CARB's Top Code Enforcer Talks

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

California Air Resources Board's (CARB) code enforcer, Paul Jacobs, brought home the reality of not adhering to new strict off-road diesel rules when they become law. Asked last month at a meeting of Southern California Contractor's Association in Anaheim, California, what the penalties will be when contractors cannot meet the new code, Jacobs answered: "The maximum penalty under this rule is $10,000 per day, per violation."

But not to worry. He says CARB would probably only start at $500 dollars per violation (on average). There are currently 180,000 off-road diesel engines that are out of compliance in California.

The contractors' contention at the meeting was that most companies could not come up with the money to retrofit, re-power or replace engines on their equipment, even if these were available. And that the burden should be placed on manufacturers, not owners who in good faith bought equipment that typically lasts 30-plus years and was in compliance at the time of purchase.

When asked whether CARB would choose a couple of the larger contractors to "make an example of them" as violators, Paul said, "if we find a rogue operator, sure ..." As CARB currently does with some on-road diesel rule violators, after investigations, they, "sue for an injunction ... we'll lien their property, whatever they have; their vehicles, their houses ... but only when the situation warrants that." But he said he didn't think it would come to that in most cases.

When told that most contractors/operators want to comply with clean air regs, but literally find it impossible to do so within the time frame imposed by CARB because Tier 4 and diesel engine add-ons/retrofits are either not available or not viable, Paul said, "We (CARB) fully believe the retrofit technology is available ... for off-road diesel ..."

In a lively discussion, others assured him this was not the case.

"You don't have a clue!" said Scott Damon of Savala Equipment, Irvine, California. "(CARB) is going to force multiple corporations out of business, and I don't think you realize this. How do you have the right to do that? The technology (you talk about) is NOT there ... I have two little girls at home, sir, and I'm not concerned right now about the (possible future improved-quality) air they will breathe. I'm concerned about whether they are going to have food to put in their mouths!"

Paul said that amendments could be made in some cases if these rules are deemed unenforceable, or the associations could go the legislative route to change these new rules. But most contractors remain skeptical that this would happen. CARB regs are awaiting final sign-off by Governor Schwarzenegger.