- Each year the Air Pollution Control Division reports to the Air Quality Control Commission its projected smoke management costs for the next calendar year.
- Adjustment is made for program surplus or deficit brought forward from estimates for the previous year.
- If the projected net annual cost is more than 5% different from the fee amount currently in regulation, then the Division seeks a fee change in a public hearing before the Commission.
- Bills are calculated in arrears, after all activity for the previous calendar year's permits is reported. Bills for share permittees as described below are mailed in late spring or early summer.
- From the expected costs for the year, a total amount billed as flat fees to occasional applicants is deducted. Also deducted are total bills for reviewing documents for 'Significant Users of Prescribed Fire' hearings. All told, the deductions are less than 10% of the total program cost. The remaining amount is shared among all other permittees.
- For the remaining permittees, shares are based on their annual activity as a percent of the statewide total. Shares are recalculated every three years. They apply to the three years following the period whose activity they summarize. Shares are recalculated infrequently in order to smooth and simplify budgeting for permittee agencies. Billing and share calculations are shown on linked spreadsheets.
- Any landowner or agency whose permits make up at least 1% of the statewide total is included in the next three-years share calculation. The group that shares the program's cost for 2012 - 2014 includes most federal and some local government agencies that burn, plus two private ranches. All permits and associated emissions that are billed at flat fees are subtracted from the statewide totals before percentage shares are calculated.
- A permittee's percent of activity is defined as the average of two calculations that each are percents of statewide totals. The number of permits is one of the percentages. The other is the agency's portion of total PM-10 generated through prescribed fires. PM-10 for a project is calculated from EPA-approved particulate emissions factors by fuel type, multiplied by tons of broadcast fuel or cubic feet of piles burned under the permit. For piles, reported actual dimensions and percent burned are used to determine cubic feet burned. For broadcast, actual acres and standardized tons per acre by fuel group are used.
- People and agencies whose activities average less than 1% of the three-year total are billed $100 per permit.
- In 2009-2011, the three-year period that establishes shares for 2012-2014, the Air Pollution Control Division issued 1,189 prescribed fire permits. One percent therefore equals about one permit a year.
- PM-10 generated varies more per year than the number of permits. In 2009 the total was about 2,200 tons, in 2010 2,500 tons, and in 2011, 1200 tons.
- A few permits are for projects that cross ownership and/or jurisdictional boundaries. When the land managers or owners apply for the permit, they tell the Air Pollution Control Division what portion of the permit's activity share each will pay.
- The fee program began in calendar year 2002. The total cost of the program in 2010 and again in 2011 was about $200,000. A one-percent share after non-share fees were deducted is about $1,900.
The Air Quality Control Commission oversees the fee program, including through their Regulation 9.