Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's firing of part-time state workers earlier this month could force postponement of an exam set for next month for more than 200 people seeking state architecture licenses.

Several hundred part-time exam proctors have been terminated from their positions at the State and Consumer Services Agency, which administers exams and issues licenses for more than 2 million Californians each year seeking licenses in 225 professions ranging from dentists to cosmetologists to engineers.

Schwarzenegger announced the firings because the Legislature hasn't adopted a budget. If no budget is signed before mid-September, then the architecture exam will have to be rescheduled for sometime later in the fall.

Russ Heinrich, spokesman for the Consumer Services Agency, said the agency won an exemption to allow proctors to remain on the job for an acupuncture licensing exam earlier this month. But no such exemption is being sought for the architecture licensing exam in September, primarily because this special architecture license is not required for every architect practicing in the state.

If the budget impasse drags on further into September, professional license applicants could be hit in other ways. For example, cutbacks in staff could delay processing of license applications, leading to a backlog.

Asbestos Rule

It's a microscopic change, but a proposal from the California Air Resources Board to change the way asbestos concentrations are measured could have big impacts on construction projects throughout the state.

Air board staff workers earlier this summer proposed to change the definition of asbestos, which refers to a group of six minerals with specific characteristics, chiefly a fibrous texture. Asbestos is frequently used in industry and is valued for its fire-resistant properties. But fibers can penetrate deep into lung tissue and cause cancer and other lung diseases.

The Air Resources Board's current definition of asbestos is 20 years old and states that asbestos must be mitigated if its concentration in surrounding material is at least 0.25 percent. The proposal sets up a new standard of asbestos mitigation "at any detectable level" and requires a new test to detect lower concentrations than earlier tests.

"Industry experts tell us that if this revision is adopted it would likely result in a finding of asbestos at extremely small levels throughout the state," according to the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

When asbestos is found at a construction site, state law requires safety procedures and special disposal procedures. As a result, the manufacturers association warns that the proposed revision could add to the cost and duration of construction projects.

The proposal will be discussed at a workshop this fall and could come before the Air Resources Board for a vote early next year.

Refrigerants Targeted

The California Air Resources Board has scheduled hearings next month on a proposal to reduce the amount of refrigerants that leak into the air from cooling systems at industrial and commercial sites.

Refrigerants are regulated under AB 32, the state's 2006 law calling for reduction in greenhouse gases. It was adopted in response to concerns over global warming.

This proposal goes after refrigerants used in large air conditioning systems, supermarket freezers, food processing warehouses and other locations with large-scale cooling systems. It would require that operators of these facilities check more frequently for sealant leaks. Operators would also have to make sure compressor units are functioning properly and that correct installation and repair procedures are followed.

New cooling units would face more stringent regulations than are currently in place.

The refrigerant proposal will go through a series of hearings throughout the rest of this year and into next year; it should go to the board for a vote later next year.

Hot Dog Heat

The California Air Resources Board last month levied a $63,000 fine on Farmer John, the purveyor of those grilled hot dogs at Dodger Stadium.

ARB inspectors determined that Farmer John, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp., failed to file a report tracking emissions for its diesel truck fleet and failed to inspect its fleet for excess diesel emissions during 2006 and 2007. The violations took place at Farmer John's Vernon facility.

Besides paying the $63,000 fine, Farmer John must also send its fleet managers to a special training program and instruct its drivers to comply with the state's idling regulations.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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