A statewide heat wave this past week will mean a $29 million penalty for Central Valley businesses and possibly others because of a spike in air pollution spurred by the sweltering conditions.
Triple-digit temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, combined with heavy back-to-school traffic, sent ozone levels spiraling well above federal air quality standards.
The valley's air pollution control officials had hoped that lower temperatures this summer would allow the valley to avoid the violations that trigger the expensive penalty.
Under existing regulations, businesses from Stockton to Bakersfield must pony up the funds to pay the fine.
But San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District officials are considering a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees, because cars and trucks are responsible for so much of the pollution.
The district had been encouraging car pooling as a way to keep levels below the Environmental Protection Agency's standards, but given the valley's history of dirty air, officials knew a breach was likely to happen. Now the governing board must determine which industrial businesses will be required to pay a share of the hefty fine, and are looking at drivers as another potential source.
"We have seen business in the valley spend millions of dollars to put the best control technology in place; they could not have purchased better equipment," district spokeswoman Jamie Holt told the Porterville Recorder. "We want to make sure they're not further penalized, when in essence, there's nothing more they could have done."