CERRITOS, Calif.—There's little doubt that what irks rubber company executives in California more than anything else is the state's regulatory environment.
Officials who attended a Rubber & Plastics News roundtable, hosted at R.D. Abbott Co. Inc.'s site in Cerritos, covered many areas they feel put an unfair burden on rubber firms. But they acknowledged that some of the rules over the years actually have helped improve conditions, though they believe the regulatory agencies are now taking things too far.
In addition, they said it behooves rubber companies to be proactive and involved in the process—sometimes writing standards where they have expertise—rather than waiting for the regulation to be written and forced into a reactionary stance. Finally, they said that having to raise their game to a higher level than companies located in areas not facing the same regulatory landscape makes them sound companies with a level of sophistication not found elsewhere.
Tom Martin, vice president of operations for R.D. Abbott, said one perception that upsets manufacturers is when agencies seek new revenue streams—with permits and fees—rather than trying to improve the situation.
He cited a study by the South Coast Air Quality Management District measuring the release of gases when a press opened. “Unfortunately, they picked a company that was making the dirtiest, oiliest, worst parts available,” Martin said. “Of course, they found tremendous amounts of (volatile organic compounds) that were being let into the atmosphere.”
After some haggling, the solution was to require a permit for every press making parts over a certain size. A molder could be making a two-pound part or a 400-pound one, and the permit fee was identical.
“This doesn't fix anything,” he said. “In fact, you could put collection equipment over your press and collect all the solvents off of there. It doesn't matter. You have to pay a permit fee, which is just a revenue source.”
In this situation, R.D. Abbott President Keith Thomas said it appeared the regulators were seeking someone making a highly oil-filled rubber compound so the agency could justify the fee structure. “Because there has been no regulation to reduce the emissions, it is simply a fee structure,” he said. “If you've been to the SCAQMD in Diamond Bar, it is the Taj Mahal. It is an incredible facility, much nicer than any industrial or privately funded facility I'm aware of in the entire basin.”
It also is one of the most influential agencies because rules that start there often migrate elsewhere.
“The South Coast is the first domino,” Thomas said. “All other dominoes follow South Coast. If you look at air regulations around the country—the wording, the patterning, the categorization—it's all in South Coast Air Quality Management speak.”