Hearing Board

Pursuant to Health & Safety Code (HSC) Section 40800 et seq., every air district is to maintain a Hearing Board. The Butte County AQMD Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body and is tasked with adjudicating three types of cases: variance petitions, abatement orders and permit disputes. The five-member Hearing Board is independent of the District’s Governing Board of Directors and meets on an as-needed basis. Hearing Board members are appointed by the Governing Board of Directors and serve 3-year terms.

Per state law, the Hearing Board consists of one (1) member admitted to the practice of law; one (1) member who is a professional engineer; one (1) member from the medical profession; and two (2) public members. As required by law, Butte County AQMD provides public notice, access and review of every Hearing Board meeting. See the District’s Public Notices for any upcoming hearings.

Current Membership Roster
Attorney Member: Emily R. Little

Professional Engineer Member: Tammie W. Watkins, P.E.

Medical Professional Member: Vacant

Public Member: Joshua Sheppard

Public Member: Vacant

Alternate Medical Professional:  Vacant

Alternate Professional Engineer Member: W. James Wagoner, P.E.

Alternate Public Member:  Kevin Tokunaga

Clerk of the Board: Kelly Towne (District Staff)

Rules, Procedures and Fees

The rules and procedures of the Hearing Board are codified in District Rule 600—Hearing Board Rules and Procedures. This rule describes the types of variance and other actions the Hearing Board may address. In addition, public notice requirements and other procedures are prescribed. Fees for filing a petition and other costs associated with the Hearing Board are prescribed in Rule 504—Hearing Board Petition Fees. To review either of these rules, click the links below.

Rule 600—Hearing Board Rules and Procedures

Rule 504—Hearing Board Petition Fees

Variance Petitions

Variance petitions are temporary requests to the Hearing Board for relief from Butte County AQMD requirements filed by entities subject to the rules and regulations of the District. A granted variance allows a source to operate despite being in violation of a District regulation while steps to come into compliance are being taken. . It should be noted that the U.S. EPA does not recognize District variances. The burden of proof is on the applicant to show by the presentation of argument and evidence that the following eight criteria are met:

  1. The applicant must show that the source is or will be in violation of Section 41701 or of any rule, regulation, or order of the district.
  2. The applicant must demonstrate that, due to conditions beyond its reasonable control, requiring compliance would result in either an arbitrary or unreasonable taking of property or the practical closing or elimination of a lawful business.
  3. The applicant must demonstrate that the harm to the applicant’s business, which would be caused by compliance, would be without a corresponding benefit in reducing air contaminants.
  4. The applicant has given consideration to curtailing operations in lieu of obtaining a variance. During the period the variance is in effect:
  5. The applicant will reduce excess emissions to the maximum extent feasible.
  6. The applicant will monitor or otherwise quantify emission levels and report these levels if so requested by the District.
  7. No variance will be granted if the operation, under the variance, will result in a violation of Section 41700 (nuisance).
  8. The state board may revoke or modify any variance granted by any district if, in its judgment, the variance does not require compliance with a required schedule of increments of progress or emission standards as expeditiously as practicable, or the variance does not meet the requirements of state law.

Petition for a Variance Application Package

Abatement Orders

Butte County AQMD’s Air Pollution Control Officer, Board of Directors or Hearing Board may request an abatement order against an emissions source. The Hearing Board may issue abatement orders that carry fines of up to $25,000 per day of violation. The abatement order is the District’s strongest administrative sanction.

Permit Disputes

The Hearing Board may also hear appeals from sources on permit denials, approvals, suspensions or revocations. The Air Pollution Control Officer can also request that the Hearing Board determine whether a permit should be revoked due to violations. Third parties may also appeal District permit decisions to the Hearing Board.

Per District rules and state law, sources whose permit was denied by the District can appeal that decision to the Hearing Board, which will determine whether the denial was justified. Similarly, holders of suspended permits may appeal those decisions to the Hearing Board.

In each case, the role of the Hearing Board is to determine whether the Air Pollution Control Officer has made a fair and reasonable interpretation of the applicable legal requirements. If the Hearing Board rules in favor of the appellant, a permit may be issued or re-issued or a suspension may be lifted. The Hearing Board can also uphold the District’s decision.

Role of the California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has oversight of the Hearing Board process in most jurisdictions. More information can be accessed from the CARB website at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/variance/variance.htm

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