Blog - Rincon Consultants, Inc.

Single-Use Bag Regulations

Posted on Mon, Jan 4, 2016

State action stayed by referendum, but local ordinances move forward


By: Matthew Maddox, AICP

Introduction: In late September 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270 (SB 270) into law, requiring the phase out of single-use plastic bags in California beginning July 2015. While anticipated for a number of years (more than 130 cities and counties in California enacted local ordinances banning the use of plastic bags), similar attempts at statewide bans have failed to pass the state senate since their introduction in 2010. While SB 270 is similar in overall intent to the previously failed bills, SB 270 built on the success of local agency bag-ban ordinances. The new legislation applies to all jurisdictions without a local bag ordinance in place as of September 1, 2014.

Despite passing and being signed by Governor Brown, the implementation of the bill is in question. Advocates for the plastic bag industry have successfully gathered more than the 500,000 signatures necessary for a referendum to appear on the November 2016 ballot to overturn California's bag ban. The referendum delays implementation of a statewide ban on plastic bags at least another two years (postponing the anticipated July 2015 start date to July 2017 at the earliest). In the meantime, local jurisdictions without a local bag ban will have to either wait or attempt to move forward with their own ordinance as the fate of SB 270 hangs in the balance.

Trash.jpgThe Intention of SB 270 and Local Ordinances: SB 270 mirrors local ordinances in the method of achieving a ban on single-use plastic bags. Under most ordinances, reusable paper and (in certain jurisdictions) compostable plastic bags can only be distributed with the minimum of a 10-cent charge. The general intent is to reduce the environmental impacts related to  single-use plastic and paper bags, and to promote a shift toward the use of reusable carryout bags. General impacts associated with single-use plastic bags include water quality issues related to litter that clogs storm drains, aesthetic issues related to plastic bag litter, maintenance costs to remove litter, and effects on biological resources (including birds, sea mammals, and aquatic species) that may ingest or become entangled by plastic bags. It is anticipated that by prohibiting single-use plastic bags and requiring a monetary charge for each recycled paper or reusable bag distributed by retailers, SB 270, like the more than 130 local ordinances already in place in California, would provide a disincentive for customers to request recycled paper bags when shopping at regulated stores and promote a shift to reusable bags. The ban, like most local ordinances, will only apply to grocery stores, large pharmacies, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores. The bill exempts restaurants, clothing retailers, hardware stores, sporting good stores and other non-food related retailers.  

The bill also includes standards and incentives for plastic bag manufacturers to retool their facilities for the production of reusable bags. SB 270 contains a provision that local ordinances adopted before September 1, 2014 would be protected under a grandfathering clause. Thus the statewide ban would only affect those jurisdictions that did not implement a local ordinance as of September 1st, 2014, and jurisdictions with an existing ordinance would continue to follow it. In most instances the local ordinances are actually more stringent than SB 270.

Next Steps for Local Jurisdictions: For those jurisdictions without a local bag ordinance, the SB 270 referendum has created a few questions around how to proceed. At this time, as we wait for November 2016 and the referendum vote, local jurisdictions that want to comply with the plastic bag ban in their communities have a few options. First, they can simply wait to see if SB 270 will become statewide law and thus mandate action in their communities. Another option would allow them to move forward now with a local ordinance that could be enacted and implemented. While those ordinances may be ultimately be overridden if SB 270 becomes law, by enacting a local ordinance now the jurisdiction can ensure that, whether or not SB 270 becomes law, plastic bag use in their community will be reduced.

Two jurisdictions, the city of Sacramento and county of Santa Barbara, recently decided to move forward with implementing a local ordinance prior to the referendum vote on SB 270 in November 2016. Both jurisdictions prepared Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) in 2014, prior to the passage of SB 270, which analyzed the potential effect of their local ordinances, but waited to see if SB 270 would pass the legislature. After the referendum delayed the implementation of SB 270, both agencies decided to revise the timelines for moving on their local ordinances. In March 2015, the City of Sacramento certified its EIR and approved a local ordinance that went into effect on January 1, 2016. The County of Santa Barbara certified its EIR and adopted a local ordinance banning plastic bags in August 2015. The Santa Barbara County ordinance will go into effect on March 22, 2016. Both ordinances are generally similar to the statewide law (SB 270) and to the other, more than 130, local ordinances passed by jurisdictions in California since 2007. Regardless of SB 270’s fate at the ballot box, the local communities are acting to ban plastic bags beyond the scope of the state requirements and the bag manufacturers’ objections.

Local Bag Ordinance Success: Although ordinances have been in effect for just a few years, preliminary results indicate that by banning plastic bags and placing a fee on paper bags (generally $0.10 each), a substantial shift to the use of reusable bags or choosing no bag at all is occurring. As shown in Table 1, three jurisdictions (the cities of Santa Monica and San Jose and the County of Los Angeles) all recorded similar results from the implementation of their ordinances. Rather than simply replacing plastic with paper bags, by banning plastic bags and simultaneously applying a $0.10 fee on paper bags, each city was able to encourage customers to bring reusable bags or to take no bag for their shopping. The table below offers an indication of the change in usage

Result of Local Bag Ordinances with a Ten-cent Fee on Paper Bags



Post-Ban (with a $0.10 fee on Paper Bags)










San Jose









Santa Monica









LA County









As previously mentioned, the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags are detrimental to the landscape, the waterways, and regional fauna. Early regulations controlling the production and distribution of bags in countries like Ireland, Australia, and China have demonstrated significant decreases in animal death and clogged drainage systems, and the use of petro-chemicals for the generation of plastic materials.[i] While there are some objections, especially from the plastics manufacturing industry sector, the loss of manufacturing jobs have been converted to recycling industry and to the production of other types of re-usable, heavier duty bags, and SB 270 does provide some support for conversions to meet these manufacturing needs. Furthermore, even though plastic bag bans have, to a certain extent, become the focus of movements to reduce the use of consumer plastics, generally, there are significant reasons to consider how the success of local ordinances in reducing plastic and paper bag use and the corresponding increase of reusable bags have contributed to improved environmental conditions directly correlated to reduced single-use plastic bag distribution.


[i]See Hopewell, Jefferson, Robert Dvorak and Edward Kosier. “Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences. 364:1526 (July 2009), 2115-2126.  Senior, Kathryn. “End in Sight for Plastic Bags?” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 6:3 (April 2008), 119. Waddington, Shelagh. “Plastic Bags: A Sustainable Change?” Teaching Geography. 31:1 (Spring 2006), 14-17.

Topics: plastic bag, carry-out bags, single-use bag ordinance

2014 Industrial General Permit Blog Article 4

Posted on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

Deadline Extension For California’s Industrial General Permit For Storm Water Dischargers

As an update to the previous blog articles on the deadline for compliance with the new California Industrial General Permit (IGP) for storm water dischargers, the State Water Resource Control Board (State Water Board) has extended the compliance deadline from July 1, 2015 to close of business on Friday August 14, 2015.

StormwaterThe new IGP requires that all compliance filings be made electronically through the State Water Board’s Storm Water Multiple Application Reporting and Tracking System (SMARTS) online database. Technical issues affecting the SMARTS database had been limiting new enrollments and annual submittals from existing enrollees. This extended deadline should enable those industrial facilities that were either unaware of the July 1, 2015 deadline or those struggling to meet that deadline to timely register.

As previously discussed , the 2014 IGP requires light industrial facilities to enroll for permit coverage, even if they do not expose their industrial activity to storm water. Enrollment and compliance requirements for No Exposure Certification will become effective on October 1, 2015. To avoid being fined by the State Water Board we recommend that your facility/site be in compliance by the appropriate implementation date. Rincon can assist you with your compliance needs and questions. We can assist with SWPPP writing and amendments, No Exposure Certification, annual reporting, Environmental Action Reports, create up-to-date site maps, assist with electronic filing, provide storm water monitoring and inspection, provide training, and much more. If you have any questions regarding the IGP, to help determine if your facility is subject to the 2014 IGP, or have any compliance needs, please contact Kristin Roberts or Ed De La Llave at (805) 644-4455.

Topics: NPDES, State Water Control Board, General Permit, stormwater, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, IGP, Storm Water Management Program, storm, No Exposure Certification, SMARTS

EPA and USACE Issue New Clean Water Rule

Posted on Wed, Jul 1, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on June 29, 2015 published a new Clean Water Rule that updates the definition of “Waters of the United States” regulated under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA prohibits the unauthorized discharge of pollutants (including fill material) into “navigable waters”, which are defined as waters of the U.S.  Following adoption of the CWA in 1972, the EPA and USACE issued their own definitions of waters of the U.S., and the interpretation of these definitions has been subject to litigation in several Supreme Court cases, including most recently the “SWANCC” and “Rapanos” decisions in 2001 and 2006, respectively.

The following table provides a brief comparison of the existing definition of waters of the U.S. under the current rule with the new Clean Water Rule. A more detailed discussion is provided following the table.


  • The new Clean Water Rule keeps the first four categories of waters of the U.S. listed above the same as the current rule.  It also removes the fifth category that includes waters subject to jurisdiction based on a connection to interstate or foreign commerce. 
  • The rule provides new definitions and expansions for the sixth and seventh categories of the current rule.  Tributaries are defined as “characterized by the presence of the physical indicators of bed and banks and an ordinary high water mark.” The new rule also defines adjacent (“bordering, contiguous, or neighboring”) and expands the category of adjacent wetlands to all non-wetland waters within 100 feet of jurisdictional waters (categories 1 – 4, and 6, above), or within the 100-year floodplain to a maximum of 1,500 feet from the ordinary high water mark of these waters. 
  • Further, specific isolated waters, such as “western vernal pools”, are waters of the U.S. if they are determined to have a significant nexus with categories 1 through 3, above.  Other isolated waters are jurisdictional if they occur within the 100-year floodplain of categories 1 – 3 above, or within 4,000 feet of the ordinary high water mark of categories 1 – 4, and 6, and are determined to have a significant nexus with these waters.
  • The new rule also adds categories of exclusions under the current rule that meet specific criteria, including (but not limited to) certain types of ditches, artificially irrigated areas, erosional features, wastewater recycling structures, and puddles.

CleanWatersThe Clean Water Rule will go into effect on August 28, 2015, 60 days from publication in the Federal Register.  The new definitions in the rule are expected to reduce the level of case-specific determinations that occur under the current rule.  The USACE and EPA will likely issue additional guidance on implementing jurisdictional determinations under the new rule, as they did following the Rapanos decision in 2006.

Although the method of certain jurisdictional determinations may change, the Clean Water Rule is unlikely to substantially change the extent of USACE jurisdiction as it is determined under the current rule.  For example, in most situations features that would meet the criteria of the newly defined tributaries (i.e. containing physical indicators of bed and banks and an ordinary high water mark) would have likely been determined waters of the U.S. under the current rule through application of a significant nexus evaluation.  Further, the guidance that the USACE developed following the Rapanos decision in 2006 already excluded most types of ditches excavated in uplands and storm water facilities as waters of the U.S.  The new Clean Water Rule now defines that exclusion in the statute.

The new rule may expand USACE jurisdiction in the case of some features, such as non-wetland waters located adjacent to other jurisdictional features that previously didn’t have a significant nexus.  However, in California this may have positive implications for regulatory permit acquisition. USACE involvement can streamline the process of acquiring a water quality certification from the state Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).  When an applicant applies for a CWA Section 404 permit for the discharge of fill, the RWQCB must adhere to the USACE permitting timeframe for issuing a CWA Section 401 water quality certification.  If USACE jurisdiction is absent, the process of obtaining Water Board authorization for impacts to isolated waters of the state can be much longer.   

Rincon will continue to track the application of the Clean Water Rule and its implications for permitting projects. If you have questions, contact Steven J. Hongola, Senior Ecologist and Program Manager, at 805-644-4455. Click here for more information on Rincon’s wetland delineation and regulatory permitting services.

For more information on the new Clean Water Rule see the EPA’s website

Topics: United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, water, water quality

Executive Order Establishes Further Reduction to California's GHG Emissions

Posted on Fri, May 1, 2015

GHG Emissions, Targets, and Reductions Necessary to Meet TargetsIn the light of the growing concern for climate change impacts faced by California, Governor Jerry Brown issued Executive Order B-30-15 on Wednesday, April 29th , establishing a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The intent of the Executive Order is to further reduce carbon emissions beyond the 2020 statewide target established under California Assembly Bill (AB) 32. This Executive Order is the most aggressive benchmark adopted in the Americas and mirrors goals established by the European Union. By highlighting the importance of reducing risk from impacts from sea-level rise, coastal storms and erosion, the Executive Order calls for all state agencies to include climate change in their planning and investment decisions, and employ full life-cycle costing methods to evaluate infrastructure investments and less carbon-intensive alternatives.  The Order also includes provisions requiring the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to update the Climate Change Scoping Plan and for the California Natural Resources Agency to update the state’s climate adaptation strategy every three years.

GHG Emissions Sources resized 600The implication of the Executive Order’s required GHG reduction for agency development, planning, and investment decisions are significant. Rincon Consultants is well-equipped to assist agencies in compling with the state’s climate change requirements by providing carbon management and climate adaptation planning and through the preparation GHG inventories and climate action plans. Rincon is one of a few select firms in California that are accredited by CARB as a GHG and GHG Offset Verification Body (Executive Order H-13-031). As such, Rincon has a unique understanding of GHG production and carbon monitoring and management in California. Rincon has been working with government and industry to develop GHG inventories, life-cycle assessments, climate action plans, and adaptation plans to meet California’s rigorous GHG monitoring and climate change requirements.

Rincon will continue to track California’s evolving climate change legislation and work with our clients to meet the state requirements.

For more information on Executive Order B-30-15, see

Click here for more information on Rincon’s climate action and adaptation services.

The Devil’s Slide Trail - How a State Highway Became a Scenic Paradise

Posted on Tue, Mar 17, 2015

By Jonathan Berlin, MESM

This article was originally published in the APA California Northern News Newsletter (April 2015 edition). The original article can be read here.

1953 slideCalifornia has several trails to hell: the Devil’s Backbone Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains (precipitous falls to either side), the Devils Kitchen Trail in  Lassen Volcanic National Park (boiling and hissing mud pots), and the Devil’s Slide Trail (treacherous landslides). The last trail, which hugs a spectacular rocky coastline south of Pacifica in San Mateo County, is a recent addition to this list. Since its grand opening on an abandoned stretch of State Route (Highway) 1 in March 2014, the 1.3-mile Devil’s Slide Trail has already become the most popular destination managed by the San Mateo County Parks Department. Visitor counts show that an average of 1,100 people come to the trail per day, which amounts to more than 400,000 people per year. This level of interest greatly exceeds the County’s early expectations of more than 60,000 people per year. Sam Herzberg, a senior planner at the Parks Department, believes that as awareness of the Devil’s Slide Trail grows, it “might become a national or international attraction.” This success story in-the making did not, however, come easily. It depended on a controversial re-routing of Highway 1 that involved decades of political strife among planners, engineers, and activists.

Bedeviling the engineers

Since the late 19th century, engineers have waged war against the Devil’s Slide formation. The first County road was abandoned in 1914, due to rock falls, and replaced with a winding bypass route to the east over San Pedro Mountain. In 1906, the Ocean Shore Railroad between San Francisco and Santa Cruz was under construction when the Great San Francisco Earthquake caused the Devil’s Slide section to plunge into the ocean. Following in the shadow of these doomed routes, Highway 1 opened between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay in 1937. Landslides at the Devil’s Slide have resulted in road closures every decade since, some lasting months at a time. In the worst instance, a landslide during heavy winter rains in January 1995, the roadbed dropped about 30 feet, says Herzberg, and Highway 1 remained closed for 159 days. To stabilize the roadway, engineers installed “a 50-foot-long metal girder holding up the road” and bolted a steel net to the slope above to catch detached rocks. Despite these repairs, the highway remained vulnerable to shifting rocks. The landslide-prone area extends from an elevation of about 900 feet down to at least sea level at the coastline, with a width of about 4,000 feet, according to a guidebook published by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers in 2001. Given the long-term instability of this area, Caltrans considered its repairs to be stop-gap measures until a bypass route for Highway 1 was selected and built.

Political struggle over bypass routes

As early as 1958, the California Division of Highways determined that the Devil’s Slide should be abandoned and began studying alternate routes. The California Highway Commission approved a six-lane overland bypass route in 1960 that would have required extensive grading on Montara Mountain. Between 1969 and 1972, Caltrans acquired 55 percent of the right-of-way needed to build the adopted bypass. However, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups sued Caltrans in 1972 for not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, as required by the recently enacted National Environmental Policy Act for federally led or funded projects. This lawsuit halted the construction contract for the bypass and directed Caltrans to study environmental impacts. An overland bypass remained the preferred alignment until the catastrophic landslide of 1995 motivated the County Board of Supervisors to set up an independent panel of technical experts to identify the best alignment. Although the panel recommended building a pair of tunnels through San Pedro Mountain, the Board decided in favor of an overland route. But San Mateo County citizens took matters into their own hands and approved Measure T in November 1996 to amend the County’s Local Coastal Program to select the tunnels as the preferred bypass. The initiative also required that a separate trail for pedestrians and bicyclists be provided outside the tunnels.

Birth of the trail

K RailsThrough the tunnels’ permitting process under the California Coastal Act, the County agreed to assume responsibility for the Devil’s Slide Trail. As a condition of approval of the Coastal Development Permit to build the tunnels, approved in May 2004, the County would accept the deed to the old roadway and improve it for non-motorized transportation. The permit also required that Caltrans build parking lots at the future northern and southern trailheads, says Herzberg. The County’s commitment to building the Devil’s Slide Trail was effectively an unfunded mandate. By the time that the Board of Supervisors approved $2 million for this purpose in the County’s 2012–2013 budget, almost a decade later, Herzberg notes that a whole new set of Supervisors had been elected and the expense had to be justified. Once the tunnels opened in March 2013, the Parks Department used this funding to coat the abandoned roadbed with a polymer to smooth out the surface for bicyclists, to re-stripe it for two six-foot-wide bike lanes and an eight-to-12-foot pedestrian path, and to erect signs and fencing. Two scenic overlooks also were constructed, with benches and coin-operated telescopes. “I think they did a fantastic job with the benches and lookout points,” says Anthony Ricarte, a resident of Pacifica, who walked the trail on February 15 with Monika Hanson and his two-year-old daughter, Sophia.To improve the aesthetics of the trail, the Parks Department painted three-foot-high concrete barriers known as K-rail in a tan earth tone that approximates exposed bedrock. The inner K-rail serves as a barrier to protect the trail from small falling rocks, says Carla Schoof, a community programs specialist with the Parks Department. Structural improvements dating to the 1995 landslide remain visible. To Monika Hanson, a first-time visitor from Walnut Creek, old elements such as the series of giant bolts supporting the rock face at Devil’s Slide, serve as points of historic interest.

Scenic views

PowBut visitors most appreciate the opportunity to enjoy scenic views of the coastline and exposed bedrock. Jeffrey Chang, a South Bay resident and founder of a high-tech start-up, remembers when the Devil’s Slide was open for motorists. “Sometimes we’d stop on the side of the road illegally, just to enjoy the view,” he laughs. After taking his 13-year-old son Andrew to a soccer tournament in Pacifica this February, Chang was excited to find the route open as a trail. Chang brought his entire family to walk the trail, including Andrew, still wearing soccer cleats, and his parents visiting from Taiwan. An avid hiker who has explored Yosemite, Mount Diablo, and other parks, Chang says that the view here is “one of the best” and reminds him of the rocky northeastern coast of Taiwan. “It’s the pow of the view,” agrees Wendy Antipa, from San Francisco. On a clear day, her husband Greg notes, it is possible to see the Farallon Islands, about 25 miles off the coast, and Point Reyes to the north. The Antipas were visiting the Devil’s Slide Trail “to size up the site for a geology walk” for the Retirement Association at San Francisco State University. The southern end of the trail features exposed granite from Montara Mountain, while road cuts at the northern end reveal rough sedimentary layers of shale and sandstone.

Trail ambassadors

Chang FamilyAs a consequence of its popularity, parking at the Devil’s Slide Trail can get competitive. About 40 parking spaces exist at the northern and southern trailheads combined. Immediately after the trail opened, the parking lots filled and visitors resorted to parking on Highway 1, where California Highway Patrol officers ticketed them, says Herzberg. Anthony Ricarte adds that “the parking is kind of a nightmare” on weekends. To improve parking capacity, the Parks Department is working with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. This partnership may lead to shared parking nearby, with a shuttle running to the Devil’s Slide Trail, says Herzberg. Currently, a free weekend shuttle runs from Pacifica to the trail, and SamTrans Route 17 stops at the trailhead, but Herzberg says that there is a lack of awareness about these transit options. The trail’s lifespan also depends on the stability of the Devil’s Slide. Heavy equipment operated by the Parks Department can clear minor rockslides from the trail. But in the event of a catastrophic landslide, if the trail “goes off into the ocean, it’s just gone,” says Schoof. The Parks Department does not foresee restoring the trail in that case. Herzberg hopes that the trail will last longer than it would have as a motorized route because of the lighter impact of non-motorized users. In the meantime, the project has underscored the popularity of trails as a means to provide access to valued landscapes and open spaces. And the Devil’s Slide Trail has become an active interpretive site informing Californians about coastal geology and our storied state highway system.Because the Parks Department anticipated high use of the Devil’s Slide Trail – if not 400,000 people per year – and lacked staffing to fully serve the completed trail, it created a Trail Ambassadors program. To date, 50 members of the public have registered as Ambassadors, receiving training in radio use, the history of the trail, and environmental features. In the field, they report trail conditions, answer visitor questions, and communicate with park rangers, says Schoof. Ambassadors are present on the trail on all weekends, some weekday mornings, and “when there’s a really good sunset,” says Schoof. One benefit of this program is the skills and knowledge base that local citizens bring, including expertise on native plants and birds. 


JonAuthor Jonathan Berlin is an Associate Environmental Planner at Rincon Consultants, where he serves as a lead analyst and project manager for trails and open space planning projects. Jon also specializes in CEQA/NEPA review and noise impact studies. He holds a Master in Environmental Science and Management (MESM) from UC Santa Barbara and a BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland. You can reach him at

Topics: Caltrans, American Planning Association, Devil’s Backbone Trail, Lassen Volcanic National Park, San Mateo County, State Route 1, Highway 1, Pacifica, APA, Transportation, active transportation, San Gabriel Mountains

2014 Industrial General Permit Blog Article 3

Posted on Fri, Sep 19, 2014

Compliance with the Industrial General Permit for Light Industrial Facilities - No Exposure Certification

describe the imageThe newly released National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Storm Water Dischargers Associated with Industrial Activities, NPDES No. CAS000001 (2014 IGP) contains significant revisions from the prior 1997 Industrial Storm Water General Permit (1997 IGP).  The 2014 IGP includes many substantive changes that will impose new and increased compliance requirements to a large number of industrial facilities. 

Previously, light industrial facilities were exempt from the 1997 IGP requirements as long as the light industrial facility eliminated non-storm water discharges and ensured that their industrial activities were not exposed to storm water.  However, the 2014 IGP requires that these light industrial facilities must now enroll for permit coverage, even if they do not expose their industrial activity to storm water.  Any light industrial facility seeking to claim a conditional exclusion under the new 2014 IGP must apply and complete a No Exposure Certification and attach pertinent documents.  To be successful in obtaining a No Exposure Certification, the light industrial facility must show that no exposure to storm water occurs at their facility.   

What does it mean to have “No Exposure”?

All industrial materials and activities must be protected by a storm water-resistant shelter to prevent exposure to rain, snow, snowmelt and runoff.  The following must not come in contact with storm water or storm water runoff:

    • material-handling equipment or activities
    • industrial machinery
    • raw materials, intermediate products, by-products, final products, or waste products

Who May File for No Exposure Certification Coverage

An industrial facility may obtain No Exposure Certification coverage if the industrial facility certifies that a condition of “No Exposure” exists at the industrial facility by submitting No Exposure Certification Permit Registration Documents via the State Water Resources Control Board’s Storm Water Multi-Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS) and pays an annual fee.

Steps to Obtain No Exposure Certification Coverage

1. Determine if your facility is subject to the 2014 IGP (as defined in Attachment A of the 2014 IGP)

A. Does your facility meet the definitions of “No Exposure” and qualify for the No Exposure Certification? If yes, proceed to step number 2. If no, obtain a Notice of Intent coverage via SMARTS.

2. Certify and electronically submit the completed Permit Registration Documents for No Exposure Certification coverage via SMARTS and mail the annual fee to the State Water Board. Permit Registration Documents include:

A. Facility information

B. Facility Site Maps

C. No Exposure Certification Checklist - An inspection and evaluation of each individual industrial facility that evaluates 11 major areas where storm water exposure may occur.

D. Certification - Via submitting forms electronically to SMARTS and pay an annual fee

3. Annual inspection and evaluation, re-certification and fee are required thereafter.  If a physical or operational change occurs which causes exposure of industrial activities or materials to storm water, the industrial facility must then immediately comply with all the requirements of the 2014 IGP and obtain Notice of Intent coverage. 

When will compliance of the 2014 IGP become effective?describe the image

The complete implementation of the new 2014 IGP is on or before July 1, 2015 with all appropriate documents uploaded and certified via SMARTS.  If your facility meets the No Exposure Certification requirements then enrollment and compliance will become effective on October 1, 2015.  To avoid being fined by the Water Board we recommend that your facility/site be in compliance by the implementation date.  Rincon can assist you with your compliance needs and questions.  We can assist with SWPPP writing and amendments, No Exposure Certification, annual reporting, Environmental Action Reports,  create up-to-date site maps, assist with electronic filing, provide storm water monitoring and inspecting, provide training, and much more.  If you have any questions regarding the 2014 IGP, to help determine if your facility is subject to the 2014 IGP, or have any compliance needs, please contact Ed De La Llave or Kristin Roberts at (805) 644-4455. 

ESA Quote

Topics: NPDES, State Water Control Board, General Permit, NEC, stormwater, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, IGP, Storm Water Management Program, storm, No Exposure Certification, light industrial facility

Around the Bay in 500 Miles: Regional and Local Planning for the San Francisco Bay Trail

Posted on Tue, Sep 2, 2014

By Jonathan Berlin, MESM

This article was originally published in the APA California Northern News Newsletter (September 2014 edition). The original article can be read here.

CaptureStarting at 5:30 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Richard Yan bikes from San Francisco’s Mission District through a patchwork of marshes, parks, golf courses, and local roads to his office in Mountain View. As part of the SF2G group, kicked off by Google employees in 2005, Yan rides in a pack with other members of the South Bay’s high-tech sector. “It is quite a nice way to start your morning and see the sunrise,” Yan says of his 48-mile ride. The development of the San Francisco Bay Trail over the last 25 years has enabled many such commutes by bicycle, along with better access to recreation, on a network of trails ringing the Bay. When the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) adopted the Bay Trail Plan in 1989 to guide the development of this network, the agency inherited about 100 miles of preexisting trails but envisioned 500 miles total. Today, the Bay Trail Project at ABAG has completed 338 miles, including large chunks of a primary “spine trail” and spur trails toward the shoreline. Based on this success, the APA’s Northern Section and APA California both honored the San Francisco Bay Trail with a 2014 Planning Landmark Award of Excellence, signifying a historically significant effort that opened new directions in planning over at least a quarter century. This story explores the contributing factors to development of the Bay Trail, emerging challenges, and lessons for regional and local planning.

Local partners for regional planning

Moving from a grand regional vision to local implementation, the Bay Trail Project’s first step was to lobby all nine Bay-Area counties and 47 shoreline cities to incorporate the Bay Trail into their general plans, local trail plans, and specific plans for waterfront development.

describe the image

All local jurisdictions now unanimously support the Bay Trail. When shoreline developments are proposed, Bay Trail staff retains a role during the CEQA public involvement process in "elevating public access as a priority at the local level to help further the regional goal of completing a continuous Bay Trail,” says Laura Thompson (right), who has managed the Bay Trail Project since 2004.

Beyond enlisting cities and counties, the Bay Trail Project has partnered with the Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC), the only citizen-led group solely focused on implementing the Bay Trail, since its inception in 1999. “When we formed TRAC, Richmond describe the imagehad only 12 miles of Bay Trail built,” says TRAC chair and co-founder Bruce Beyaert, “and they were fragmented.” To put this into context, Richmond has 32 miles of Bay frontage — or “more shoreline than most cities can shake a paddle at,” as a current Chevron advertisement boasts. With a growing economy and many developments proposed on Richmond’s shoreline at the time, Beyaert saw a “window of opportunity” for improving connectivity. TRAC found a niche preparing grant applications on behalf of the City of Richmond, bringing in more than $7 million for Bay Trail segments, Beyaert says. Today, Richmond has more than 32 miles of Bay Trail completed, including more than four miles of shoreline trail not envisioned in the original plan. “The joke at ABAG is they want to clone TRAC!” says Beyaert (left).

Leveraging permits

A wave of grassroots environmental activism in the early 1960s led the State legislature to create the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), whose mission is to minimize fill in the Bay while maximizing responsible public access.

With its goal of improving public access to the Bay, BCDC is a natural ally in implementing shoreline trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. The agency has an expansive area of jurisdiction, including but not limited to the Bay’s open waters, marshes, mudflats, and the first 100 feet inland from the shoreline. In this area, BCDC’s permitting authority over the subdivision of property, grading, construction, and substantial changes in use can compel  project applicants to provide right-of-way for the Bay Trail.

“No agency is going to do it out of the goodness of their heart,” Thompson acknowledges, “because they just don’t have the funding for it.” But BCDC permits have provided the necessary leverage to close major regional gaps in the Bay Trail.

Following the catastrophic 1989 Loma Prieta earth- quake, Caltrans has conducted seismic retrofits of bridges in the Bay Area, triggering the need for BCDC permits. As a condition of obtaining these permits, Caltrans has granted right-of-way for Bay Trail segments on the Carquinez and Benicia/Martinez bridges and the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Today, five of the Bay Area’s seven bridges provide access to bicyclists and pedestrians, including preexisting access on the Golden Gate and Dumbarton bridges.

Conflict resolution through sciencedescribe the image

When Rick Parmer (right) joined the Bay Trail’s Board of Directors in 1990, bringing scientific knowledge as a naturalist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, controversy arose over the impacts of trail use on shorebirds and waterfowl feeding in mudflats.

To settle the question, the Bay Trail Project and multiple partners funded a three-year Bay Trail Wildlife & Public Access Study, led by researchers at San Jose State University. Thirty-two observers dispersed to three different shoreline sites in Marin County, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara County, and counted birds and trail users in paired plots with and without existing trails.

The preliminary results found no general relationship between human use of trails and the abundance or diversity of birds in foraging habitats at these locations. According to Parmer, this comprehensive study satisfied most people that shoreline trails would not significantly impair birds. Parmer believes that trail planning benefits from the objectivity of science. “You’re not just using your subjective, best professional opinion,” he says, but rather relying on evidence backed by statistics.

A broad supporting constituency

While the Bay Trail initially proved popular with recre- ational bicyclists and pedestrians, trail use diversified in response to social trends. In the last decade, Parmer has observed a surge in the number of bicyclists commuting on the Albany-Berkeley corridor. Thompson has witnessed increases in birdwatchers tracking the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds in the winter. And the rise of Internet- based social groups like SF2G has catalyzed growth in all types of trail users.

describe the imageAware of growing employee interest in bike commuting, corporations are beginning to support the Bay Trail. Google recently became the first corporation to fund a non-adjacent trail segment, Parmer says, seeing value in improving connectivity throughout the South Bay.

As with planning in general, public health is becoming a motivating concern in trail planning. Kaiser Permanente, the health care provider based in Oakland, is sponsoring a series of events to celebrate the Bay Trail’s 25th anniversary. The Bay Trail Project also is interested in appointing someone with expertise in public health to its board of directors, says Thompson.

Remaining challenges

In the effort to finish the 500-mile ring and protect existing trail access, leaders point to three main challenges: funding, feasibility, and climate change. The bulk of funding to acquire right-of-way and develop trails has come from State bonds for parks, wildlife, and open space; however, existing bonds are running out, and the future funding environment on a State level is uncertain, Parmer says.

Implementation of remaining Bay Trail segments along interstate highways also depends on funding from the federal Highway Trust Fund. But the roadway user fees that supply this fund are increasingly too meager to meet demand. In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Highway Trust Fund is becoming insolvent. Congressional squabbling over reauthorizing the federal transportation program also endangers this funding source. “Reauthorization of the federal Highway Trust Fund is a huge issue,” says Parmer.

Filling the remaining gaps in the Bay Trail also tends to be less feasible because of the unwillingness of landowners or technical challenges such as bridge retrofits. “We’re down to the tough parts now” says Thompson. For example, to complete access across the Bay Bridge’s west span, between Yerba Buena Island and downtown San Francisco, could require a cantilevered structure attached to the existing span — with a cost of $500 million to implement. The Bay Area Toll Authority is in the initial stages of planning this path.

Then there’s sea level rise — the “800-pound gorilla,” as Parmer calls it. BCDC’s Living with a Rising Bay report from 2011 projects a 16-inch rise in water level by mid-century, accelerating to a 55-inch rise by the end of the century. For a shoreline trail, sea level rise poses a critical threat. Already, high tides — combined with storm surge — flood the Bothin Marsh segment in Mill Valley. Anticipating this problem, the City of Alameda and East Bay Regional Park District submitted a grant application in April to elevate and resurface a three-mile trail segment on Bay Farm Island.

As sea level rise progresses, shoreline communities have “some hard decisions to make in the next couple of decades,” Thompson says. They can either armor existing infrastructure or retreat from the shoreline. Whether trails remain fortified or shift inland, the Bay Trail Project wants to maintain public access.


JonAuthor Jonathan Berlin is an Associate Environmental Planner at Rincon Consultants, where he serves as a lead analyst and project manager for trails and open space planning projects. Jon also specializes in CEQA/NEPA review and noise impact studies. He holds a Master in Environmental Science and Management (MESM) from UC Santa Barbara and a BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland. You can reach him at

Topics: TRAC, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, BCDC, American Planning Association, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Trail, Association of Bay Area Governments, ABAG, Trails for Richmond Action Committee, CEQA, APA, active transportation

2014 Industrial General Permit Blog Article 2

Posted on Wed, May 14, 2014

Types of Industrial Facilities Requiring Permit Coverage Under the New 2014 IGP

Wastewater TreatmentThe new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activities (Industrial General Permit) will become effective on July 1, 2015, and includes significant changes to industrial facilities requiring permitting, monitoring, and reporting processes.

Facilities requiring permitting under the IGP can include Federal, State, municipally owned and private facilities. Types of industrial facilities requiring permit coverage under the new Industrial General Permit (IGP) include the following:

1. Facilities required by Federal regulations.

      • Examples of the Federal regulated facilities can be located in Attachment A of the IGP. 

2. Facilities designated by the State Regional Board. These facilities are further categorized and defined by Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC). Examples of Category descriptions and corresponding SIC codes can be found in Attachment A of the IGP and examples of the designated facilities are as follows:

      • Manufacturing Facilities
      • Oil and Gas/Mining Facilities
      • Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage or Disposal Facilities
      • Landfills, Land Applications Sites, and open Dumps Facilities
      • Recycling Facilities
      • Steam Electric Power Generating Facilities
      • Transport Facilities
      • Sewage or Wastewater Treatment Work Facilities

3. Facilities that have been directed by the Regional Board.

      • Facilities that have been directed by the Regional Board to obtain coverage under the new IGP are required to comply and be covered under the new permit.

Furthermore, the new IGP requires “light industry” to enroll under the new permit. However, a “light industry” facility can claim a conditional exclusion by filing a No Exposure Certification (NEC) certifying that there is no exposure of industrial activities and storage of materials to stormwater. The NEC is required to be filed annually.

The new IGP has recently adopted changes and will become effective on July 15, 2015. With changes to the new IGP, facilities must work with more stringent guidelines and produce documentation by the implementation deadline in order to remain in compliance. All facilities (new or previously covered) regulated under the IGP will now need to evaluate their current practices and documentation with respect to the new IGP requirements to assure that they are in full compliance. Significant advantages and an expedited permitting process can be found with those that understand the new requirements and can generate the required documents.

For additional information on determining your facilities enrollment under the new IGP, or any other related topics to the new IGP please contact us. For an overview of the 2014 IGP, see our previous article here, and stay tuned for our next post in the series.

If you have any questions, or wish any assistance in the new Industrial General Permit requirements, please feel free to contact Kristin Roberts or Ed De La Llave at (805) 644-4455, or request a quote below. 

ESA Quote

Topics: NPDES, State Water Control Board, General Permit, NEC, stormwater, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, IGP, Storm Water Management Program, storm, No Exposure Certification, Hazardous Waste Treatment, Recycling Facilities, Steam Electric Power Generating Facilities, Industrail Facilities, Manufacturing Facilities, Oil and Gas/Mining Facilities, Storage Facilities, Disposal Facilities, Landfills, Land Applications Sites, Open Dumps Facilities, Transport Facilities, Wastewater Treatment Work Facilities

California Regulatory Update - AB 1103: Non-residential Building Energy Use Disclosure

Posted on Wed, May 7, 2014

RinconA state law originally passed in 2007 has taken effect that requires certain commercial property owners to disclose their structure’s energy use. California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 1103, the Non-residential Building Energy Use Disclosure, stipulates that non-residential property owners must complete energy benchmarking and disclose building energy usage for buildings with a gross floor area of 10,000 square feet or larger anytime they finance, sell, or lease such structures. After July 1, 2014, the same regulations will apply to non-residential buildings with a gross floor area of greater than 5,000 square feet. Certain use types are excluded, including factories, residential, institutional, and laboratory buildings.

To standardize this reporting, AB 1103 requires non-residential building owners to compile and input their buildings energy consumption data into the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager system. Both electricity and natural gas data are required to be uploaded. To upload data, property owners are required to gather annual energy usage data from each individual building tenant and generate a Data Verification Checklist for the entire building. The law applies no matter how many individual tenants occupy the building. For shopping centers, owners may benchmark each building individually or combine each building’s energy use as a package for the entire shopping center.

RinconThe ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager system is an on line system accessible for non-residential buildings throughout the Unites States that that acts as a repository for building energy usage data. Upon input, each buildings energy usage is compared to buildings across their zone and a efficiency rating and report for the building is generated.

To comply with AB 1103, non-residential building owners must disclose the Data Verification Checklist and rating to the following:

- A prospective buyer of the building (no later than 24 hours prior to execution of the sales contract).
- A prospective lessee of the entire building (no later than 24 hours prior to execution of the lease).
- A prospective lender financing the entire building (no later than submittal of the loan application).
- Submit an electronic copy of the “Data Verification Checklist” via email to the CEC

For additional information or assistance with AB 1103, energy audits, or sustainable management planning, please contact Erik Feldman at (805) 644-4455 or request a quote using the button below.

ESA Quote describe the image

Authority cited: Sections 25213, 25218(e), 25402.10, Public Resources Code. Reference: Section 25402.10, Public Resources Code. 

Topics: energy use, non-residential, EPA, Data Verification Checklist, AB1103, energy use disclosure, Energy Star, US Environmental Protection Agency, Assembly Bill, energy

2014 Industrial General Permit Blog Article 1

Posted on Fri, Apr 4, 2014

With the release of the new 2014 Industrial General Permit, we will be launching a blog series to introduce and provide information to determine whether an industrial facility must comply with California’s stormwater regulations.  Over the next few months, keep an eye out for posts in our new series, “Stormwater Dischargers Associated with Industrial Activities” with subtopics that will help explain specific 2014 IGP key changes and compliance requirements. 

Newly Adopted 2014 Industrial General Permit For Stormwater Dischargers

On April 1, 2014 the California State Water Resource Control Board released the news that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Storm Water Dischargers Associated with Industrial Activities, NPDES No. CAS000001 has been adopted and will replace the current Industrial General Permit (IGP) issued in 1997.  You can find the new 2014 IGP and supporting documents here


The new lengthy 2014 IGP differs substantially from current requirements and contains significant revisions from the former permit and the circulated drafts in 2011 and 2013.  The 2014 IGP will vastly increase the number of industries affected and impose new and increased compliance requirements.  The complete implementation of the 2014 IGP is on or before July 1, 2015 with appropriate documents uploaded and certified to the State Water Board’s Storm Water Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS), making all reports readily available to the public. 

Key Changes to the Industrial General Permit

Regulation of Light Industries: Under the former permit, certain so-called "light industry" facilities were exempt from the permit's requirements as long as the facility eliminated non-storm water discharges and that their industrial activities were not exposed to storm water. However, under the 2014 IGP, these light industries must now enroll for permit coverage.  These light industries may claim a conditional exclusion by filing a "No Exposure Certification" (NEC), certifying that their facility has no exposure of industrial activities and materials to storm water discharges. In order for a Discharger to seek NEC coverage, the Discharger must apply and submit Permit Registration Documents (PRDs), prepare and submit a Site Map, pay the annual fee and certify the NEC demonstrating no exposure via SMARTS on or before the implementation date.  In addition, the Discharger or facility must allow inspections by Water Boards, local MS4, or US EPA staff.  In order for the Discharger to stay in compliance with the State Water Resource Control Board, the Discharger must annually verify no exposure and pay the annual fee via SMARTS.

Mandatory BMPs: The former permit allowed dischargers to "consider" which non-structural and structural best management practices (BMPs) should be implemented to reduce or prevent pollutants in storm water discharges. The 2014 IGP requires the implementation of numerous "minimum BMPs," including good housekeeping requirements, preventative maintenance, material handling and waste management, erosion and sediment controls, and employee training programs. Additional "advanced BMPs," including exposure minimization, storm water containment, discharge reduction, and treatment control BMPs, must also be implemented as necessary to reduce or prevent pollutant discharge.

Monitoring and Sampling Requirements: The former permit required conducting pre-storm visual observations and quarterly authorized and unauthorized non-storm water discharge visual observations.  The 2014 IGP has now combined these two previous requirements into one new visual observation that is conducted at least once per calendar month during daylight hours of scheduled facility operating hours and on days without precipitation.  The Discharger shall provide an explanation in the Annual Report for uncompleted monthly visual observations.  Additionally, sampling protocols under the 2014 IGP have been modified to collect and analyze storm water samples from 2 Qualifying Storm Events (QSE) within the first half of each reporting year (July 1 to December 31) and 2 QSE within the second half of each reporting year (January 1 to June 30).  Minimum required analyses are as follows: Total Suspended Solids (TSS), oil and grease (O&G) and pH.  Additional analyses and parameters may be required based on the facilities Standard Industrial Classification Codes and location to impaired water bodies with a 303(d).  The Discharger shall submit all sampling and analytical results for all sampling events via SMARTS within 30 days of obtaining all results for each sampling event. 

Numeric Action Levels (NALs) and Exceedance Response Actions (ERAs): The 2014 IGP includes both annual and instantaneous maximum NALs, exceedances of which will trigger increasing levels of required actions and treatment controls (Figure 1). If a NAL exceedance occurs as specified in the 2014 permit, the Discharger has to implement various ERA corrective actions.  There are two levels of these actions: Level 1 ERA and Level 2 ERA.  Level 1 ERAs require a site evaluation and report by a QISP and Level 2 ERAs require a technical report by a QISP, non-industrial or background considerations and possible treatment. 

Figure 1: Compliance Determination Flowchart

IGP Scematic2Source: Fact Sheet for the IGP.

Compliance Groups: The 2014 IGP eliminated group monitoring and created a new “compliance group” option for facilities and Dischargers of the same industry type with similar activities, pollutant sources and pollutant characteristics.  Participating facilities and Dischargers that form a compliance group are required to have a designated compliance group leader who has completed a State Water Board approved training program for compliance group leaders.  The compliance group leader is responsible to inspect each participant’s facility each year and is required to collect and analyze storm water samples from the participating group facilities twice each year.  

The release of the 2014 IGP is very detailed and has many more compliance requirements than the previous 1997 permit.  Rincon Consultants can assist Dischargers and facilities with the preparation of these new IGP compliance requirements. 

Our goal with this series is to prepare you for the 2014 IGP key changes and requirements. Please stay tuned for our next post. If you have any questions, or wish any assistance in the new Industrial General Permit requirements, please feel free to contact Kristin Roberts or Ed De La Llave at (805) 644-4455.

 file 370373462 resized 600

Topics: SWPPP, NPDES, stormwater, IGP, California Construction General Permit, Storm Water Management Program