Environmental Permitting

Air Permitting Training: Defining Major Source (Part 1)

By Timothy P. Fagan, BLR Air Expert

Determining if a source is a major source will have significant impacts on the work and time needed to complete the permitting process, because major sources will be required to comply with New Source Review (i.e., nonattainment New Source Review and/or Prevention of Significant Deterioration) and Title V, instead of minor source permits.  Adding to the complexity of the major source determination is the fact that the definition changes depending on the permitting program.

Nonattainment New Source Review
Sources located in nonattainment areas must comply with nonattainment NSR (NNSR).  In general, a major source under NNSR is a source that has the potential to emit (PTE) 100 tons per year (tpy) or more of any regulated NSR pollutant, which include:

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOC);
  • Any pollutant for which a NAAQS has been established; and
  • Any pollutant that is a precursor to any of the aforementioned regulated NSR pollutants.

However, the general rule does not apply in all cases. Ozone, CO, and PM-10 have subcategories that lower the emissions threshold below 100 tpy because of the severity of the nonattainment classification. Sources that are major for VOCs are considered major sources for ozone.  In addition, fugitive emissions are not to be included when making a major source determination unless the source is among those specifically listed to include such emissions.

Sources located in attainment areas must comply with PSD.  The major source threshold is a PTE of 100 tpy of a regulated NSR pollutant for selected source categories, and 250 tpy for all other sources.  In addition, any physical change occurring at a stationary source not otherwise qualifying as a major source, is considered a major source if the change would constitute a major source by itself.  For PSD, a regulated NSR pollutant is:

  • Any pollutant for which a NAAQS has been established or precursor to such a pollutant;
  • Any pollutant that is subject to an NSPS under 40 CFR 60;
  • Any Class I or II ozone-depleting substance; and
  • Other regulated pollutants, including greenhouse gases (GHG) above specified thresholds.

As is the case with NNSR, sources that are major for VOCs are considered major sources for ozone, and fugitive emissions are not to be included when making a major source determination unless the source is among the specifically listed source categories.

Title V
Air Permitting Training: Defining a Major Source (Part 2) will cover what constitutes a major source for Title V operating permits.

Additional Resources:

Feedback: I’d like to do a series of posts on air permit training. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail and tell me what training topics are most important to you.

Timothy P. Fagan is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental publications, focusing primarily on air quality related topics. Mr. Fagan has covered environmental developments with BLR since 2000. Before joining BLR, he spent 5 years in environmental consulting and was responsible for air quality permitting and compliance for a broad range of industries in both the private and public sector. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Villanova University and a Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.

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