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Rice Straw Emission Reduction Credits

UPDATED 2/6/12


Over 500,000 acres of rice are grown each year in the Sacramento Valley. Before the Connelly-Areias-Chandler Rice Straw Burning Reduction Act of 1991 (AB 1379, Ch. 787, 1991) (Act), most of these acres were burned to control rice disease and prepare the fields for the following year’s crop. In order to reduce the public health impacts of rice straw burning, the Legislature voted in 1991 to phase-down the burning of rice straw in the Sacramento Valley.

This phase-down occurred over a period of nearly ten years, with progressively fewer acres of rice fields eligible to be burned each year. Starting in 2001 (the final year of the phase-down), the Act sets the limit on the rice acreage which can be burned at 25% of an individual grower’s planted acreage, not to exceed 125,000 acres basin-wide. In addition to these basin-wide acreage caps, individual fields can only be burned for disease control.


In an effort to provide some relief to the growers from the cost difference between historical burning and alternate, and more costly, methods of disposing of rice straw, one provision of the Act stated that the reductions created by the phase-down be considered surplus so that growers could bank Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs).

Our District participated in the working groups in the early 1990s which led to the development of a Manual of Procedures (MOP) and model rule. The ARB and EPA participated in these working group meetings. Our District subsequently promulgated our Rule 506, Biomass Emission Reduction Credits and Banking in 1996 to allow for these rice ERCs to be banked. In 2003, our District issued ERCs based on one application for the cessation of open field agricultural burning of rice straw. ARB and EPA commented on these credits and consequentially these credits were not “federally recognized” and could not be used at a major source. As a result, these credits could not be used.

A working group was formed by the Sacramento Valley Air Basin Control Council (BCC), which included the districts in the Sacramento Valley and the California Rice Commission. The goal of the working group was to work with the stakeholders to develop a model rule for banking rice ERCs which ensures that credits generated are federally recognized. Through the collective efforts of the group, a model rule was developed, along with a support document (White Paper) that outlined the elements required in order to obtain federal recognition of the credits.

In February 19, 2009, the Placer County Board of Directors adopted the model rule, Rule 516, Rice Straw Emission Reduction Credits.

Yolo-Solano AQMD adopted their version of this model rule in December 2008 and Feather River AQMD adopted it in April 2009.

For more information on Rice Biomass Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs), please call Mr. Don Duffy at 530-745-2336 or e-mail him at