The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted yesterday to phase out perchloroethylene use in drycleaning statewide by 2023, against the recommendations of its staff and the industry’s public comment.
Approved unanimously by the board’s seven members, the new rule includes amendments to the state’s Air Toxics Control Measure (ATCM) that will phase out all perc use in drycleaning incrementally by 2023. On Jan. 1, 2008, the purchase of perc equipment will be banned, and cleaners must mothball any perc machinery older than 15 years by July 2010.
CARB’s staff recommendations set additional restrictions on perc use, but fell short of the board’s full ban. “It was unfortunate that the board decided to reject their own staff’s recommendations on a proposal that included one of the strictest standards for perc drycleaners in the U.S.,” said Jon Meijer, vice president of membership for the International Fabricare Institute (IFI). “On behalf of our members in California, we urge the board to reconsider their position on phasing out perc use in drycleaning.”
Environmentalists and health advocates asked the board to speed up the implementation of the ban, charging that one in 10 wells in California has some perc contamination. The industry countered that the new rule would cause financial hardship for many operators, as well as ignoring recent toxicology studies and the improvements the industry has made in perc handling in the last 20 years.
“Further tightening of the existing ATCM is not such an urgent matter of environmental protection that the economic hardships imposed can be justified,” says David Cotter, CEO of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA) in a comment filed with the board.
Many businesses won’t be able to comply with machinery replacement requirements, operators added. “It could shut down some Mom-and-Pop operations,” Bob Blackburn, president of the California Cleaners Association (CCA) told the Associated Press. “The little guys can’t afford it.”
The rule contains provisions for $10,000 incentives for cleaners replacing perc machinery with liquid CO2 or wetcleaning systems. High-flashpoint hydrocarbon and other alternative-solvent machinery are not yet eligible for the grants. “I think some of the primary options are really questionable at best,” board member Ron Rogers said.
CARB’s decision follows a move five years ago by Southern California’s regional regulatory body, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to eliminate perc use by 2020; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a 2020 deadline to end perc use in “colocated” facilities last year. About 70% (3,400) drycleaners in California will be subject to the new regulations.