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Friday, April 19, 2024

Laundry shops on edge of shut down as new law mandates boiler replacement

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The laundry cleaning industry is once again threatened with the danger of closure by the Southern California Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) proposed Nitrogen Oxide Emission Reduction Act (1146.2).

The act was created by the AQMD to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from large water heaters and small boilers that use gas.

Image of laundry worker at work
The act requires cleaners to upgrade or replace water heaters and boilers to electric equipment.

 

Although the AQMD held five industry meetings last year, a public workshop in February, and a public consultation this year, the Korean-American laundry industry reportedly didn’t learn of the proposal until January.

If the AQMD 1146.2 bill passes on June 7, it will require all cleaners to retrofit, upgrade, or replace water heaters and boilers with electric equipment. Small laundry cleaning shops have expressed concern that the cost of replacing their machines and paying for electricity will ultimately put them out of business.

“The AQMD sent out an email to businesses about the new law, but many of our members did not receive it,” said Yoondong Kim, president of the Korean Drycleaners-Laundry Association. “If many small Korean laundries replace their current equipment with electric water heaters and boilers, they may be forced to close their doors because they will have to pay for the cost of the machines and installation, plus the cost of electricity that is four times more expensive than gas.”

Kim noted that 30 percent of Korean-American laundry places have closed during the pandemic and are now facing a second round of shutdowns.

The AQMD board had originally planned to vote to adopt the measure on May 4, but decided to hold an additional public hearing on May 3 and then vote for final approval on June 7. The new law applies to all dry cleaners that use large water heaters greater than 75,000 BTU/hr or small boilers of 2 million BTU/hr or less.

“Most Korean-American cleaners use small boilers, so they are subject to replacement,” Kim said. “The idea is to basically replace all gas boilers with electric boilers.”

The AQMD’s plan to retrofit, upgrade, and replace water heaters and boilers is in three phases. New businesses will have three years from 2026, and existing businesses will have four years from 2029. The association is encouraging its members to take an active role in opposing AQMD 1146.2 before the June 7 vote to adopt the bill.

“We need to participate in the public hearings and make sure our voices are heard by the commissioners and other stakeholders,” Kim said. “We will be working with other dry cleaners associations, as well as businesses and industry organizations affected by the bill.”

BY EUNYOUNG LEE, HOONSIK WOO    [lee.eunyoung6@koreadaily.com]