Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Envera @ The Board (E@TB). Today, we’re going to be talking about the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) Certified Permitting Professional Program (CPP) that certifies private consultants to prepare permit applications for the AQMD. Let’s get started.
What is the Certified Professional Program? [00:32]
As we said, the CPP Program stands for the Certified Permitting Professional Program, and is a permitting credential, that certifies private consultants who are familiar with the AQMD’s permitting process. We’ll get to the term “familiar” and how does the AQMD determine that you’re familiar with their permitting process later on down here in section four. For now, just know that the CPP Program is a permitting credential, and the goal is to certify private consultants who understand the process of preparing and submitting permit applications. Now, the CPP Program or the CPP Credential is part of the AQMD’s permit streamlining process and this process is in place to streamline the time and the amount of effort it takes to get a permit from the air agency.
As we have talked about in previous E@TB videos, getting a permit from the AQMD can be a long and windy road, but a necessary one at that, because permits are needed to build any piece of equipment that can or will emit air contaminants, and so getting that permit is very important, but the process can be very long. [02:00] To streamline the permitting process, the AQMD has several programs in place to shorten that process and the CPP Program is just one program. There are other ones out there such as the Certified Equipment Program like the Certified Engine Program, as well as XPP or Expedited Permit Processing program where you can actually pay a little bit more fees when you submit your permit application, and those extra fees authorizes the engineer to work on his or her day off or on overtime to process your permit application so you can get it in a shorter period of time than if you didn’t submit it via the XPP Program. Now, let’s talk about benefits.
Benefits of having a CPP [02:50]
There are two benefits associated with a CPP or having a CPP prepare your permit application and the first and most important one is because this is a streamlining program, you can expect a shorter permit processing times. That’s because when a CPP prepares a permit application, the district can be assured that the application was prepared by someone who knows the permitting process.
We have here that shorter permit processing times because it assume that the permit was prepared by someone who simply knows a process. They know all the bits and pieces and components that need to be built or put into a permit application, and because of that, the engineer will spend less time going back and forth trying to get more information from an applicant because they have submitted a permit application that’s incomplete.
The second benefit, and this is really a benefit for consultants, is because of the shorter processing times, consulting firms like to market that they have CPPs or they like to market the number of CPPs under staff simply as a means [04:00] to show that we have staff or we have CPPs on staff who are familiar with the permitting process.
In addition, the AQMD actually maintains a list of the CPPs who have elected to be on the list on their website. It’s a pretty lengthy list. It has grown significantly in the past. If you download that list and I’ll put a link to it below this video, that that will show all of CPP consultants who have elected to be on that list, because actually, the CPP, you can elect not to have your name on the list, but from a marketing standpoint, consultants and consulting firms like that list and they like to have their names on that list.
Again, the benefit is simply shorter permit processing times because the permit is assumed to be complete.
Tools and Guidance for preparing permit applications [04:53]
Now, as a CPP, the AQMD provides you with various tools and guidance documents (including Envera Consulting’s CPP resources) that you need to prepare permit applications, and so some of the tools that the AQMD provide CPPs include information for submitting permit applications. Now, let’s just make one thing clear here. A lot of this information presented here lives within the public domain. Since it lives in the public domain, you don’t need to be a CPP to get access to this, although there is one tool that you need to be a CPP to get access to, and I’ll talk about that later. And so, since most of these tools are available within the public domain, anyone can go ahead and go to the AQMD’s website and download these tools and use them. The problem is can you find them?
There’s a lot of diamonds in the rough on the AQMD’s website. It could be hard to navigate through the website, and so we’ll post a few links on the bottom to where some of these tools can be found. [06:00] The AQMD does provide information for submitting complete permit applications. They also provide tools, the tools needed to calculate air emissions. A lot of these comes from the CPP handbook.
The CPP Handbook [06:16]
As we’ll talk about that later, knowing the CPP handbook or just reading and understanding the handbook is the single best thing that you can do if you want to learn how to prepare complete permit applications. Nonetheless, within the CPP handbook, there are tools needed to calculate air emissions, the eight emission rates needed for criteria pollutants. In addition, while I don’t have it written down here, there are also three emission rates needed for toxics. The AQMD also provide guidance on how to apply AQMD rules to a specific piece of equipment. Now, the AQMD also provides guidance on how the rules are organized.
I’ll just take a few seconds here to talk about that. Within the AQMD, the rules are organized within regulations and each regulation is centered on a specific topic. As an example, Regulation II includes all of the rules related to permits. So that’s where you’ll find Rules 201, 202, 219, 218, 222, 212. There are many more, but I’m just giving you five.
You’ll also notice that all of those rules just mentioned start with a two, and that is because all of those rules are found in Regulation two. Again, Regulation two is related to permits. Regulation three on the other hand is related to fees, and so you have all of the rules related to fees. Probably, the most well-known rule within Regulation three is Rule 301 which is the permitting fees. Regulation four deals with prohibitions and from there, you can go down the list, Regulation XX (20), Regulation XXX (30), and so [08:00] on.
You’re going to need to know how to apply the rules and regulations to a piece of equipment that you’re trying to permit as a CPP, and the AQMD does provide guidance on that. You also need to understand how permit conditions are developed. Most important, it’s most important to know that permit conditions are there to ensure that the equipment is constructed and operated in a way that ensures compliance with all the rules. Again, the conditions are there to ensure compliance with all the rules and regulations of the air district, and the CPP needs to know how to draft and develop permit conditions to meet that goal. As we’ve talked about in previous E@TB, the overall goal of the permit processing process is so that the engineer can make a determination or arrive at a conclusion that yes, this piece of equipment can operate or be constructed in accordance or in compliance with all the rules and regulations of the air district.
The overall goal behind permit processing [09:09]
During the permit processing process, that’s what the engineer is trying to do. He or she is trying to answer that one question. “Can the equipment operate in compliance with all the applicable rules and regulations of the air district?” Those are some of the tools that the AQMD provides to CPPs. Now, like I said, most of this information is public information.
Anyone can go and read about these tools. If you’re new to the permitting process or if you want to be sure that your applications are prepared, they’re complete, and then I encourage you to look through these tools. Now, there is one tool that is not available to the public and you actually need to be a CPP to gain [10:00] access to this tool. That is the AQMD’s CPP database. That database has access to some of the internal databases of the AQMD.
When you’re a CPP and you’re preparing a permit application on behalf of a client, then you have to request access, but if you’re granted access, then you can get access to some of the internal files related to that facility. That option or that tool is only available to people holding a CPP credential. All the other tools are available within the public domain.
How to become a CPP [10:40]
Now, in section four here, we’ll talk about how to become a CPP. To become a CPP, you just need to pass an exam. And if you pass an exam with, I think the passing score is 70%, then the AQMD has determined that you are familiar with the permitting process and the rules and regulations of the air district. Therefore, they’re going to certify you by giving you this permitting credential as a means to formalize the fact that yes, you understand all the rules and regulations as they apply to permits. In addition, you are capable of preparing a complete permit application on behalf of your client or the facility that you’re working with. Again, pass an exam. You must renew it each year.
No experience is required. If you study all this material and you have an idea of how things are or how things work within the AQMD, there’s no experience required to take this exam. You can just pay the money, take the exam, pass, and get your credential. Likewise, there are no continuing education credits needed. Most important, you just need to renew it each year.
If you don’t renew it, then you have a certain period of [12:00] time, and I think that it’s a Regulation (III) 3 rule that notes that after a certain period of time, if you don’t renew it, then you lose your credential, and the only way to get it back is to take the exam and then pass. Most important, with no experience and no continued education requirements, the best way to become a CPP is to be familiar with the AQMD’s permitting process. Like I said, you can just read about it. You don’t have to have formal experience. That’s an important distinction is because a lot of people have the misconception that only CPPs can prepare permit applications, and that’s not right.
Anyone can prepare a permit application, but only a select few, mainly people who are familiar with the process either by having a CPP or not are able to prepare complete application. The AQMD is really looking for complete applications because it minimizes the amount of back and forth and questions and follow-up data request needed to process that permit application. You need to be familiar with the permitting process, but you don’t need to be a CPP to prepare permit applications. You just need to know what’s needed to prepare a complete application. Then lastly, I want to talk about exam study materials.
Study materials for the CPP exam [13:30]
One of the few questions that we get asked here is “Is there a study course?” There are a few study courses out there, but in my experience, the best way to study for the CPP is to follow these six points listed here. I think if you studied these items her as well as looked over the information that we just presented then you’ll be familiar with the AQMD’s permitting process, [14:00] and you should be ready to take the exam if getting the CPP is something that you’re trying to do. If not, I think it’s good that you have this background information within your pocket anyway so that you can prepare a complete permit application for your company. Let’s get started here with the last section.
The CPP Manual [14:17]
Number one, first and foremost, read and understand the CPP manual. This is important regardless if you plan to take the CPP exam or not. You should simply read the manual so you understand the process of preparing a complete permit application so you know what’s ahead. You know what roadblocks are ahead, and you have this path paved in front of you. A lot of people miss that.
They start in this field new or they get handed an air program within a company, and then now, they need to prepare a permit application, and they don’t know where to start. The AQMD’s website has a lot of good information, but the information is really hard to find, and so I often guide people to this CPP manual. We’ll have a link to it in the notes below, but that is the best place to start and I encourage you to read that document even if you don’t want to take the exam because it gives you a very good outline of how things work at the AQMD. You also want to study sample air permit applications on their website. There are a few on their website, and you want to look at the structure. You want to look at what information is needed to go inside of a permit application so it can be deemed complete.
The 3 components of a complete permit application [15:30]
We’ve talked about within previous E@TB, you know that a permit application has three components, forms, fees, and a detailed engineering evaluation. We’ve also talked about the ten elements that go inside of that detailed engineering evaluation. If your air permit has all three components, then you’re on a better road than most because most people just prepare permit applications [16:00] by submitting forms and fees. Then, when they do that, they run into problems because they don’t understand that their permit application is missing one part of it, a third of it. That third is a very important piece, and so by preparing forms and fees, their application is only two thirds complete. You want to study the sample permit applications on the AQMD’s website so you have a better idea of what’s needed to go inside of these permit applications.
Health risk assessments (HRA) [17:13]
You also want to know how to complete a tier one and tier two Health Risk Assessment (HRA). These Health Risk Assessments are needed under Regulation XIV (14), specifically Rule 1401. There’s guidance on the AQMD’s website. There’s a guidance document and it has specific steps that you follow. It’s organized very nicely.
If you follow these steps, then it will take you through the process of completing an HRA. Completing an HRA is a sequential process where first, you do a tier one. That’s simply a screening process. If it fails, then you need to go to a tier two. Every time the HRA fails, you need to go to a higher tier, but if it passes, then you can stop there. As an example, if you have a piece of equipment and you need to prepare an HRA, then you would start with a tier one.
If it passes at tier one, you would stop. If it doesn’t pass the tier one, then you would need to go to a tier two. Then, if after completing a tier two, if it passes, then you would stop. If it doesn’t, you would need to go to a tier three. Each one of these tiers get significantly more complex and more information and more effort is needed to complete them, but you need to know how to complete a tier one or tier two Health Risk Assessment.
Determining permit applicability [17:50]
You also want to know what is a permit needed? By far, one of the most common questions that we get asked here is “Does this piece of equipment need a permit?” To answer that question, [18:00] you really need to look at three different rules. We call it the ‘Trio of Permit Applicability Rules that include Rules 201, 219 and 222. You want to look at them in that order because if a permit is needed to under 201, then you want to look, “Does Rule 219 exempt that piece of equipment?”
If it does, then you can stop. Sometimes, what you’ll find is that you’ll make it through the list and it will need a permit, but under Rule 201, it would be exempt from Rule 219, but it will need to be registered under Rule 222. The trick to determining permit applicability is to look at all three of those rules in that order. Again, that is Rules 201, 219 and 222. That is when you understand those three rules together, then you have a very good understanding of when a permit is needed and when it is not.
Permit processing fee calculations [18:55]
You also want to know how to prepare a fee calculation. A fee calculation is actually outlined in the CPP manual, because you want to understand “When is a discount eligible? When is this permit application eligible for a discount? When does a penalty need to be applied?” Two very easy examples of a discount is that if you’re submitting a permit application for two pieces of identical equipment, then you can use a discount where you would pay the full fee on the first piece, and then you would pay 50% on the second piece, but they need to be identical.
Then, in terms of a penalty, a penalty would be applicable if say you constructed your piece of equipment without first getting a permit, and then now, a few years later, you want to get a permit. Now, you’re preparing a permit application for a piece of existing equipment. That would result in a penalty, and so you want to know when these “Fee modifiers”, i.e. [20:00] discounts and penalties apply to your permit application. Again, that’s all outlined in the CPP manual. Then lastly, you want to understand the fee structure.
I think there are ten fee categories and there’s a whole list of equipment within Rule 301, this basic equipment and control equipment. When determining a fee or the fee needed to process as permit application, you must look at the equipment type within that Rule 301, and then you must look at the fee structure. Is it schedule A? Is it schedule B? Is it D? Is it E? Each one of those fee categories or structures have different fees associated with it. Again, you want to know how to prepare a complete fee calculation within your permit application.
Structure of AQMD rules and regulations [20:50]
Then lastly, you want to understand the rules and regulations. This is where a lot of people get hung up because there are a lot of rules and regulations within the air district, and so you want to know that like we talked about before that rules are organized into regulations, and regulations are centered around certain topics, so regulation two is permitting. Regulation XXX (30) would be Title V. Regulation XX (20) would be all the reclaim rules. You want to know that logical structure.
Then, when you open up a regulation, you look at all the rules. You want to be able to scan down that list to pick out which rules apply and which ones don’t relatively quickly by looking at the titles, but you want to understand how the rules and regulations are organized so that you can more quickly go down that list to know which rules apply and which ones don’t. We talked about the different rules. I mentioned the title five and reclaim. Those are two very big programs here in the South Coast, and those can be found in Regulation XX (20) for RECLAIM and XXX (30) for Title V.
How to determine the applicability of rules [21:55]
You also want to look at the applicability of these rules. [22:00] What you would do when you do a rule assessment is you would simply go through all the regulations and pick out the rules that you think apply simply by looking at the name of the rule. Now, what you would do is you would then open the PDF of that rule, and then you would look at the applicability to see if it truly applies in your situation. Then lastly, you would want to look at the exemptions to find out if the rule or the piece of equipment has actually exempted. There’s a little bit of a process there to pick out which rules apply and which ones don’t because when you scroll down the list, it may look like it applies, so you may want to flag that one. You’d open that rule, and you look at the applicability, and it may apply based on how the applicability is written. Then, you would look all in the bottom of the exemption, and then you would find out that it’s the exam.
You want note that in your notes and also in your permit application. The gist of it is that you want to be sure that you understand how the rules and regulations are organized and how they are all applied.
Get the big picture behind permits and California’s air quality regulations [23:07]
Then lastly, the second secret so to speak of understanding how to prepare permit applications, and more importantly, understanding how the air quality rules apply is to read an overview of air quality regulations by a lawyer named Curt Coleman.
I believe he’s the air district’s general counsel many years ago. He retired, and then now, he’s in private practice advising clients and navigating clients through the AQMD’s rules and regulations. He wrote an awesome piece on how to navigate or how to understand the ways that air quality regulations structured within California.
Now, California is very, very complex when it comes to this regulatory landscape, and then their air quality rules and regulations, [24:00] but he does an excellent job at outlining the agencies involved, what are the roles, and then more importantly, who is doing what, because you’ll find out that every regulatory agency dealing with air does something different, but no one regulatory agency has the jurisdiction over everything. The South Coast has jurisdiction over mobile stationary sources, whereas the state has jurisdiction over mobile sources. In Southern California, the air quality problem is a mixture of both, but they’re regulated by two different agencies. Curt does an excellent job at outlining how the rules are organized, and it’s just a very, very good overview of how things are structured in California.
I actually recommend folks to read that paper, in addition to the CPP manual. It doesn’t matter if they want to prepare permits or they don’t. You’ll need to read those two for anyone who is a practicing air quality professional in Southern California.
There you have it, the AQMD’s CPP Program from what is it to the benefits of it, to some of the tools available to CPPs to how to become a CPP, and lastly, some of the study materials that you need to review if you’re interested in taking the CPP exam, or just more generally, if you’re interested in preparing permit applications or you need to prepare permit applications within your facility. Until next time. Take care.
Let’s take this over to you
Before we end, I’ve got three things for you.
Thing 1. Do you know of a colleague who is new to the SCAQMD’s permitting process? If so, please share this E@TB video with them and save them the frustration of trying to figure out the permitting process on their own.
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Thing 3. Do you have a capital project that needs an air permit or have something on your permit that needs to be modified? If so, we can help you get through the SCAQMD’s permitting process quickly so that you can be on your way. Contact us to find out how.
Do you see a typo or anything that’s incorrect? If so, please contact us and we’ll get it fixed.