Manufacturers and metal finishers are concerned about a planned crackdown on toxic emissions by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The crackdown, announced at the April 7 meeting of the district’s governing board, was prompted by recent discoveries of high levels of hexavalent chromium and other toxic substances in the air surrounding two metal finishing plants in Paramount, Anaplex Corp., and Aerocraft Heat Treating Co.

AQMD Executive Officer Wayne Nastri said that over the next seven years the district will identify and prioritize high-risk facilities among the estimated 1,100 metal-processing operations in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and the Inland Empire. The district also will amend its toxic emissions rules to encompass more metal manufacturing processes that have recently been found to contribute to toxic emissions.

In addition, the agency is backing legislation in Sacramento – AB 1132, by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who represents the Paramount area – that would give AQMD the authority to shut down metal-finishing plants emitting high levels of hexavalent chromium without first holding a hearing under certain circumstances.

The bill allows air pollution control officers to do this if they determine that emissions rules have been violated “and the violation presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare, or the environment.”

It is this move that’s causing the most immediate worry among manufacturers and metal-finishing industry representatives.

“My clients are concerned about giving the executive officer authority to shut down facilities without an administrative hearing for the facility operators to tell their side of the story and work out a solution that can keep the facility operating,” said Joseph Hower, principal in the L.A. office of Ramboll Environ who represents local metal-finishing companies and other manufacturers. “It’s a dangerous precedent.”

Bill LaMarr, executive director of the California Small Business Alliance in Anaheim, whose members include metal-finishing companies, said those businesses are concerned that new rules will be developed before the district finishes its inventory of facilities with hexavalent chromium emissions.

“What is upsetting to them is that AQMD is painting all metal-processing businesses with the same regulatory brush and intends to impose unbelievably harsh new rules on all businesses, even those that are operating within the conditions of their AQMD permits,” he said.

Permit Overhaul?

L.A.’s antiquated system of issuing police permits for movie theaters, skating rinks, massage parlors, and more than 50 other types of businesses is in desperate need of an overhaul, according to an audit released last week by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.

According to Galperin’s audit, 49 of the permit categories were created before 1970, and there is no system to review them to determine if they are still necessary to deter or reduce crime. The report also notes that newer types of businesses – such as internet cafes – have not been issued any permits.

“We need to better align our permitting requirements with the realities of today’s businesses and with 21st century policing – which will mean getting rid of some categories while considering some new ones,” Galperin said in a statement accompanying the audit’s release. “The goal should be to focus our attention and resources on the businesses that pose the most risk to their customers and to the public.”

The audit, which combed through Los Angeles Police Commission records, says 4,100 police permits were issued to 2,200 businesses in 2015, and nearly 2,300 permits were issued to individual employees of permitted businesses. In addition, for the current fiscal year, ending June 30, the city is projected to collect $15.8 million in permit fees.

But the audit notes the city is failing to collect revenue from hundreds of businesses that should be registered with police permits. One example: Only 21 movie theaters had the required police permits as of earlier this month, despite the fact any online search for movie theaters in Los Angeles reveals scores more operating.

The National Association of Theater Owners of California/Nevada said in the statement accompanying the audit that the paperwork and notarized signatures required to obtain a police permit are too burdensome.

“For too long, our members have struggled with complying with the city’s onerous regulations in obtaining the necessary permits,” said Milt Moritz, the group’s president. “We’re … hopeful that (t)his audit produces reforms that will relieve businesses from the bureaucratic maze our members have to endure in order to comply.”

The audit makes several recommendations for reform, including better tracking of crime data to inform which businesses pose a risk and if any business categories need to be added to permit rolls. The audit also suggests working with the city’s Office of Finance to identify noncompliant businesses and re-evaluating the justification for background checks of key employees at permitted businesses.

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

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