By Nzong Xiong

With the San Joaquin Valley’s unique geography, meteorology and topography, meeting national ambient air quality standards has always been a challenge. As the region grows in population, reducing emissions and protecting the health of residents continue to be top priorities of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Late last year, the district successfully adopted a new plan for improving the valley’s air quality and meeting the newest federal air quality standards for fine particles (PM2.5). Known as the 2018 PM2.5 Plan, this detailed roadmap includes a suite of measures, both regulatory and incentive-based, that will help reduce emissions from both mobile and stationary sources in the Valley.

One of the plan strategies includes an incentive effort to assist owners of commercial underfired charbroilers in lowering their emissions. Unlike chain-driven charbroilers that are common in fast-food restaurants, underfired charbroilers are typically found in steakhouses and have heavy-duty grills or large metal grids that have a heating element or flame under the grill that is used to cook the food. They cook much like an outdoor barbecue grill where food is placed on a cast iron grate above the heat source. As the food cooks, fats or marinades drip onto the coals or ceramics producing smoke. The smoke produces the characteristic charred flavor, while the hot grates create the strip marks that are typical on charbroiled foods.

While customers frequent those businesses with the expressed purpose of enjoying that charred flavor, new equipment is necessary to capture the significant emissions that accompany it so the Valley can continue working toward PM2.5 attainment. While there are ongoing improvements in the technologies available to reduce commercial cooking emissions, the costs of installing controls for commercial underfired charbroilers remain high. The District’s new incentive-based measure aims to help fund the installation of those controls.

Interested business owners are encouraged to contact the District right away to take advantage of available incentive funding. For more information about the incentive program, please visit www.valleyair.org/grants/rctp.htm or contact the District’s Technology Advancement Program staff at (559) 230-5800 or technology@valleyair.org.

Nzong Xiong is an Outreach and Communications Representative with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

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