Does this piece of equipment need a permit from the South Coast Air Quality management District (SCAQMD)?
It’s one of the most common questions our air quality consulting firm gets asked.
To help you discover the answer, we’ve compiled a guide that details the three rules you need to understand and refer to when answering the question.
The trio of permit applicability rules
When determining if a piece of equipment needs a permit or not requires you need to look at three rules:
- SCAQMD Rule 201: Permit to Construct
- SCAQMD Rule 219: Equipment Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
- SCAQMD Rule 222: Filing Requirements for Specific Emission Sources Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
We call those rules the “Trio of Permit Applicability Rules.”
But simply knowing the rules is not enough to assess their applicability to permitting.
You also need to know how the rules are related to one another so that you can systematically approach the permitting applicability process.
Let’s examine each rule in more detail.
SCAQMD Rule 201: Permit-to-construct
SCAQMD Rule 201 is the primary rule that tells you what equipment types must be permitted.
Here’s an excerpt from of the rule:
The main point to understand from Rule 201 is this: if your piece of equipment emits or controls the emissions of air contaminants, you need to look at the applicability of a permit.
Are there exemptions to permitting?
There are cases when a piece of equipment emits air contaminants but does not need a permit.
Those exemptions are found in SCAQMD Rule 219.
Therefore, you can have a piece of equipment be subject to the permitting requirements of Rule 201, and at the same time, be exempt from a permit because of Rule 219.
In this case, you’d be exempt from a written permit.
You with us?
Next, even though a piece of equipment can be exempt under Rule 219, meaning it doesn’t need a permit, the equipment may need to be registered because of SCAQMD Rule 222.
An equipment registration can be viewed as a “streamlined permit,” which means that you’ll need to provide the SCAQMD with information related to the equipment, but you won’t need to go through the entire permitting process to get approval to operate the piece of equipment.
SCAQMD Rule 219: Equipment Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
SCAQMD Rule 219 outlines 21 different categories of equipment that do not need air permit permits.
Some of the common equipment types that are exempt under Rule 219 include:
- Mobile sources (e.g., cars, trucks, forklifts, etc.).
- Internal combustion engines with a rating of 50 horsepower or less.
- External combustion equipment (e.g., boilers and heaters) with a rating of 2,000,000 Btu/hr or less.
While SCAQMD Rule 219 is your friend when it comes to air permitting, there are a few things that make it seem like your enemy.
Here’s what you need to know:
First, Rule 219 is hard to read because everything in the rule is written as an exemption.
In other words, if a piece of equipment is listed (or described) in SCAQMD Rule 219, it’s exempt from permitting.
Second, there are exceptions to the exemptions, and those are listed in Rule 219 (s).
This means that a piece of equipment can be listed in SCAQMD Rule 219 and therefore, be exempt from a permit, but at the same time the same equipment can exempt from the Rule 219.
In this case, the equipment would most likely need a permit.
The best way to understand it is with an example:
Consider an aerospace company with a “manually operated abrasive blast cabinet” that fits the description of Rule 219 (f)(2).
Based on that section of the rule, you’d think you were exempt from permitting.
Here’s the curveball.
What if the aerospace company blasted nickel-containing materials in their cabinet, and the health risk from the blasting of these materials exceeded the levels within SCAQMD Rule 1401?
On a side note, Rule 1401 deals with the health risk associated with operating a piece of equipment. The rule also requires equipment operators to meet certain requirements if the health risk from a piece of equipment exceeds certain levels.
So getting back to our example, would the blast cabinet need an air permit?
Here’s the answer …
Based on the requirements Rule 219 (f)(2), the “manually operated abrasive blast cabinet” is exempt from a permit, but, since the health risk from the operation of this blast cabinet exceeds the levels in SCAQMD Rule 1401, the blast cabinet requires a permit because of Rule 219 (s)(2).
This case is the exception to the exemption that we spoke about earlier.
Third, the equipment descriptions in SCAQMD Rule 219 are extremely specific.
When determining if a piece of equipment is exempt, you need to look at the equipment type (e.g., engine) and how the piece of equipment is used (e.g., training at educational institutions), and sometimes the type of fuel that is used (e.g., propane, natural gas, diesel).
We saw this in the previous example with the blast cabinet, and the blasting of nickel-containing parts.
When reading the SCAQMD’s rules, context is essential because the rules are so specific.
Knowing as much as you can about the equipment, the operation of the equipment, and how the equipment will function within the process will help you better understand how the rules affect the operation of your equipment
As an example, see SCAQMD Rule 219 (b)(7):
If your internal combustion engine is not used exclusively at an educational institution, your engine does not fit this exemption. If it is, you can make use of this permitting exemption.
For another example, see SCAQMD Rule 219 (l)(8) as it relates to painting:
In this case, if your painting control enclosure is 28 cubic feet, you cannot use this permitting exemption. However, if the enclosure is 27 cubic feet or less, you can use this permitting exemption.
Managing the “grey” when it comes to permit applicability and Rule 219
Environmental regulations, like laws, are very “black and white,” meaning they tell you exactly what you can and cannot do to comply.
For example, in SCAQMD Rule 219 (l)(8), the distinction between whether or not the equipment needs a permit is size.
If the size is below 27 cubic feet or less, then the equipment is exempt.
Anything larger, then the equipment needs a permit.
In our experience working with these regulations, however, effectively complying with the environmental regulations requires people to manage the “grey areas” in order to stay out of trouble.
In other words, what happens if it doesn’t completely fit into one category or another?
Anytime you deal with SCAQMD Rule 219 you can potentially find yourself in a “grey area” with respect to the permitting.
So what should you do if you’re in a “grey area” when it comes to SCAQMD Rule 219 and a piece of equipment?
In that case, you have two (maybe more) options:
1. Proceed with permitting the device and having the regulatory agency tell you that the equipment is exempt.
2. Discuss your equipment with the SCAQMD to determine if the equipment is exempt from permitting.
Whatever the case, be sure to review the options with your management team to make the best decision possible.
SCAQMD Rule 222: Filing requirements for specific emissions sources not requiring a written permit pursuant to regulation II
As we mentioned earlier, SCAQMD Rule 222 outlines the registration program for certain types of equipment and it can be viewed as an alternative to a full permit.
If SCAQMD Rule 222 applies, you are required to submit the required registration forms as well as the following pieces of data:
- Data necessary to estimate emissions.
- Information to determine whether or not the equipment is operating in compliance with all applicable SCAQMD, state, and federal rules and regulation.
Here’s an example of determining permit applicability using the “trio of rules”
Consider a 1.9 MMBTU/hour natural gas-fired boiler that produces less than one (1) pound of oxides of nitrogen (NOX) per day.
Let’s look at the trio of permit applicability rules.
SCAQMD Rule 201: This rule dictates that a permit is required because the equipment emits oxides of nitrogen, an air contaminant.
SCAQMD Rule 219: The boiler does not need a permit because of Rule 219 (b)(2). Remember that the size of the boiler is 1.9 MMBTU/hr and emits less than 1 lb/day of oxides of nitrogen.
Thus, no permit is required since it is exempt by SCAQMD Rule 219 (b)(2).
But you still need to look at Rule 222.
SCAQMD Rule 222: The rule requires that that the equipment be registered under SCAQMD Rule 222 (b)(1).
So what’s the final result?
In order to comply with the SCAQMD’s rules, your 1.9 MMBTU/hr boiler does not need a permit because of Rule 219 (b)(2), but it does need to be registered because of Rule 222 (b)(1).
Summary of permit applicability
When you need to determine whether or not a permit is needed for your equipment, it’s important to look at three rules:
- SCAQMD Rule 201
- SCAQMD Rule 219
- SCAQMD Rule 222
If the equipment needs a permit according to Rule 201, the next step is to look at Rule 219 to see if the equipment is exempt from permitting.
If the equipment is exempt from permitting because Rule 219, you then need to look at Rule 222 to see if the equipment needs to be registered instead.
If a registration under SCAQMD Rule 222 is not needed, you’re done, and it’s likely that no permit is needed.
No further action is required.
On the other hand, if, after going through this analysis you find that your equipment does need a permit, you’ll need to prepare a complete permit application for your piece of equipment in order to comply with the SCAQMD’s rules.
We offer a 30-minute mini-seminar that teaches you how to prepare a complete SCAQMD permit application even if you’ve never prepared one before.
My equipment is exempt from a permit … now what?
Your equipment is exempt from permitting because of SCAQMD Rule 219, and it does not need a registration due to SCAQMD Rule 222.
First, document the exemption and save the memo in case you need to show it to any of the SCAQMD inspectors during the inspection process.
Inspectors may question you as to why a particular piece of equipment does not have a permit, and you can use that memo to show them your reason why.
For this memo, include the date that your applicability analysis was performed as well as the exact version of the rules that were used, since the SCAQMD’s rules change.
Second, you’ll need to continue to follow the rule amendments to SCAQMD Rule 219 to determine if your equipment continues to be exempt after each rule amendment.
SCAQMD Rule 219 (u)(1) states that if a piece of equipment that was previously exempt under the rule (i.e., Rule 219) now becomes subject to permitting, you’ll need to file a permit modification within one year of the rule change, unless another timeframe is specified.
The bottom line: even though something is exempt from permitting, you still need to track its exemption status.
Your equipment’s exemption status can change at any time, and it can change without you knowing.
You can track the proposed amendments to Rule 219 and all of the other rules by following the Proposed Rules page on the SCAQMD’s website.
Let’s take this over to you
Determining the permit applicability can be easy for some pieces of equipment and very complex for others, but it’s important to follow the steps so you’ll be in compliance with the SCAQMD’s rules regarding permits.
By getting comfortable doing these applicability assessments, you’ll know exactly what do in terms of SCAQMD permitting when your company wants to purchase a new piece of equipment.
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