Air quality fee changes proposed for facilities in Central and Eastern Washington

OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Ecology is proposing changes to its fees for the air quality registration program. The air quality registration program tracks emissions and the effectiveness of pollution controls at 530 facilities in central and eastern Washington. It covers businesses such as landfills, data centers, cattle feedlots, cement plants, wastewater treatment plants, rock crushers and food processing facilities.

Currently, fees account for about 50 percent of the costs to run the program, which by state law is intended to be fully fee supported. In 2017, the cost of running the program was $518,000, while fees brought in only $285,000.

Under the proposed changes to the fee structure and schedule, Ecology would recover about 95 percent of the total cost of the registration program by 2021. Fees have not increased for six years and not all of the covered facilities pay into the program. Ecology is proposing to adjust the fee structure so that all covered facilities are charged, the fees are more equitably assigned, and to more fully fund the program.

The proposal would only affect facilities in the 17 central and eastern Washington counties under Ecology’s jurisdiction. Air quality management and permits for Yakima, Benton and Spokane counties are under the jurisdiction of their local air agencies. Those agencies have similar registration fee programs.

The registration program is an important building block for Ecology’s air quality work in these areas, providing an inventory of emissions and sources. The program helps the agency to evaluate the effectiveness of air pollution controls, and verify that these facilities are complying with air quality requirements. Air quality registration fee schedules are tiered based on a facility’s annual emissions.

To update the fee structure and schedule, Ecology proposes to amend two rules:

Chapter 173-455 WAC, Air Quality Fee Rule — includes most of the air quality-related fees into one chapter. This chapter allows the regulated community easier access to applicable fees.

Chapter 173-400 WAC, General Regulations for Air Pollution Sources — establishes the regulatory framework to ensure that healthy air quality exists in Washington, including meeting federal air quality standards.

Public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted through Aug. 3. The public can comment online at ac.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=rU53f; by mail to Jean-Paul Huys at the Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, Wash. 98504-7600; or at one of two public hearings:

10 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, Red Lion Hotel, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee

10 a.m. Thursday, July 26, Best Western Plus Lake Front Hotel. 3000 W. Marina Drive, Moses Lake