UV/EB Provides Solutions for Automotive Coating Industry Regulations

By Rita Loof, director of regional environmental affairs, RadTech International North America
Courtesy of Red Spot

Executive summary

The need to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) has caused the automotive coatings industry to turn to environmentally friendly technologies1 such as ultraviolet and electron beam (UV/EB) as alternatives to conventional solvent systems. RadTech International North America has made a successfully persuasive case to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) that the use of UV/EB technology should be encouraged by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for end users. The association has negotiated exemptions from permitting, recordkeeping and rule applicability in an effort to remove potential regulatory burdens in the conversion to UV/EB technology, which can be a solution to the myriad of regulations impacting the automotive coating industry.

National regulations for automotive coatings

Various regions throughout the country have been looking at rules for motor vehicle non-assembly line coating operations. The Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) – a multistate organization created under the Clean Air Act – advises the Environmental Protection Agency on ground-level ozone problems in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. OTC members include Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

The OTC published a “Model Rule for Motor Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Non-assembly Line Coating Operations.” According to the organization, “The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Suggested Control Measure (SCM) for Automotive Coatings, published October 2005, formed the basis for the revisions in this OTC Model Rule.” Thus far, Delaware and Maryland have adopted regulations, and the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania have proposals under review. Connecticut has no plans to enact regulations citing the potential high cost to its businesses as the reason for its decision.

California regulations for automotive coatings

In California, CARB’s Suggested Control Measure is being implemented by various air districts in the form of local rules that the state will review. CARB staff points to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District as the districts with the most stringent requirements. Agency staff also indicated most of the impacted industry will comply by reformulating to waterborne technology.

SCAQMD rule for motor vehicle & non-assembly line coating operations

Last year, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) amended its Rule 1151 – Motor Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Non-Assembly Line Coating Operations. The rule applies to automotive coating operations performed on motor vehicles, mobile equipment and associated parts or components for motor vehicles and mobile equipment. The California Autobody Association (CAA), reports that there are approximately 7,000 active body shops in California. SCAQMD estimates that there are 3,150 facilities in the Southern California area potentially subject to the rule.

The amendments incorporated the transfer efficiency requirements of the state Suggested Control Measure (SCM). The state Suggested Control Measure (SCM) lists brush, dip or roller application methods as the suggested coating application methods. These application methods were included in the rule (subject to certain restrictions).

Industry representatives commented that, under the new language, “All currently existing high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray guns used in the collision repair industry would become illegal if the new HVLP definition came into force.” In an earlier version of the rule, the term “HVLP” was only defined by one parameter, namely, dynamic air cap pressure with a maximum of 10 psi. With the new definition of the term “HVLP,” a second parameter – air flow range between 30 to 200 cubic feet per minute – would be added. The industry reported that all current HVLP spray guns are operated at 15 cfm or less. To address these concerns, staff revisited the initially proposed new language and maintained just one compliance parameter based on the dynamic air pressure measured at the center of the air cap and at the air horns.

Staff plans to conduct a future technical assessment on the continued use of tertiary butyl acetate (TBAc) in automotive coatings, with the excluded exception of color and clearing coatings. Staff recently received correspondence from the Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment (OEHHA) indicating that the office intended to complete a toxicity review for TBAc in early 2015. Staff proposes to incorporate OEHHA findings as part of the technical assessment for Rule 1151, with a revised completion date of Dec. 31, 2016, provided there are automotive coatings that contain TBAc available to conduct the assessment.

The heater conundrum

South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) Rule 1147 (Nitrogen Oxides Reduction from Miscellaneous Sources) applies to small- and medium-sized combustion equipment using gaseous or liquid fuels that require an AQMD permit. This includes ovens, dryers, dehydrators, heaters, kilns, calciners, furnaces, crematories, incinerators, heated pots, cookers, roasters, fryers, closed and open heated tanks and evaporators, distillation units, afterburners, degassing units, vapor incinerators, catalytic or thermal oxidizers, absorption chillers, soil and water remediation units. Rule 1147 does not apply to combustion equipment operated at some of the major source facilities (RECLAIM sources) and to boilers, steam generators, process heaters and water heaters subject to AQMD Rules 1146, 1146.1 or 1146.2. Some of the requirements of the rule took effect July 1, 2012. Units emitting less than one pound per day were given until 2017 to comply. The district reports that a technology assessment is underway, which includes the review of 2,700 permits.

Rule 1147 was especially controversial with the collision repair industry. UV technology was first introduced as a solution for head light refinishing operations in 2005.2 According to the association representing auto body shops, their members switched to waterborne products in order to comply with SCAQMD regulations. Waterborne products required the installation of heaters in order to drive off the water. Rule 1147 requires that the NOx emissions from heaters be reduced. Since NOx and CO emissions are inversely proportionate, a decrease in NOx emissions causes an increase in CO emissions, thereby causing the auto body shops to be out of compliance with the CO limits.

During the rule’s public hearing, dozens of business owners testified that the rule would have a devastating impact on the auto body industry. One of the commenters stated that the various configurations of equipment (now required by the rule) cost between $75,000 to $180,000, with the median price running around $100,000. Another auto body business, with nine locations and over 200 employees, reported the estimated cost to retrofit their booths would be over half a million dollars and would result in the closure of his business and the loss of jobs. Industry representatives pointed out that, in many cases, the emissions from the equipment were less than one pound per day and that the rule’s recordkeeping requirements placed an additional administrative burden on business to report their emissions. Technological deficiencies with the low NOx burners also were reported. A business representative testified that advances in the technology of paints could make heaters obsolete in the coming years, and the costs to comply with this rule now will be wasted when heaters are no longer needed. UV/EB processes that do not employ heaters would not have an issue and, therefore, may have an advantage.

New trends

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted Consumer Products Regulations to limit emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but allowed an exemption for low vapor pressure (LVP) VOCs (Title 17, California Code of Regulations, section 94508 defines an LVP-VOC). LVP VOCs used in consumer products are not counted toward the total product VOC content for compliance purposes. This exemption was designed to exclude compounds that do not readily participate in ozone formation. The SCAQMD proposed the elimination of the exemption. By December 2012, an industry coalition successfully mounted opposition to the staff proposal, which resulted in the LVP issue’s withdrawal.

The LVP Coalition maintains that “the elimination of this exemption is a considerable change that would result in wide-ranging changes in product quality, cost and the likely elimination of specific categories of consumer products.” The California Air Resources Board is considering the issue.

RadTech spent over two decades on the development of ASTM D7767-11 – a test method for UV/EB thin films. The SCAQMD formally adopted the method in its Graphic Arts rule. This action has set a new precedent that may allow users of UV/EB thin film automotive coatings to use the ASTM method, which is more cost effective than the alternative Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectroscopy (GCMS) method.

The South Coast and Bay Area air districts report the use of portable air monitors as an emerging trend. According to the agencies, manufacturers have begun marketing air monitoring sensors to measure air pollution, and local environmental groups and the public are considering them as inexpensive options to independently evaluate local air quality. With this new technology, there is also the potential for differences in emission results between a regulatory agency’s monitoring technology and the personal air quality monitoring systems. It is not clear how environmental groups intend to use the data and how these results would be accepted in an enforcement action against a business.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is the agency charged with implementing Assembly Bill 32 – the state’s Global Warming law. The agency publishes a Climate Change Scoping Plan that defines ARB’s priorities. A recent update to the Scoping Plan broadened the “energy” sector to include industrial sources. As initially defined, the industry sector (including cement plants, refineries, power plants, glass manufacturers and oil and gas production facilities) was discussed as a separate sector; however, in a recent update it has been included within the energy-sector discussion because the ARB believes the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the industrial sector – about 20 percent of the state’s total GHG emissions – are primarily due to energy use.

Proposed requirements for the energy sector to achieve near-zero GHG emission by 2050 include disclosure of energy use; accounting for the carbon intensity and air quality impacts of various energy resources; generation technologies and associated fuels; reducing emissions of smog-forming pollutants by about 90 percent below 2010 levels by 2032; recordkeeping and reporting mechanisms to monitor and enforce the GHG emission reduction requirements; and including mandatory provisions that reduce GHG emissions in the Green Building Standards Code. The Scoping Plan update highlighted “Short-Lived Climate Pollutants” such as black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

Incentives and recognition for UV/EB

SCAQMD has determined that UV/EB materials “generate zero or very low VOC emissions.” RadTech International North America was presented with SCAQMD’s Clean Air Award in the category of “Advancement of Air Pollution Technology” in recognition for “exemplary leadership, innovation and foresight” in 2005.

In addition to the SCAQMD award, RadTech also received recognition from the California State Assembly and city of Los Angeles for leadership in advancing UV and EB technology. “I applaud RadTech for their commitment to our environment. Their innovation has resulted in a fast emerging technology that supports our efforts to prevent pollution, reduce waste and offer a safe technology,” said Jan Perry, Los Angeles council member and SCAQMD board member.

UV/EB is often classified as a “control measure,” much like a control device. Every three years the SCAQMD submits a plan on how they propose to achieve their air quality goals. In this plan, the district includes ultraviolet (UV) and electron beam (EB) as a means to improve air quality. The SCAQMD’s Air Quality Management Plan highlights UV/EB as a VOC “control measure.” The technology is included in the 1999 amendments and in the 2003 AQMP amendments. The 2007 plan states:

“Other advantages include the attainment of very high gloss levels, reduction of VOC emissions and solvent odors and reduced energy consumption. UV- and EB-curing products can be used on virtually all substrates, from metal and wood to glass and plastic. Applications of UV- and EB-curing products are numerous and proliferating rapidly.”

No need for permits

In order to help UV/EB customers reduce their regulatory burden, RadTech requested and obtained an exemption from permitting. The exemption applies to UV/EB operations with a VOC content of 50 grams/liter or less, which use solvents with VOC contents of 50 grams/liter or less. Materials with a higher VOC content are exempt if the usage is less than six gallons per day. On Sept. 11, 1998, the district exempted UV/EB equipment from permit under District Rule 219. Staff classified it as “equipment with negligible emissions” and cited this classification as the reason for the exemption. While this exemption is only applicable in the Southern California area, it could be used to advocate for exemptions in other areas.

Less recordkeeping

The majority of regulated businesses must keep records on a daily basis, logging information and calculating volatile organic compound (VOC) pollutant emissions for each material used at the facility. At one point, daily records were required in the SCAQMD, even for low VOC substances such as UV/EB. The SCAQMD now allows monthly rather than daily recordkeeping for UV/EB materials based on their negligible emissions. Businesses using ultraviolet and electron beam technology now receive a substantial benefit in Southern California, as the SCAQMDBoard exempted UV/EB materials from recordkeeping – less than 50 grams/liter at facilities with less than 4 tons per year emissions.

Large coatings and solvent rule

The SCAQMD recognized UV/EB as an environmentally friendly alternative in the district’s Rule 1132 to reduce VOCs from large coating and solvent facilities –emitting over 20 tons per year of VOCs. The rule requires that the affected industries reduce their emissions by 65 percent. In an effort to encourage pollution prevention and, at the same time, offer companies added compliance flexibility; the rule allows reformulation to low VOC processes, such as UV/EB technology. Under this rule, UV/EB materials are considered equivalent to add-on control devices. Furthermore, companies that have converted to UV/EB already would be automatically in compliance with the rule.

Rule 1132 requires that facilities use one of these options:

  1. Emissions control systems with an overall efficiency of at least 65 percent by weight;
  2. VOC-containing materials that have a VOC content at least 65 percent lower than any applicable rule limit in effect as of Jan. 19, 2001;
  3. A combination number 1 and number 2 that reduce the VOC emissions by at least 65 percent by weight.

The rule contains an alternative compliance section [Rule 1132 (d)] that allows manufacturers to propose any VOC reducing measure, such as UV/EB, that can achieve a 65 percent emission reductions at the facility. Facilities limited by permit conditions to no more than 20 tons per year of VOC’s are exempt from the rule. UV/EB processes can help facilities stay below this threshold, thus, avoiding applicability. UV/EB processes offer potential VOC reductions that can help applicants stay out of rule requirements altogether. The UV/EB industry can have a significant impact in this area.

Exemption from Title V

UV/EB technology was officially incorporated into the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Title V (Federal Operating Permit) program. SCAQMD adopted Rule 3008, which exempts companies from having to obtain a facility permit under the Title V program. The rule defines UV/EB operations that use less than 19,184 gallons per year of materials (with a VOC content of less than 50 grams/liter) as “de minimis.” According to the SCAQMD rule staff report, the emissions related to the UV/EB operations are considered “too small to be required to file reports.” In addition, UV/EB also appears under the list of “Alternative Operational Limits.”

These limits will serve as a guideline for companies that cannot calculate their actual emissions and allow them to be exempt from Title V requirements. Given the added monitoring, recordkeeping and public noticing requirements under the Title V program, the exemption provides current and potential users of UV/EB with a significant regulatory benefit.

Verifying emissions of UV/EB materials is easier with SCAQMD 2 percent emission factor

In recognition of the low VOC nature of UV/EB technology, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) modified the emission factor for UV curables. Up until recently, the SCAQMD had used a default emission factor of 5 percent (by weight) VOC content for UV/EB materials whenever “acceptable test data was not available.” End users approached the RadTech association for assistance, noting that the factor was unfairly allocating fictitious emissions to their facilities. RadTech engaged the district in a dialogue and provided data to challenge the 5 percent default value. In a memo dated July 17, 2008, the Engineering and Compliance division issued a new policy reducing the 5 percent to a 2 percent by weight factor. The agency has posted the policy on its website at www.aqmd.gov.

Money or tax graphic $200 million tax credits in CA

The California governor’s Office of Economic Development has set aside $200 million in each fiscal year – 2015-16 through 2017-18 – for tax credits under its “California Competes Tax Credit” program. Under the initiative, businesses that want to locate in California or existing California businesses that want to expand their operations can obtain an income tax credit.

Any business can apply for the California Competes Tax Credit. The credit is available to all industries statewide. According to the governor’s office, “There are no geographic or sector-specific restrictions. The purpose of the California Competes Tax Credit is to attract and retain high-value employers, in California, in industries with high economic multipliers and that provide their employees good wages and benefits.” There is no fee to apply for the credit.

UV/EB: A solution

Automotive coating operations are regulated at the federal, state and local level. With a stringent regulatory climate involving various layers of regulations (i.e. SCAQMD Rule 1147), UV/EB technology may offer end users operational flexibility. Environmentally friendly UV/EB materials can be the answer to complex regulatory problems and can help end users stay in compliance and in business.


1. M.J. Dvorchak, 1K UV-A Automotive Refinish; Clear Coats and Primers (2014)

2. M.J. Dvorchak, 1K UV-A Hard Coats for Polycarbonate Head Light Refinishing (2014)

Rita Loof is the director of environmental affairs for RadTech International North America. She has collaborated with RadTech to advance UV/EB technology-related public policy for the past 20 years. She also has represented clients such as the United States Postal Service and various manufacturers. Prior to becoming a consultant, Loof spent five years as the air quality engineer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. She holds a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of California Los Angeles. Contact Rita Loof at rita@radtech.org.