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Legal Issues Pertaining to Sweeping

Legal Issues Pertaining to Sweeping

Air Quality Permits Now Needed for Street Sweeper Auxiliary Engines in Some Parts of California

If you haven't already gotten yours, it may be too late.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Link to Editor's Overview analysis about this article.

What you'll read in this article was distilled from several hours of interviews that included engineers and managers of three of the state's 35 AQMD agencies, San Joaquin, South Coast and Sacramento. It also includes information from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which is the overarching state-level agency that has jurisdiction over the local AQMDs.

California regulators have, once again, included street sweepers in environmental regulations designed to spur air quality cleanup. The regulation that has brought this issue to the forefront is the state's airborne toxic control measure for diesel particulate matter emitted from portable engines rated at 50hp and greater.

In order to regulate pollution-producing engines located in the state, the 35 separate California Air Quality Management District (AQMD) agencies have been enabled to implement a registration and permitting process for engines that do not provide the primary motive power for a piece of machinery. For that reason, single-engine sweepers of any horsepower do not require a permit under these regulations.

However, CARB has enacted regulations specifying that the 35 statewide AQMD agencies under it may require permits for auxiliary-type engines over 50hp, unless their type of use has been specifically exempted. Since the permit requirement starts at the 51hp threshold, all but the largest parking area sweepers are exempt. However, top-end parking lot sweepers and virtually all street-class sweepers have auxiliary engines over 50hp.


Starting in 2003, California law has required that engines between 101hp and 300hp sold in the state be certified as meeting the state's new, tough emission standards. For engines between 51hp and 100hp, the same certification was required starting in 2004. In this article, engines from prior to that time that do not comply with the new standards are called "non-compliant" or "existing" engines, while the compliant ones are termed "new" or "Tier II-Compliant" engines.

In at least some of the AQMDs that do require a permit for stationary engines, a now-closed grandfather clause stated that all existing engines had to be registered or permitted by January 1st of this year in order to even qualify.

If you operate in one of the AQMD areas that had this type of grandfather clause, any non-compliant, existing engines on your sweepers or other equipment that have not already been permitted by the first of this year must now meet the new pollution emission standards before a permit will be issued.

Although retrofitting of the engines is theoretically possible, the expense is so prohibitive that doing so is not really practical. Alternatively, where required, you can replace any such sweeper engines in your fleet with a newer model that meets the new emission standards.

As you can imagine, all of this has impacted a wide variety of construction-related equipment in addition to sweepers, including those operated by both contractors and municipal agencies. Since compliance with a local AQMD's requirements can be difficult and expensive for local operation, it's even tougher for companies operating mobile equipment that crosses over different AQMD borders.

California Air Resources Board For that reason, a construction-oriented lobbying effort was mounted to get the statewide agency, CARB, to offer a permit that's good statewide. As a result of this successful effort, anyone operating this type of engine in an area where a local AQMD permit is required now also has the option of getting a statewide-valid CARB permit instead. However, if your local AQMD agency does not require a permit for your auxiliary engine, then CARB doesn't, either.

Compliance Information

Here's what Dmitri Stanich, CARB's Public Information Officer, related to me via email: "The CARB statewide permit program is a voluntary program that allows one to operate throughout the state on a single permit. An auxiliary Tier II engine or greater [installed on a] sweeper would qualify.

The window for a statewide permit for engines not certified to at least Tier II closed on January 1, 2006. If an owner of one of these older engines wishes to continue using the engine, he/she will need to get permits from the individual local district in which they operate. Local districts vary on whether a permit is needed."

Currently, the CARB permit for a diesel engine of between 51hp and 249hp is a flat $270 for three years. Remember, no CARB permit is needed if your local AQMD does not require a permit for your size of auxiliary engine. However, if your local AQMD does require a permit, you have the option of getting your portable engine permit either through the local AQMD or a permit that's good statewide through CARB -- as long as your engine is Tier II-Compliant.

You'll find that your engine's 'family name' must be provided to CARB or your local AQMD as part of your permit application. Certified engines will have an emissions information label showing this family name. To find out if your current engine is certified or not, note the family name located on the engine's manufacturing label and then go to this page on the CARB website:

South Coast Air Quality Management District Fortunately for those in the industry who are located in the southern California region, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has currently decided to, for the time being, exempt street sweepers from this permit requirement.

Mohsen Nazemi, Assistant Deputy Executive Officer of Engineering and Compliance at SCAQMD said, "The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) believes that it has the authority to require permits for auxiliary engines used by street sweepers. However, SCAQMD presently does not consider such auxiliary engines used for street sweeping to be separately 'mounted and operated on motor vehicles' and, as a result, at this time does not require a permit for such auxiliary engines.

"On the other hand, SCAQMD has adopted specific regulations to reduce the amount of particulate matter entrained in the air as a result of street sweepers and other vehicles traveling on roads (Rule 1186 – PM10 Emissions from Paved and Unpaved Roads, and Livestock Operations) and to require certain public and private street sweeper fleet operators to use alternative-fuel or less-polluting sweepers (Rule 1186.1 – Less-Polluting Sweepers).

"In addition, diesel-fueled auxiliary engines used by street sweepers are subject to the requirement of statewide air toxics control measure (Air Toxics Control Measure) for portable engines."

In a follow-up email to CARB's Dimitri Stanich, I requested a clarification of the last sentence in the SCAQMD statement shown in the preceding paragraph. Here's Stanich's reply:

"The ATCM referenced by Sam Atwood is the state reg for small, offroad engines 50 horsepower or greater. This ATCM is separate from local permit requirements. This ATCM requires that by 2010 all these engines be certified...[to meet] state required levels of emissions). In 2011, reporting requirements will begin. And at 2013 a fleet's average-emission totals must meet the measure's requirements.

"Permitting requirements remain the local AQMD's prerogative. Those engines operating in areas that do not require permits may continue as before but operators must be aware of the coming restrictions within the ATCM.

"It is NOT a "state general regulation" that requires permits for engines over 50 bhp. This falls to the local district. The state ATCM is applicable to all engines of this size, but it is up to each district whether or not to require permits for these engines.

"As we have recently seen, SCAQMD does not require permits for these engines, but they are still subject to the ATCM requirements. Because this is so complicated, and we want this program to be successful, please tell your readers that if they need help understanding the ATCM they can contact this office and we will make sure they get the information they need."

Sacramento Air Quality Management District Not so fortunate are the sweepers operating within Sacramento's AQMD region. Brian Krebs is Program Coordinator with the Sacramento AQMD. "...the legal opinion we received," Krebs said, "was that a permit was necessary for any combustion engine of 51hp or above that's not used for driving the vehicle. So, based on that, we have to consider that street sweepers fall under the definition of a 'stationary source polluter' and so need a permit."

A permit through the Sacramento AQMD costs $567 for the first year, then $284 every year thereafter. In addition, a minimum environmental pollution output fee of $52/year is also assessed, on the expectation that the sweeper's engine will emit less than 1-ton of exhausted pollutants.

If you operate sweepers with an auxliary engine larger than 50hp in the Sacramento AQMD region, unless you have already registered with them prior to the date of this article being written your engine will not qualify for a permit unless it is one that has been certified by its manufacturer as Tier II-Compliant.

In the case of the Sacramento AQMD, it is also clearly a better value to get a statewide CARB permit for your Tier II engines since the statewide permit only averages $89/year. However, remember that CARB now only permits 'certified' engines, as well.

To be clear: If you are operating sweepers within the Sacramento AQMD region the implication is that, unless you already got a permit for your non-Tier II auxiliary engine of over 50hp before January 1st of this year, there is now no way to legally operate those sweepers in that area.

San Joaquin Air Quality Management District The policy of the San Joaquin Valley AQMD (SJVAQMD), the third California AQMD interviewed for this article, lies somewhere in between the other two. The SJAQMD goes by its Rule 2280, which requires permitting of sweeper auxiliary engines over 50hp. However, the agency does not include the Tier-II requirement for operation.

Instead, operation of older engines under the permit is allowed without engine modification if the manufacturers' specifications state that the engine was designed to operate at, or below, a technically-specified emissions output level (essentially the Tier II designation). Although older engines are allowed to continue to operate with a permit, the older permitted engines must be operated with the timing retarded by minimum of 4 degrees. Also, depending upon horsepower, auxiliary engines may additionally need to be equipped with turbochargers or aftercoolers.

According to Dave Sanford, of the SJVAQMD, "cost for a permit [in SJVAQMD] is $150 for the initial portable equipment registration application processing, and there is a $90 annual renewal fee. No emissions fees are charged in SJV."

California's 35 AQMDs vary widely, in both the size of the geographical areas they oversee and, clearly, in how they interpret this particular rule. If you are operating one or more sweepers with an auxiliary engine over 50hp and do not already know the policy of your local AQMD, it's past time that you found out. The California Air Resources Board website lists the contact information for all 35 AQMDs at this website page:

Since each AQMD in the state has the authority to regulate this program in its own manner, you must find out the regulations that exist for each and every AQMD in which you sweep. If you operate in more than one AQMD area and find that even one or more of them requires a permit, then the only way to operate your sweeper legally is to get your auxiliary engines permitted such that they comply in each of the AQMDs of operation.

The questions to ask are:
(1) Is a permit required under the portable engine permitting regulations?
(2) If so, at what engine horsepower is a permit required?
(3) And, are the regulations worded or interpreted such that sweepers are exempt?

Finding out the answers to these question is the only sure way to know whether or not your California-based sweepers with an auxiliary engine of over 50hp are now legal for operation.

To ensure accuracy, a draft of this article was sent to a contact person in all AQMD agencies quoted in it prior to publication, as well as to Dmitri Stanich, at CARB. Here are the cited AQMD website addresses:

San Joaquin:
South Coast:

Ranger Kidwell-Ross is editor of You may contact him via our contact form. Please let him know if you have any information to add to this story, or if the statutes in any of the areas cited above have changed.

Also, if you would like to have the team find out about the statute in your AQMD region, keeping your company anonymous during the process, they are available by request to do so on a 'time and charges' basis.

Link to Editor's Overview analysis about this article.

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