Environmental Permitting

Air Permitting Training: Annual Compliance Certification

What is a compliance certification?

Every source with Title V operating permit must document the facility’s compliance status with respect to each applicable requirement for the previous year by submitting a compliance certification document or form.  The compliance certification must:

  • Identify each condition of the permit, including design specifications, emission limits, operating parameters, work practice standards, and monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.
  • Identify the method used for determining compliance with each permit condition during the certification period.
  • Identify the status of compliance with the permit conditions for the specified reporting period, and whether compliance was continuous or intermittent. The certification must identify each deviation and any periods in which an excursion or exceedance occurred.

To be deemed in “continuous compliance,” a source must always be in compliance according to the terms of the permit.  For example, if monitoring data is used as the method to demonstrate compliance with a regulatory requirement, the source is in continuous compliance if all required monitoring data is collected according to the frequency required by the permit, and said data indicates compliance with the regulatory requirement, with no deviations other than upsets or malfunctions.  “Intermittent compliance” is any other form of compliance other than continuous compliance.

Who certifies compliance?  

The annual Title V compliance certification must be signed by a responsible official, and contain a statement that reads “"based on information and belief formed after reasonable inquiry, the statements and information in the document are true, accurate, and complete.”

That seems simple, but what constitutes “reasonable inquiry?”  EPA provides no definition.  What constitutes reasonable inquiry is subjective and is based on the quantity of information and the effort put forth to justify the belief that information provided in the certification is true, accurate, and complete.  However, in most cases the responsible official is not involved reviewing monitoring data, and to do so may be unreasonable with the quantity of data in many cases.  Therefore, at a minimum, the responsible official must have a clear understanding of the system in place to monitor and record the data, the process used to review the data to determine compliance and identify instances of noncompliance, and the results of the review that are reported in the annual compliance certification.

How do you facilitate reasonable inquiry?

To assist the responsible official with reasonable inquiry into the facility’s compliance status, each Title V facility should have a compliance determination system that:

  • Assures that the persons responsible for reviewing data are aware of Title V requirements;
  • Clearly defines procedures for identifying and documenting instances of noncompliance;
  • Clearly defines procedures for implementing and documenting corrective actions; and
  • Clearly defines procedures for reporting the instance of noncompliance and corrective action to the appropriate person.

Keep in mind that oftentimes Title V facilities are subject to an overwhelming number of regulatory requirements, so repeatedly certifying 100 percent continuous compliance may raise suspicion, and failure to perform reasonable inquiry may result in a charge of submitting a false certification and criminal liability for the responsible official.  So always maintain documentation of the actions taken to demonstrate reasonable inquiry.

Additional Resources:

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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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