State regulators have ratcheted up their enforcement of rules prohibiting idling of diesel engines in trucks and off-road commercial vehicles for longer than five minutes. Violators can expect citations of at least $300 per day that excessive idling is observed.

For years, diesel engine truck drivers, especially those with refrigerated cargo containers that needed engine power to stay cold, would leave their trucks idling at truck stops, or while waiting to pick up cargo at the state's ports.

Several years ago, the state Air Resources Board banned idling of diesel engines for on-road trucks for more than five minutes as part of its effort to clamp down on harmful diesel emissions. This past January, the board expanded the rule to include trucks with sleeper berths. In June, the ban was extended to off-road commercial diesel vehicles, such as forklifts and construction equipment.

Since the beginning of this month, Air Resources Board workers have been fanning out across the state watching for idling diesel trucks and off-road diesel vehicles.

"Turning these engines off should be second nature," board chairwoman Mary Nichols said. "It saves money, reduces pollution and protects the health of the driver and everyone working or living around the engines."

The anti-idling rules have generally been accepted, though a state trucking association official said there was concern when the first rule was implemented about what would happen when trucks queued up at the ports.

"This law actually spurred some ports to take action to reduce the wait times," said Julie Sauls, spokeswoman for the California Trucking Association.

Also, truckers now use alternative power sources to keep refrigerated cargo cool.

Sauls said the crackdown would have the biggest impact on out-of-state truckers. "Many of them are simply unaware of the idling restrictions."

Water Fee

Developers in Los Angeles, already facing a host of fees levied on their projects, might get hit with another one this time to fund water recycling.

Los Angeles city councilmembers Janice Hahn and Tom LaBonge have proposed creating a "water sustainability fee" that would be used to fund installation of special water recycling pipes in new developments and existing multifamily buildings undergoing major renovations.

The fee would be similar to the Quimby fees assessed on development projects to fund the creation of parks and other green space. Specifically, it would create a fund that landlords of apartment buildings under major remodels could use for recycled water pipe systems.

Recycled water also known as "gray water" or treated wastewater has been used to irrigate golf courses, parks and other outdoor spaces. More recently, in some jurisdictions, recycled water has been used in homes for lawns and for toilet tanks. But in order to prevent any unintentional mixing with drinking water, the recycled water is carried in color-coded purple pipes.

Installing separate pipes can be expensive, especially in older buildings. That's where the developer fee comes in.

Even before many of the details are known about the fees, there's already concern.

"The proposal may be well-intentioned, but the timing couldn't be worse," said Carol Schatz, chief executive of the Central City Association. "There's really no market right now for new projects; anything proposing new fees on new development makes it that much harder for any projects to get going."

City staff workers have until early February to report back to the City Council on the feasibility of imposing the water sustainability fee. Then the debate will begin.

Fire Tax Break

Thanks to the state of emergency declaration for Los Angeles County that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made during last week's fires in the San Fernando Valley, state tax collectors have given people affected by the fires an additional month to file a whole range of taxes and are waiving fees and penalties for people unable to file their tax returns on time.

The state Board of Equalization last week announced it was granting relief for those liable for sales and use taxes, cigarette and tobacco products taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes and more than a dozen other categories. To claim the extensions or the waiving of penalties, taxpayers must send their returns along with a signed statement explaining why the fires forced them to delay payment (e.g.: records lost due to fire or water damage, unable to get to the home or business to access the records, etc ).

For more information and to download the extension request forms, log onto the Board of Equalization's website at boe.ca.gov.

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

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