Frequently Asked Questions

Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley has steadily improved over the past 30 years and continues to do so through the District’s adoption of new Rules, State Implementation Plans, and the support and participation of Stakeholders, businesses, and the public. The San Joaquin Valley has been attainment for Carbon Monoxide (CO) since 1994, reached attainment for the federal PM10 standard in 2008, and demonstrated attainment of the federal 1-hour ozone standard in 2014. The District is currently working on reaching attainment for the federal 8-hour ozone and PM2.5 standards. To highlight the progress being made, the 2019 Summer ozone season and the 2019-2020 Winter PM2.5 season were the cleanest in Valley history.

Details on the District’s progress toward attainment are available in the Annual Report to the Community and the District’s most recent Air Quality Plans:

The San Joaquin Valley Air Basin is approximately 250 miles long and is shaped like a narrow bowl. The sides and southern boundary of the "bowl" are bordered by mountain ranges. The Valley’s weather conditions include frequent periods of high pressure, temperature inversions, long, hot summers, and stagnant, foggy winters, all of which are conducive to the formation and retention of air pollutants.

The bowl-shaped Valley collects and holds emissions caused by the activities of the Valley’s four million residents and their three million vehicles, as well as vehicles from other areas traveling on Highway 99 and Interstate 5. In addition, pollutants are also transported into the Valley from the Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley. These characteristics cause the San Joaquin Valley to be unusually susceptible to significant air pollution problems.

Ozone precursor emission sources are generally divided into two categories: stationary and mobile. Stationary sources fall into two types called point and area sources. Point sources are large, easily identifiable sources such as industrial facilities and operations. Area sources are sources that individually emit smaller amounts of pollutants. They include consumer products (for example, deodorants, and nail polish), house paints, pesticides, agricultural burning, and small commercial sources such as gas stations and dry cleaners.

Mobile sources also fall into two categories: on-road and non-road. On-road sources include light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles and motorcycles. Non-road mobile sources include construction equipment, farm tractors, trains, ships, aircraft, mobile equipment, and utility equipment such as lawn mowers and chain saws.

Particulate matter sources generally fall into two categories: human (anthropogenic) activity and natural sources (nonanthropogenic). Anthropogenic sources include fuel combustion activities leading to secondary chemical formation of PM, agricultural operations, industrial processes, combustion of wood or fossil fuels, earthmoving activities, and entrainment of road dust into the air. Nonanthropogenic sources include windblown dust and wildfires.

As a public health agency, the primary mission of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is to improve the health and quality of life for all Valley residents through efficient, effective and entrepreneurial air quality management strategies.

To meet federal Clean Air Act requirements, the District has adopted numerous plans for attainment of the health-protective federal ambient air quality standards. For more details about the District’s attainment planning efforts, please visit the “Attainment Plans” page.

A broad range of actions to improve air quality are set forth in the adopted plans, and are actively being implemented by the District, CARB and EPA. These include:

  • Adoption of rules that reduce emissions from existing stationary sources;
  • Mitigation of any increase in emissions resulting from new or modified point sources in the District;
  • Development of transportation control measures in conjunction with transportation agencies throughout the Valley;
  • Health protective programs such as the Real-time Air Quality Network (RAAN) and the Check Before You Burn Program give the public tools to make daily decisions about air quality;
  • Dozens of Grant Programs to help Businesses, Public Agencies and Valley residents make clean air investments
  • Public education programs such as the Healthy Air Living Program;
  • State and federal clean vehicle and clean fuel programs.

Improving air quality is depends upon a clear understanding of the sources of air pollution, referred to as the emission inventory. The District is constantly seeking to improve its emission inventory.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Pollutants

Ambient Air Quality Standards & Valley Attainment Status

More commonly referred to as smog, ozone is a pollutant that forms on hot summer days and should not be confused with ozone in the upper atmosphere or stratosphere. Ozone in the air we breathe is virtually invisible and odorless but by no means harmless.

Unlike other pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted by a specific source. Two pollutants are needed to create ozone: volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. In the presence of sunlight, especially on hot summer days, this mixture of pollution forms ozone.

In the Valley, ozone concentrations are highest in the in the summer months, and downwind of urban areas.

Particulate matter (PM) is made up of fine solid or liquid such as dust, fly ash, soot, smoke, aerosols, fumes, mists, and condensing vapors. EPA has set health based standards for particles smaller than 10 microns (PM10) and particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). When these particles become airborne, they can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. Particulate matter may be either directly emitted (primary PM), or formed in the atmosphere by the reaction of certain gaseous emissions (secondary PM).

At any given time and place, the composition of PM10 and PM2.5 in the ambient air depends upon nearby source types, geographical location and meteorological conditions. The PM10 and PM2.5 present in the air usually contains a mixture of primary and secondary particles from a variety of sources.

Higher concentrations of PM2.5 commonly occur during the winter season, due to stagnant conditions and temperature inversions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Your Health

Often invisible, but harmful, air pollution threatens the health and well being of all living creatures. Some health effects of smog and other types of air pollution include:

  • Irritation of mucous membranes
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Dry throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulate matter can aggravate chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. When exposed to high levels, people may experience shortness of breath, pain during deep breaths, and impaired lung function.

In the event of a poor air quality episode known as a Health Advisory, the Valley Air District will notify school districts and the media in the eight-county area. In the interest of student and faculty safety, schools in the affected areas should discontinue all outdoor activities for the duration of the advisory. Anyone scheduled to participate in such activities should make alternate plans to minimize exposure to ground-level ozone by staying indoors during the advisory period.

To avoid or reduce air pollution exposure, the following actions should be taken when a Health Advisory has been declared in a particular area:

  • Avoid strenuous, outdoor physical activities that increase breathing rate.
  • Remain indoors, if possible, for the duration of the episode. Keep doors and windows closed and use an air conditioner to recirculate indoor air and keep cool.
  • If outdoor activity is unavoidable, stay away from traffic congested areas where pollution is high.
  • Avoid exposure to dust, solvents, fumes, tobacco smoke, or other irritants.

Air quality affects us year-round. In summer, ozone (smog) can rise to unhealthy levels in late afternoon, affecting outdoor activities. During winter, particulate matter (PM) builds up overnight and can linger into morning.

You need to know the best times for that soccer game, run, bike ride or other outdoor activity.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has valuable tools that you can use to determine the air quality in your neighborhood, year-round. These tools are free but the information they provide is priceless: Data and updates reported directly to your computer or cell phone, helping you determine how the air quality may affect you and your family’s activities, today.

Real-Time Air Advisory Network (RAAN)

Originally developed as a tool for Valley schools to find out whether current air quality in their neighborhoods was acceptable for outdoor activities, the Real-Time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) now is available to everyone!

RAAN offers you:

  • Online, 24/7 access to the most up-to-date hourly air quality information for your area;
  • Automated email or text messages whenever air quality is poor in your area;
  • Specific health recommendations for outdoor exercise based on five different air quality levels.

Sign up at

Air Quality Daily Forecast Alert

The Valley Air District issues a daily air quality forecast on a county-by-county basis. You can view this daily forecast or sign up to receive emails regarding this daily forecast here: Additionally, the District has an automated air quality information line that gives this information out. The website and phone line are updated each day after 4:00 PM and will provide prevailing air quality conditions and the forecast for the following day. The toll free number for those calling from San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties or the Valley portion of Kern County is 1(800) SMOG-INFO or 1(800) 766-4463. Those calling from outside the District can call (559) 230-5875.

In addition, many major newspapers, television and radio stations throughout the Valley report air quality information on their weather page.

Frequently Asked Questions About Specific District Programs

Visit the District’s Rules and Regulations page for more information about current rules and regulations, and regulatory development efforts. The rules that have been adopted by the District can be downloaded from this website. If you have questions regarding current rules, please contact the Small Business Assistance staff in the regional District offices.

If you have any questions or would like to get a copy of a draft rule, please visit the workshops and public hearings web page, or call the Air Quality Science and Planning Division at (559) 230-6100.

New or amended rules are posted on the website within 30 days of their Governing Board hearings. Information regarding District rules that have been recently adopted or amended may be obtained by checking rules page on this web site or by calling the Valley Air District at (559) 230-6000.

The rules that the District is currently developing are posted on the rules page on this website. District staff welcomes and encourages the public to be involved with ongoing regulatory development efforts. Sign up for notices of current and future rulemaking activities and opportunities for involvement on the District’s Mailing List website.

What is a Title V permit?

A Title V permit is an operating permit required by Title V of the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments. Under this federal law, state and local air districts, including the Valley Air District, are required to issue these new comprehensive operating permits to major sources of air pollution. The District’s Title V permitting requirements are included in District Rule 2520 (Federally Mandated Operating Permits).

What is different about the District’s Title V permitting program?

The District’s program includes many unique features aimed at helping applicants through the Title V permitting process. For example, in order to simplify the application process, the District has developed specialized application forms for both initial Title V permitting and modifications. Also, for some types of commonly permitted equipment, the District has developed EPA- approved general permit templates, which eliminate the need for applicants to address many applicable requirements on a unit-by-unit basis. Another unique feature of the District’s program is the "Enhanced NSR" process which allows applicants for new and modified sources to complete Title V permitting requirements while obtaining Authority to Construct. In order to obtain further assistance in this process, applicants are encouraged to contact Title V permitting staff at the District’s Fresno office to schedule a pre-application meeting.

Who is required to obtain a Title V permit?

Sources currently required to obtain Title V permits include:

  1. Major sources of criteria pollutants with a potential to emit of more than 10 tons per year of oxides of nitrogen, 10 tons per year of volatile organic compounds, 70 tons per year of sulfur oxides, 70 tons per year of PM10, or 100 tons per year of carbon monoxide.
  2. Major air toxic sources with a potential to emit of 10 tons per year of any single hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons per year of any combination of hazardous air pollutants.
  3. Electrical power generators for which an application for an acid rain permit is required under Title IV of the CAA;
  4. Any source required to have a preconstruction review permit pursuant to the requirements of the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program under Title I of the Federal Clean Air Act;
  5. Solid waste incinerators subject to a performance standard promulgated pursuant to section 111 or 129 of the CAA.

Are there exemptions to Title V requirements?

Major sources whose actual emissions are or can be reduced below Title V thresholds may be exempt from Title V requirements in one of two ways:

  1. Operators may modify their facility or permit to limit their potential to emit to below Title V thresholds; or
  2. Operators may choose to comply with the requirements of District Rule 2530 (Federally Enforceable Potential to Emit).

Facility operators interested in pursuing these options may contact Permit Services staff at their regional offices for more information.

How can I find out more about Title V?

The District’s Title V program is described in District Rule 2520 (Federally mandated operating permits). Because the District’s program includes many unique features aimed at simplifying and streamlining the Title V permitting process, applicants are encouraged to contact staff in the District’s Fresno office to discuss their options.

Why do I need a pre-construction permit from the Valley Air District?

The pre-construction approval, called an Authority to Construct, is required by air pollution regulatory agencies (such as the Valley Air District) to help ensure that business will not build or modify equipment that does not operate in compliance with air pollution regulations. Please visit the permits page for more information.

How long does it take to obtain an Authority to Construct?

Generally, applications are processed in the order that they are deemed complete. Depending on the number of complete applications received and staffing resources, processing begins as soon as possible after the application is deemed complete. Once an applicant has provided all of the information needed to process an application, the District sends a written receipt for the completed packet. By law, the District has up to 180 days from the date an application is deemed complete to take final action to approve or deny the application. Recognizing the enormous costs that permitting delays can cause, the District has implemented a number of permit streamlining measures to reduce permit processing time. Depending on the complexity of the project, some applications require less than one hour of processing, others require more than one hundred. If the application is subject to public noticing provisions, a 30-day public commenting period is required. For a more accurate estimate on permit turnaround time, please contact permitting staff at the district regional permit office where the equipment will be located.

Once an applicant has provided all of the information needed to process an application, the District sends a written receipt for the completed packet. This marks the beginning of a 180-day period for final approval or denial of the application. Depending on the number of complete applications received and staffing resources, processing begins as soon as possible after the application is deemed complete. Some applications require less than one hour of processing, others require more than one hundred. If the application is subject to public notice, a 30-day public commenting period is required.

What can be done to minimize the amount of time it takes to obtain an Authority to Construct?

Submitting a complete application with all the information requested in the instructions is the best way to reduce the application processing time. Hiring a Certified Air Permitting Professional (CAPP) to prepare the application may also expedite its processing. CAPP consultants have completed District training and passed a comprehensive examination that allows them to submit a complete application, a draft engineering analysis, and draft permit conditions. This enables the District to do a final review of the CAPP submittal, bypassing the need for District staff to perform these steps. Hiring a Certified Air Permitting Professional (CAPP) to prepare the application may also expedite its processing. CAPP consultants have completed District training and passed a comprehensive examination that allows them to submit a complete application, a draft engineering analysis, and draft permit conditions. This enables the District to do a final review of the CAPP submittal, bypassing the need for District staff to perform these steps.

In exceptional cases, an applicant may be able to identify compelling environmental and economic reasons that make priority processing appropriate. In such cases, the applicant may request that the complete application be processed on an extra-hours basis with the applicant bearing the fiscal responsibility for overtime processing of the application. Most applications processed on an extra-hours basis are completed in one or two weekends unless a public notice is required.

State law allows commercial agricultural operations to burn specific types of crop debris to eliminate waste and control pests. In order to protect public health and preserve the Valley's economy, the Valley Air District regulates burning through a process of permits, rules and regulations.

To assist farmers, the District issues burn permits that will allow farmers to burn specific types of vegetative agricultural wastes. Burning is authorized for each individual burn on a daily bases when there is ample air movement to pick up and quickly disperse the smoke effectively.

The open burning of garbage, household trash, or yard debris is strictly prohibited, as are burn barrels or other outdoor fires. Residents are encouraged to report unauthorized burns or those that create a public nuisance to the Valley Air District.

Applications for agricultural burn permits are processed over the telephone. Please call:

For more information, please visit the Agricultural Burning page on this website.

Toxic air emissions are regulated under the District’s Integrated Air Toxic Program. This program integrates the state and federal requirements and is aimed at protecting public health. Major goals of this program are as follows:

  1. Assuring compliance with State and Federal requirements aimed at protecting public health;
  2. Eliminating duplication and redundancy by consolidating requirements where multiple rules, programs, and emission limits apply to a single operation;
  3. Maximizing the use of existing programs for quantifying, assessing, and controlling air toxic emissions;
  4. Maximizing the use of the District’s existing ozone and PM10 regulations that also result in air toxic emissions reductions;
  5. Maximizing the use of the District’s existing permitting, inspection, and emission inventory systems to minimize the burden of State and Federal recordkeeping and reporting requirements; and
  6. Not Federalizing "State-only" requirements unless doing so provides a corresponding benefit by substantially streamlining the program.

What is CEQA?

CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

When and why was it enacted?

The impetus for CEQA can be traced to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. In response to this federal law, the California State Assembly created a committee to study the possibility of supplementing NEPA through state law. In 1970, this legislative committee issued a report entitled The Environmental Bill of Rights, which called for a California counterpart to NEPA. Later that same year, this legislature passed and Governor Reagan signed the CEQA statute.

Who must comply with CEQA?

Just about anyone who wants to plan and build nearly anything in California, including state and local public agencies, private individuals, and companies, must comply with CEQA. Examples of projects that are nearly always subject to CEQA are city and county general plans, zoning changes, subdivision maps, conditional use permits, and air district attainment plans. Each jurisdiction responsible for approving projects decides which are subject to CEQA within the framework and guidelines provided. CEQA identifies many activities that are exempt from its requirements.

If it applies, what are the basic requirements of environmental review under CEQA?

The required environmental review imposes both procedural and substantive requirements. At a minimum, an initial review of the project and its environmental effects must be conducted. Depending on the potential effects, a further, and more substantial, review may be conducted in the form of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A project may not be approved as submitted if there are feasible alternatives or mitigation measures are able to substantially reduce the environmental effects of the project, unless the agency explains in detail why the benefits of the proposed project outweigh the unavoidable, adverse environmental impacts and why the agency is willing to accept such impacts.

What are the CEQA Guidelines?

The Guidelines are the regulations that explain and interpret the law for the public at large and public agencies required to administer CEQA. The Guidelines provide objectives, criteria and procedures so that public agencies can evaluate projects and prepare environmental impact reports, negative declarations, and mitigate negative declarations by public agencies. The fundamental purpose of the Guidelines is to make the CEQA process comprehensible to those who administer it, are subject to it, and benefit from it. To that end, the Guidelines are more than mere regulations that implement CEQA, as they incorporate and interpret both the statutory mandates of CEQA and the principles advanced by judicial decisions.

How are the Guidelines crafted?

The Governor's Office of Planning and Research prepares and develops proposed amendments to the Guidelines and transmits them to the Secretary for Resources. The Secretary for Resources is responsible for certification and adoption of the Guidelines and any amendments. To obtain public comment, the Secretary holds a 45-day written comment period, which includes a public hearing to receive testimony on the proposal. All public comments, whether written or verbal, are considered by the Secretary in determining whether to adopt the proposed amendments prepared by the Office of Planning and Research. Once edited, amendments are adopted and sent to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review and final approval. Guidelines approved by OAL are deposited with the Secretary of State and go into immediate effect.

How often are the Guidelines amended?

Revision of the CEQA Guidelines is an on-going process. By statute, the Secretary of Resources is required to review and consider amendments to the Guidelines every two years. Annual changes to CEQA and evolving case law make revision to the Guidelines necessary on a continual basis. By the time one revision is completed, another one begins. Because the subject is so large and complex, a definitive, one-time revision is not possible. The actual process of amending the Guidelines is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act and is the same as that described above in "How are the Guidelines crafted?"

Who enforces CEQA? What role does the Resources Agency have in enforcement of CEQA?

CEQA is a self-executing statute. Public agencies are entrusted to comply with CEQA with little or no enforcement. Instead, the public enforces its provisions through litigation, when necessary. While the Resources Agency is charged with the adoption of CEQA Guidelines and often assists public agencies in its interpretation, it is each agency's duty to determine what is and is not subject to CEQA. As such, the Resources Agency does not review the facts and exercise of discretion by public agencies in individual situations, nor does it enforce CEQA, or monitor state and local agency actions that are subject to CEQA compliance.

What aspects of CEQA compliance is the Secretary for Resources responsible?

In addition to adopting the CEQA Guidelines and amendments, the Secretary for Resources also has the following responsibilities:

  • Determines if a class of projects given categorical exemptions will have a significant environmental impact;
  • Certifies state environmental regulatory programs that meet specific standards as being exempt from certain provisions of CEQA;
  • Receives and files notices of completion, determination, and exemption; and
  • Provides assistance in interpreting the provisions of CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines.

The Industry Self-Inspection program – known as INSPECT – was developed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District(Valley Air District) in partnership with business and industry leaders to improve compliance with air quality regulations and streamline the District’s inspection program.

Through the INSPECT program, the Valley Air District assists businesses in developing self-inspection programs for their facilities. This helps each business operator to implement routine inspections of their equipment and promptly correct any deficiencies that may be discovered. In return, the Valley Air District will eliminate penalties for many self-reported violations and reduce penalties for others.

The INSPECT program represents the newest effort in the District’s compliance assistance program, which focuses on education, prevention, and cooperation. Anyone wishing to receive more details about the INSPECT program may call the District at (559) 230-5950.

For more information, please visit the INSPECT page on this website.

Frequently Asked Questions About Public Involvement

Complaints should be reported as quickly as possible after you have detected an offensive odor, observed smoke, fallout, dust, or any other pollution problem. The sooner a complaint is received, the sooner it will be dispatched to an inspector who can begin an investigation. Problems should be reported each day that they occur. The most efficient way to make a complaint is to use one of the Valley Air District’s toll free complaint lines:

The rules that have been adopted by the District can be downloaded from this website. If you have questions regarding current rules, please contact the Small Business Assistance staff in the regional District offices.

If you have any questions or would like to get a copy of a draft rule, please visit the workshops and public hearings web page, or call the Air Quality Science and Planning Division at (559) 230-6100.

Copies of District rules are available at the rules page on this web site. To subscribe to receive rule updates please visit the email lists page.

  • Carpool whenever possible.
  • Organize errands into one motor vehicle trip, not several.
  • Walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation.
  • Shop by phone, mail, or Internet.
  • Telecommute.
  • On smoggy days, postpone yard care with gasoline-powered equipment, or better yet, use electric or manual tools.
  • For clean fun in the sun, try sailing, swimming, hiking or cycling but remember to consider air quality and your health when planning outdoor activities.
  • When air quality is poor, postpone the use of your motor boat or off-road vehicle for 24 hours.
  • Start your briquettes with electric or chimney starters or use a propane or natural gas barbecue.
  • Paint with rollers and brushes, and use water-based paints instead of oil-based.
  • Keep the tops closed on all paints and solvents and store them in airtight containers.
  • Use solid or gel alternatives to aerosol and pump sprays.
  • Keep your car in good working condition.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure.
  • Don’t top off the gas tank.
  • When replacing your vehicle, look for the most efficient, lowest polluting model.
  • Redesign or modify processes at the worksite to reduce waste, energy, and emissions.
  • Improve methods for handling of materials, storage, and management practices to reduce waste, spills, leaks, and fugitive emissions.
  • Bookmark and stay in touch!
Frequently Asked Question About State and Federal Agencies

The Federal Clean Air Act (FCAA) requires the EPA to set National Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for several problem air pollutants to protect human health and welfare criteria. Standards were established for carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter (PM10), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. Of these criteria pollutants, the San Joaquin Valley does not meet the standards for ozone and PM2.5. The FCAA requires that the California Air Resources Board prepare an air quality control plan referred to as the State Implementation Plan (SIP) that contains the strategies and control measures that California will use to attain the NAAQS.

The California Air Resources Board is the agency responsible for coordination and oversight of state and local air pollution control programs in California and for implementing the California Clean Air Act of 1988 (CCAA). California Air Resources Board has also developed state air quality standards. Other California Air Resources Board duties include monitoring air quality in conjunction with local air districts, setting emissions standards for new motor vehicles, and reviewing district input for the SIP. The SIP consists of the emissions standards for vehicular and consumer-related sources set by the California Air Resources Board, and attainment plans and rules adopted by the local air districts.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is a separate governmental entity with its own Governing Board. It has jurisdiction over certain categories of air quality matters in the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin: Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Madera, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced Counties, and the Valley portion of Kern County. (The District has the primary responsibility for control of air pollution from sources other than mobile sources and consumer products, which are the responsibility of the California Air Resources Board and EPA.)

The District is responsible for preparing attainment plans for each nonattainment criteria pollutant (ozone and PM2.5) for which it does not meet the standard. These plans establish the strategies that the District will use to attain the federal standards. Until the passage of the CCAA, the 1990 Amendments to the FCAA, and the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the District’s primary activity was the control of stationary sources of pollution such as industrial processes and equipment. With the passage of those acts, the District was required to include transportation control measures in its strategies and was encouraged to adopt indirect source programs to reduce mobile source emissions. Upon adoption by the District’s Governing Board, the plans are transmitted to California Air Resources Board for approval and then to EPA for incorporation into the SIP.