedited process to implement the best available retrofit control technology at industrial sites.

More significant penalties for polluters - Penalties increase five-fold to $5,000 for violating air pollution laws from non-vehicular sources”.


However, Mr. Simonelli said that the task force was set up to find out what concerns disadvantaged communities had with regard to pollution, and the task force is currently looking at facilities where welding of metal is being done as welding operations can create emissions of lead, hexavalent chromium, copper, nickel, and cadmium.


The next item for discussion the agenda went along with California’s recent ban of the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by 2035.  They would also like to have Zero-Emission Forklifts.   


Mr. Simonelli said they are targeting internal combustion forklifts, such as propane powered, with a lift capacity of 12000 lbs. or less.  “New equipment cannot be purchased after 2026, and current equipment must be phased out between 2026 – 2038.  The primary option will be electric forklifts.  CMC submitted formal written comments to CARB on August 19 2022.  This measure is scheduled for consideration by the Board in 2023.”

The CRB website states, “Accelerating the transition to zero-emission technologies, where feasible, is an important component of CARB’s strategy to meet the state’s air quality and greenhouse gas reduction goals. As such, CARB staff is currently developing a measure that would drive greater deployment of zero-emission forklifts within fleets throughout the state. This measure, which has been identified in CARB’s Mobile Source Strategy, State Implementation Plan, and Sustainable Freight Action Plan, is one of several near-term actions intended to facilitate further zero-emission equipment penetration in the off-road sector.

CARB staff is currently developing a measure that would drive greater deployment of zero-emission forklifts within fleets throughout the state. This measure, which has been identified in CARB’s Mobile Source Strategy, State Implementation Plan, and Sustainable Freight Action Plan, is one of several near-term actions intended to facilitate further zero-emission equipment penetration in the off-road sector.

Forklifts operate in many different industry sectors but are most prevalent in manufacturing and at freight facilities, such as warehouse, distribution centers, and ports. There are approximately 100,000 forklifts operating in California.”

If you are thinking you are safe because you don’t live in California, think again. In reporting on the ban of gas-powered cars, CNBC reported: “The decision is expected to have sweeping impacts beyond California and will likely pave the way for other states to follow. At least 15 states including New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania have adopted California’s vehicle standards on previous clean car rules.”

Mr. Simonelli then discussed two proposed rules by the South Coast Air Quality Management District:

 Proposed Rule 1460 - Control of Particulate Emissions from Metal Recycling and Shredding Operations.  

This rule addresses controlling emissions (fugitive dust) from scrap recycling of which there are about 200 in the district along with several shredding facilities.  It would affect registration, housekeeping, water use, and potential enclosures at these facilities. The first Working Group meeting was held on March 16, 2022, and two additional Working Group meeting were held in May and July.  There was a Public Workshop on September 6, 2022 and a special public hearing on September 21, 2022.  A notice for the final Public Hearing was sent out on October 4th announcing the final Public Hearing to be held November 4, 2022, when the board votes on the proposed rule. 

Proposed Rule 1435 - Control of Toxic Emissions from Metal Heat Treating Processes.

This rule address controlling emissions from heat treating, forging, brazing, plating, anodizing, and other processes in which metal is heated, which may produce hexavalent chromium. The first Working Group meeting was held August 6, 2019, and the University of California Riverside is conducting research on heating metal and creating hexavalent chromium. The SCAQD website states: “Hexavalent chromium is a toxic air contaminant that is a potent carcinogen mainly produced by industrial processes. Long-term inhalation of hexavalent chromium over a lifetime can:

  • Increase the risk of developing lung and nasal
  • Cause or worsen certain health conditions such as
    respiratory tract irritation, wheezing, shortness of
    breath etc.

It is important for manufacturers to participate in industry organizations like the California Metals Coalition to be able to keep informed about issues that will affect their industry and have an organization that will lobby for or against issues that will affect their industry. Company owners do not have the time to do research on their own with regard to what their state legislatures and regulating agencies are doing that could adversely affect their company.  I strongly recommend that company owners and executives look into joining the organization that best fits your industry in your state as well as national organizations that keep track of legislation being considered by Congress, such as the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to “save American manufacturing, of which I have been a member for 11 years.

It will only be through unprecedented collaboration between organizations such as CMC, CPA, and many others that we will be able to achieve the vision of Industry Reimagined 2030 to transform the narrative of American manufacturing from one of inevitable decline to one of vibrant opportunity that is necessary to revitalize American manufacturing to create more jobs and prosperity for our country.