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State seeks comments on air quality permit fee changes

The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking comments on a proposal to raise fees to cover the full cost of services the agency provides for pre-construction air quality permits.

Under Washington's Clean Air Act, businesses or other entities that want to build a new source of air pollution, or modify an existing source, must obtain an air quality permit before they can start construction. By law, Ecology's Air Quality Program charges a fee for this permit work.

The state legislature has eliminated general taxpayer funding support for that permit work. Lawmakers authorized Ecology officials to increase the fee that applicants pay to cover the full cost of reviewing and approving their pre-construction permits.

Ecology will accept public comments on the proposed fee change through April 15, 2011. The agency also will hold public hearings in April in Lacey, Ellensburg and Spokane.

"Increasing this fee covers the current cost of doing business. It doesn't expand the program or add new staff. We're simply changing the fee structure to make sure the applicants receiving the services pay the full cost of those services without the need to dip into general fund tax dollars," said Stu Clark, Air Quality Program manager.

The proposed rule change and supporting documents can be found on Ecology's Air Quality website at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/rules/fee_rule.html.

Written comments can be submitted through April 15.

E-mail comments to AQComments@ecy.wa.gov.

Mail comments to Elena Guilfoil, Air Quality Program, Washington Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.

Ecology will hold three public hearings to take public comments.

The first will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, at Ecology's headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive SE, in Lacey.

The second public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, at the Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St., in Ellensburg.

The last will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at Ecology's Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., in Spokane.

An open house will start one hour before each hearing. That will give people time to look over information and talk with staff before the formal events begin.

Ecology expects to adopt changes no earlier than May 23. The fee would not take effect before July 1.

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