WASHINGTON — The National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA) has filed a court challenge to new VOC regulations on architectural and industrial-maintenance coatings adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) on May 14. The rules, which become effective in 2002 and 2006, will require VOC levels as low as 50 grams per liter (g/L) on certain coatings products.

The NPCA’s petition, filed in the Superior Court of Orange County, CA, argues that the new limits were adopted in violation of California law and that the SCAQMD ignored evidence that the future limits on VOC content were not technologically feasible for many important applications.

“Apparently the district was concerned over a pending lawsuit brought by environmentalists over its commitments to ozone reduction, and its decision to adopt the limits was a ‘rush to judgment’ which did not permit a minimally adequate evaluation of data to see whether its proposed coatings technologies were even feasible for many important applications,” said Jim Sell, NPCA senior counsel. He said the regulations adopted by the SCAQMD “ignored the fact that many currently available coatings simply cannot be made under the new limits.”

The NPCA’s petition also contends that the SCAQMD staff violated a California statute that requires proposed rules to be finalized 30 days before an air district board votes on them, in order to allow a sufficient time for public comment. Attorneys for the association said the final proposed rule — which was amended further at the May 14 hearing — was not published until one week before the hearing. The NPCA petition also argues that the SCAQMD systematically understated the costs of the revisions by failing to analyze the environmental impact if effective compliant coatings are unavailable in 2002 and 2006, and that several aspects of the rule changes are “arbitrary and capricious.” The rule revisions allow coatings used by “essential public services” to avoid the much lower VOC limits that are imposed on the private sector, the petition states.