Environmental Permitting

Getting Started with Air Permitting

The best way to begin the process of understanding what air permits may apply to your business is to familiarize yourself with the applicable air laws and regulations; primarily state and federal air permitting regulations and emissions standards, such as those reviewed yesterday.

Once you have reviewed your processes and applicable regulations, a simple checklist can help you get organized and will reveal steps to take toward compliance. BLR’s Air Quality Checklist offers a straight-forward procedural approach to the air permitting process. Below are some of the Checklist questions with brief explanations.

Has every source of air contaminants been identified?

It is your responsibility to review each process, understand associated air emissions and determine if your emissions require a permit. Be sure to consider emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (PM-10 and PM-2.5), carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases, and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). At this time there are 187 HAPs controlled by the EPA and they can be found at http://enviro.blr.com/environmental-guidance/air/hazardous-air-pollutants/Hazardous-Air-Pollutants-Tables/.

Is there an emissions inventory of actual and potential emissions from each source of air contaminants?

Emission inventories are used by emitters as well as regulators to establish significant emission sources and trends, calculate air quality using dispersion modeling and direct regulatory action as needed. EPA provides emissions inventory guidance at http://envirodailyadvisor.blr.com/2012/04/air-permitting-training-the-emissions-inventory/#more-2564.

Is the facility a “major source”?

Different source categories have different levels of regulatory responsibility primarily based upon the annual quantity of air emissions. EPA’s definition of “major source” for pollutants other than HAPs varies based on the applicable permit program. Therefore, you must review permitting regulations to determine if a facility is a major source. For more information see:




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EPA defines “major sources” as those “that emit 10 tons per year of any of the listed toxic air pollutants, or 25 tons per year of a mixture of air toxics.” Similarly, “area sources” are defined as “smaller size facilities that … emit less than 10 tons per year of a single air toxic or less than 25 tons per year of a combination of air toxics.” More information about sources is provided at http://enviro.blr.com/environmental-topics/air/hazardous-air-pollutants/.

The above questions may help new facilities identify the need for air permits but once permits are obtained, there are many additional items to track and maintain to stay in compliance with your current permit, and/or to determine the need for new or amended permits. Here are a few questions that apply to ongoing permit compliance.

Has the facility implemented any production changes that would alter its air emissions and thus the condition under which any air quality permit was issued?

Production process changes can often result in changes in air emissions – both negatively and positively – but either way, it is important that the permit for that source be reviewed in light of any process changes. Because different states and local air authority programs have different regulations, you should review your current operating permit and contact the appropriate agency for guidance on filing a permit modification.

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Are the appropriate workers trained to properly comply with permit conditions and applicable regulations?

Permits cover a lot of requirements, not the least of which is training employees to understand the conditions associated with the permit and the regulations that apply. In addition, the CAA under section 112(r)(1), known as the “general duty” clause, requires facilities that produce, process, handle, or store any substance listed under the federal Risk Management Program or other extremely hazardous substance, to identify hazards that may result from the release of these chemical, including :

  • Identifying all hazardous chemicals used or produced at the facility;
  • Identifying the hazards associated with the chemicals using proper hazard assessment and techniques;
  • Designing and maintaining a safe facility for processes that involve hazardous chemicals; and
  • Taking appropriate measures to prevent releases and minimize the consequences of any accidental release that may occur.

Additional information regarding the CAA Risk Management Program (RMP) can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/lawsregs/rmpover.htm.

If your facility is new or you have a new source of emissions you may also need to comply with New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) under 40 CFR part 60. These technology based standards apply to specific categories of stationary sources and have additional requirements for covered facilities. EPA offers NSPS information at http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/monitoring/programs/caa/newsource.html.

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