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The San Joaquin Valley air basin is currently classified as non-attainment for PM2.5 and ozone and as such, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD or District) has been taking several measures as part of their 2018 PM2.5 Plan to reduce PM2.5 and ozone within the region. In order to meet the commitments outlined in the 2018 PM2.5 Plan, SJVAPCD is required to evaluate Rule 4311 (Flares) to determine feasibility of further NOx emission reduction via rule amendment as NOx is a primary precursor to PM2.5 and ozone.

Various public workshops have been held throughout the rulemaking process. The latest public workshop presentation slides can be found here. On October 2, 2020, the District published the draft rule with their proposed amendments for Rule 4311 here.

In the draft rule, the District proposes to remove the non-major source and landfill exemptions. The District also proposes to add annual throughput thresholds to certain categories of flares (oil and gas, landfill operations, digester operations, organic liquid loading operations), that, if exceeded, would require installation of ultra-low NOx technology for existing flares. The ultra-low NOx flares would be required to meet the new, stricter NOx emission limits set by the District. Any operators of flares subject to the new requirements would have two compliance options:

  1. Install an ultra-low NOx flare by December 31, 2023, or
  2. Submit an Authority to Construct (ATC) application to add a permit condition to their air permits that restricts annual flare throughput below the applicable level by July 1, 2022

If an operator proceeds with option 2 and exceeds the annual flare throughput, the operator would be required to install an ultra-low NOx flare within a year of exceedance. The District is actively considering modifying option 2 so that the annual flare throughput is determined on a 2-year rolling average. Specific exemptions will be possible for certain flare operation types where it is not technically or economically feasible for ultra-low NOx flare installation.

If the draft Rule 4311 amendments are approved, the oil and gas, landfill, digester/wastewater treatment, and organic liquid loading industries will be notably affected. To comply with new requirements, facilities may need to purchase and install ultra-low NOx flares. In addition, if the proposed rule is approved, facilities will need to keep record of their annual flare throughputs starting in 2021. Any necessary Authority to Construct (ATC) applications to achieve compliance (adding an annual throughput limit, modifying or replacing flares to meet emission limits) will need to be submitted by July 1, 2022.

The District is currently receiving public comment on the draft rule. The District asks that comments be sent by October 22, 2020, to provide the District adequate time to address comments before they publish the proposed rule package in mid-November. There will be a thirty-day public comment period following the publication of the proposed rule package that will provide facilities another opportunity to provide their thoughts regarding the rule amendments. The District's goal is to present the final proposed rule to the Governing Board on December 17, 2020.

The SJVAPCD point of contact for comments or questions on these rule amendments is Kevin Wing, with the Strategies and Incentives Department. Interested parties may email him at kevin.wing@valleyair.org or call him at 559.230.5800. Facilities should send any comments on the draft rule by the October 22, 2020 deadline.

For assistance understanding potential personal impact of these proposed rule amendments, please contact our Bakersfield office at 661.282.2200.