DIAMOND BAR, CA — VOC limits on architectural coatings in Southern California are headed for unprecedented, ultralow levels in the next several years following action taken by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).

The district’s governing board approved amendments to the agency’s Rule 1113 on architectural and industrial-maintenance coatings that will require VOC limits as low as 50 grams per liter (g/L) on some products by the year 2006.

The amendments, which drew stiff opposition from many coatings manufacturers but unexpected support from other producers, will require the formulation and manufacture of coatings products with increasingly lower VOC levels over the next 10 years, with further reductions possible in a final phase of changes to the rule during the next decade.

Under the amendments, VOC limits will fall to 50 g/L for a number of coatings categories, including flats and nonflats, floor coatings, and quick-dry enamels. The limits will fall to 100 g/L for other categories, including industrial-maintenance coatings; primers, sealers and undercoaters; quick-dry primers, sealers and undercoaters; recycled flat and nonflat coatings; rust-preventative coatings; and a new product category called “essential public-service coatings.” VOC limits will decline for a number of other coatings categories to levels ranging from 250 g/L to 450 g/L. Limits were left unchanged, at least in this round of amendments, for several specialized products including wood preservatives, swimming-pool coatings, shellacs and certain waterproofing sealers.

The new limits drew fire from many coatings manufacturers and users who say the regulation will effectively ban a sizeable number of products currently produced and applied in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes Los Angeles and its suburbs. “We’re extremely disappointed, and believe it will have a devastating impact on the Southern California paint-manufacturing industry,” said Ray Robinson, executive director of the EL RAP regulatory-affairs unit of the California Coatings Industry Alliance.

South Coast District spokesman Bill Kelly, meanwhile, said the district was faced with meeting federally mandated requirements to continue to reduce emissions of VOCs. Kelly said the district sought to address the objections of coatings manufacturers by including a provision that requires technical assessments prior to the effective dates of the new, lower VOC limits. In addition, the amendments include an “averaging” provision that allow manufacturers flexibility in meeting the new limits, he said.