Monday, March 7, 2011

Air Time: Update will change program support

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology’s Air Quality Program staff is working to straighten out a budget tangle.

Ecology uses its new source review program to issue pre-construction permits for new sources of air pollution. Washington air quality law and regulations require new sources of air pollution to have pre-construction review and approval before starting to build a proposed project or modify an existing air pollution source.

Covering the costs

We charge a fee for this permit work. But the current fee doesn’t cover the program’s cost. So we receive money from the state’s General Fund — the big pot of taxpayer money — to make up the difference.

And that’s a problem. As we all are painfully aware, the state’s General Fund is billions of dollars in the red. So taking money out of the fund for our new source review program doesn’t help.

To fix this specific budget tangle, the 2009 Washington Legislature authorized Ecology to increase new source review fees during the current budget cycle. At the same time, lawmakers cut our general fund subsidy effective July 1, 2011. (The 2011 Legislature reauthorized these actions.)

We’re not going to “make money” off this fee change – the Air Quality Program won’t expand or hire any added staff because of the increased fees. We’re simply changing the fee structure to make sure the permit-seeker pays the full cost of the program without the need to dip into the General Fund.

You can find this proposed rule change and supporting documents on our Air Quality website.

Open for public comment

We’ve started a public comment period – you can submit comments through April 15. Here’s how:
  • E-mail your comments to

  • Mail comments to Elena Guilfoil, Air Quality Program, Washington Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.
We also plan to hold three public hearings to take public comments:
  • 7 p.m. April 5 at Ecology’s headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey

  • 6:30 p.m. April 6 at the Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St., Ellensburg

  • 6:30 p.m. April 7 at Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane
Note: We will hold an open house starting one hour before each hearing. That will give people time to look over information and talk with staff before the formal events begin.

We expect to adopt changes no earlier than May 23. The fees would not take effect before July 1.

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