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Hearing Board

​The Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial panel authorized to provide relief from Sac Metro Air District regulations under certain circumstances. As state law requires, Hearing Board members are appointed by but act independently of the Sac Metro Air District Governing Board. The Hearing Board consists of a medical professional, a professional engineer, an attorney, and two members of the public. The Hearing Board is scheduled to meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 4:00 pm in the Sac Metro Air District Offices located at 777 12th Street,  Ste. 300, Sacramento, CA.


  • Darrel H. Wool, Attorney Member – Chair
  • Tim Olson, Public Member – Vice-Chair
  • Earl Withycombe, Professional Engineer Member
  • Jonathan Ellison, Public Member
  • [Vacant], Member of the Medical Profession

​Hearing Board Meetings and Agendas

​​​​Hearing Board Authority

The Hearing Board is authorized to hear:

    • petitions by companies for variances
    • petitions for abatement orders

An abatement order requires a business operating out of compliance to take specific actions or to shut down its operation. This is a severe remedy normally reserved for serious violators.

    • appeals by businesses from the granting of permits, permit conditions, permit denials and suspensions, denials of emission reduction credits and denials of pollution control plans
    • appeals by third parties

The Hearing Board is not authorized to:

    • modify rules

    • exempt a business from complying with a rule

    • grant a variance from a violation of the public nuisance law, such as one that creates an odor problem or threatens public health or property

    • review a violation notice in any way


A variance is an administrative exception to a law allowing a business to continue operating in violation of Sac Metro Air District rules without penalty while it takes appropriate steps to meet air pollution control requirements. Variances can be granted only by the Sac Metro Air District Hearing Board, not by Sac Metro Air District inspectors or engineers. ​​The variance information packet contains detailed information on variances.

There may be good reasons why a business can't immediately comply with rules. Violation of rules can result in a fine, or even the shutdown of an operation. The only legal way to operate while working toward a solution without being subject to penalties is to obtain a variance. The U.S. EPA may take enforcement action, notwithstanding a variance.

Types of Variances:


Emergency Breakdown Conditions

A breakdown condition is an unforeseeable failure or malfunction of 1) any air pollution control equipment or related operating equipment which causes a violation of any emission limitation or restriction prescribed by these Rules and Regulations, or by State law, or 2) any in-stack continuous monitoring equipment, where such failure or malfunction is:

  1. Is not the result of neglect or disregard of any pollution control law or Rule or Regulation;
  2. Is not intentional or the result of negligence;
  3. Is not the result of improper maintenance;
  4. Does not constitute a public nuisance;
  5. Is not a recurrent breakdown of the same equipment

Emergency Breakdown Procedures

  1. A person shall notify the Air Pollution Control Officer of any occurrence which constitutes a breakdown condition as soon as reasonably possibly, but no later than one hour after its detection. If the breakdown occurs when the Air Pollution Control Officer cannot be contacted, the report of breakdown shall be made at the commencement of the next regular working day.

  2. The notification shall identify the time, specific location, equipment involved, and to the extent known the cause(s) of the occurrence.

  3. Upon notification of the breakdown condition, the Air Pollution Control Officer shall investigate the breakdown condition in accordance with uniform written procedures and guidelines relating to logging of initial reports on appropriate forms, investigation, and enforcement follow-up. If the occurrence does not constitute a breakdown condition, the Air Pollution Control Officer may take appropriate enforcement action


For immediate coverage other than for emergencies, an interim variance, which only requires a "reasonable notice" period--can be obtained to cover the time until a hearing for a short or regular variance can be held. An interim variance must  be requested at the same time either a short or regular variance is requested. The Hearing Board is required by law to find good cause to grant an interim variance. There has to be a good reason why the business could not have filed its petition in time for the hearing to be announced to the public.


Businesses that can comply with Sac Metro Air District rules within 90 days or less should request a short variance. A short variance requires a 10 day posted notice, plus five days processing time before the request can be heard.


Companies that need more than 90 days to comply with Sac Metro Air District rules should request a regular variance. The variance period is usually one year or less, but can be longer if a specific compliance schedule is set. An application for a regular variance must be filed at least 35 days before the request can be heard.

​Variance Request Process

To request a variance or appeal a permit or an emission reduction credit denial, call (279) 207-1122. The Clerk of the Hearing Board will provide a packet of information needed to file a petition. The petition form may also be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The Clerk of the Hearing Board will schedule a hearing once they receive the completed petition form and appropriate filing fee.

The Hearing Board meets at Sac Metro Air District offices. Filing for a hearing cannot be done online or by facsimile. The Hearing Board is required by law to give public notice of hearings. Requestors will receive a copy of the notice.

Sac Metro Air District Rule 302 provides a detailed description of all Hearing Board fees. 

  • Filing Fee - due at the time the petition application is submitted.
  • Publication Fee - due whenever a public notice must be printed in the newspaper (regular variance and appeals)
  • Excess Emission Fee - due when a granted variance is in effect for more than 90 days.

A Sac Metro Air District staff person is available to help determine the amount of excess emissions to be billed. For assistance, call the Clerk of the Hearing Board at 279-207-1138.

Small businesses are eligible for a discount on some fees.

​Preparing for the Hearing

Preparing for the hearing ahead of time is very important. Plan to bring all relevant information to form the basis of the six findings described in the variance information packet. Also, bring copies of current permits, contact information for companies helping to achieve compliance, dates compliant equipment can be installed, and plans for reducing emissions in the interim. The Hearing Board needs ten copies of any documents presented.

Petitioners may represent themselves or be represented by an attorney.  It's important to know what rules have been violated, the level of excess emissions, and to have a plan as to how and when compliance will be reached. It is helpful to bring along any technical experts who are assisting to resolve the issue.

Variance hearings are like courtroom proceedings. Both the variance petitioner and the Sac Metro Air District, represented by the Office of District Counsel, present evidence through witnesses under oath, documents and exhibits. Witnesses may be cross-examined by the opposing side and questioned by Hearing Board members.

The Hearing Board will attempt to discover why and how the rule is being violated, whether the violation could have been prevented, what is being done to correct the violation, when corrections will be completed, what will happen to the business if it is forced to shut down, how the violation affects the public, and what efforts can be made to reduce excess emissions to the maximum extent feasible.

The Sac Metro Air District may argue against a variance or suggest certain limiting conditions. The public is invited to present any information important to the case. Board members then close the hearing and discuss the case among themselves before reaching a decision.

​Getting Help

For more information on the variance process including how to request a variance, or fill out the application, call the Clerk of the Hearing Board at 279-207-1138.

The variance packet is available for download at the bottom of this page or may be picked up at Sac Metro Air District offices at 777 12th Street,  Ste. 300, Sacramento, CA 95814.



Information Packet Variances Board Documents/Information Packet Variances.pdfInformation Packet VariancesVariance Materials
Nuisance Board Documents/Nuisance.pdfNuisanceVariance Materials
Petition Form Board Documents/Petition Form.pdfPetition FormVariance Materials
Rule 201 Board Documents/Rule 201.pdfRule 201Variance Materials
Rule 302 Board Documents/Rule 302.pdfRule 302Variance Materials
Rule 601 Board Documents/Rule 601.pdfRule 601Variance Materials
Rule 602 Board Documents/Rule 602.pdfRule 602Variance Materials
2021 HB Meeting Calendar (FINAL) Board Documents/2021 HB Meeting Calendar (FINAL).pdf2021 HB Meeting Calendar (FINAL)

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