‘We don’t want anyone to go out of business’

Oct 10, 2019 | Uncategorized

AQMD and heating contractors come to an agreement

By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Managing Editor

The mountain’s heating contractors faced a dilemma.

In 1978 the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) adopted a rule – Rule 1111 – that lowered the allowable emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from gas-fired furnaces from 40 to 14 nanograms per Joule (ng/J). That rule was amended multiple times while the furnace manufacturers did the research and development required to produce a furnace that would comply with the rule.

With several manufacturers having created such furnaces, the last amendment went into effect on Oct. 1, mandating the use of the lower emitting compliant furnaces.

There was a glitch, however.

Those furnaces could not comply with the rule above 4,500 feet.
The mountain’s heating contractors rallied to find a solution. One contractor, who asked to remain anonymous, contacted Supervisor Janice Rutherford’s office as the supervisor sits on the AQMD board. The contractor was put in touch with Susan Nakamura, the assistant deputy executive officer in the AQMD planning department and one of the drafters of Rule 1111.

Spearheading the effort for his fellow contractors, this man made the case for the local installers getting some sort of relief from Rule 1111. He also called several manufacturers, all of whom said they did have not a furnace that would comply with the rule above 4,500 feet.

“Either the manufacturers forgot that sunny Southern California also has places that snow and didn’t bother to develop a furnace that can be brought up to altitude or they tried and couldn’t meet the low NOx standards,” he said.

On Oct. 2 the local contractors were notified that Nakamura and Shawn Wang, an air quality specialist with the AQMD, would be coming to Lake Arrowhead to meet with them the next day. The contractors met that night to compile a list of questions and concerns.

Prior to that meeting, Supervisor Rutherford sent a letter to the spearheading contractor. In that letter she noted that “as of Oct. 1, 2019, Rule 1111 requires contractors and home builders to only install ultra-low NOx furnaces in homes within the South Coast Basin, which includes the San Bernardino Mountain communities Unfortunately, there are currently no high-altitude furnaces that comply with the rule.

“In response to this,” the letter continues, “the AQMD is asking furnace installers in the mountains to submit an exemption request form for each furnace installation to allow the installation of units that do not comply with Rule 1111.

“In the meantime, AQMD has asked manufacturers to initiate the variance process for high altitude furnaces so those units can be installed in compliance with Rule 1111. In addition, I plan to ask that the AQMD board consider an amendment to Rule 1111 to resolve this issue and will push to have it considered in early 2020,” Rutherford’s letter concludes.

At their Oct. 2 meeting, the contractors raised concerns about protecting their customers’ health. Air conditioning, they noted, is a luxury; heat is a necessity.

They wanted clarification on the exemption process referenced in Rutherford’s letter and wondered if they would be allowed to inventory any non-compliant furnaces.

At the Oct. 3 meeting, Nakamura said that, once they learned there were no furnaces compliant with Rule 1111 in high altitude areas, they immediately started contacting manufacturers.

“We have been in constant contact with them,” she said. “As we started talking to them, we started figuring out what we can do. You,” she said to the contractors, “may not have realized what we were trying to get in place.”

What AQMD has developed is an enforcement discretion form, which the installers can submit electronically on a case by case basis.
“The agency does this reluctantly,” Nakamura noted. adding the manufacturers are close to a solution. Some are working on a high-altitude kit, which will probably not be ready for six months.

The critical thing, Nakamura said, is for the installer to certify that the furnace that is non-compliant with Rule 1111 is being installed above 4,500 feet.

AQMD, she said, is committed to turning these forms around the same day. “We will be working on weekends,” she said.

Nakamura was then asked a question many of the contractors felt was critical: Can they stock furnaces for their customers?

The rule, Nakamura answered, is “you can’t offer to sell the furnace. If you hold it and are not selling it, that’s fine. You are like a warehouse.” And once the enforcement discretion form is approved, the contractor can sell and install the warehoused furnace.

Nakamura told the contractors that she was aware of two manufacturers who have expressed interest in applying for a product variance. “That would provide relief for the whole supply chain,” she said.

She reiterated that the interim relief offered by the enforcement discretion is “extremely rare. It is a stop-gap measure. We are hoping the manufacturers will come in for a variance.

“You all have the relief right now,” Nakamura said. “I know it’s one more thing you have to do but it allows you to continue to do business. All we’re checking is that it’s above 4500 feet.”

As the meeting between the AQMD and the contractors drew to a close, Nakamura told the men she feels the agency has come up with a good response.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do. We want to help you. We don’t want anyone to go out of business.”



rim bowling center generic 7 11 22 web
audio in english
audio en español
Daffodils blooming mountainwide

Daffodils blooming mountainwide

By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEYStaff Writer Spring must be here, as it is defined by the daffodils welcoming residents and visitors to the mountains. They are especially noticed on the curve of Highway 189 coming into Twin Peaks, just before Strawberry Lodge. Those daffodils...

Rim Honor Society does Earth Day cleanup at Arboretum

Rim Honor Society does Earth Day cleanup at Arboretum

  By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEYStaff Writer The Rim of the World High School National Honor Society does many service projects for the community each year. Because of social distancing, they chose smaller projects than usual this year, such as doing an Earth Day cleanup...

Future of Lake Gregory to be discussed

Future of Lake Gregory to be discussed

A free community informational meeting focusing on the future of Lake Gregory will be held April 22, starting at 6 p.m., at the Lake Gregory South Shore pavilion. Hosted by the Lake Gregory Community Advisory Committee, presenters will include Beahta Davis, county...