Concern that hastily implementing clean air laws would hurt small business is playing out over the requirement for gas stations to install Enhanced Vapor Recovery (EVR) systems by April. This issue reflects the bigger problem small business will face in going along with the mandates for AB 32, the state’s landmark environmental measure.

Gas stations, most independently owned, are required by the California Air Resources Board to install equipment by April 1 to prevent a relatively small amount of harmful vapors from escaping into the air. Given the cost of the equipment and the difficulty getting financing in these hard economic times, a number of small retailers find this hurdle impossible to meet.

According to a survey conducted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, 2.4% of those responding said they would shut down operations rather than try to comply with the mandate. While the Air Resources Board calculates that the cost of compliance can be met by adding .68 cents per gallon of gas, smaller outlets would have a larger burden.

As one retailer told the Pasadena Star News, “I came to the decision that I was too small a volume operator to continue on with the expenses imposed by the bureaucracy of the state.”

A coalition dealing with this issue is seeking a one-year delay in the implementation date of the EVR systems to give the small stations time to respond and give the economy time to recover.

This is a microcosm for the concern of the small business community in the larger effort to implement AB 32. One of the chief issues for the AB 32 Small Business Coalition is for the Air Resources Board to set realistic timetables for regulatory decisions and manageable timelines for compliance deadlines. Small business is concerned that only with cooperation between the bureaucracy and the business community can AB 32 be made to work without crippling effects to many small businesses and to the economy.

The response to the effort to delay the EVR implementation by just one year will be a tell-tale sign if a cooperative effort between the state and the business community will work and could set a positive tone as California moves forward in implementing AB 32.