For Irvine residents living near the All American Asphalt facility on Jeffrey Road, the facility’s crumb rubber system has long been suspected as the source of the foul odor that wafts through the neighborhoods of Orchard Hills on a consistent basis.

While it is unknown if the crumb rubber system, which is part of multiple sections of equipment that include an oil-burning mechanism, and air pollution control devices, is the official odor-causing culprit, the project itself received a “Notice of Exemption” from the South Coast Air Quality Management District on Friday, Aug. 27, which stated that it posed no threat to the environment.

Per California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines, there are three categories of exemptions — Statutory, Categorical and General Rule, also referred to as Common Sense Exemption.

Per the CEQA website, “Statutory exemptions are granted by the California Legislature for individual or classes of projects, and apply regardless of the environmental impacts of the project for state policy reasons. In contrast, categorical exemptions are classes of projects exempted from CEQA because the California Secretary of Natural Resources has determined that they typically do not have substantial impacts on the environment.”

In the case of All American Asphalt, the most recent Notice of Exemption aimed at permitting the use of the crumb rubber system in Irvine is known as a Common Sense or General Rule Exemption which “applies to projects that don’t fit within a statutory or categorical exemption, but where it can be clearly demonstrated that the project has no potential to have significant environmental effects,” according to CEQA documentation.

 

Within the single-page Notice of Exemption, AQMD summarized the following findings regarding the crumb rubber system’s impact on the environment:

The South Coast AQMD has reviewed the Proposed Project pursuant to: 1) CEQA Guidelines Section 15002(k) – General Concepts, the three-step process for deciding which document to prepare for a project subject to CEQA; and 2) CEQA Guidelines Section 15061 – Review for Exemption, procedures for determining if a project is exempt from CEQA. Since it can be seen with certainty that the Proposed Project has no potential to have a significant adverse effect on the environment and since the Proposed Project involves negligible or no expansion of use, the South Coast AQMD has determined that the Proposed Project is exempt from CEQA pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Sections 15061(b)(3) – Common Sense Exemption and 15301 – Existing Facilities. In addition, no unusual circumstances would occur that would create significant effects and none of the exceptions to the Class 1 categorical exemption pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2 – Exceptions apply to the Proposed Project.

Currently, the city of Irvine is in an ongoing legal battle with the All American Asphalt company, keeping public officials limited on what they can discuss. However, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan announced that she would be discussing AQMD’s most recent air toxic study results during the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14.