Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Envera at the Board. Today, we want to talk about the basics of air permits. Let’s get started.
Air Permits [00:20]
Air permits are required by the Federal Clean Air Act to construct and operate a piece of equipment at your facility, if that piece of equipment needs an air permit. Permits have conditions printed on their faces, and you must comply with those conditions at all times.
Not complying with the conditions noted on the faces of air permits is a common problem at regulated facilities. In fact, the AQMD has issued countless violations to regulated facilities due to compliance issues. The data show that many of those violations are because people have trouble complying with the conditions that are printed on the face of their air permits.
In this episode, we’re going to discuss the purpose air permits are trying to serve, and we’ll look at a bit of the history of air permits. Let’s get started.
Why Are Air Permits Needed? [02:18]
The requirement to have air permits started with the 1977 amendments to the Federal Clean Air Act and to a program called New Source Review. New Source Review was designed to ensure that current air quality is not further degraded by the addition of new sources of air pollution, and to ensure that construction of these new sources of air pollution is done using technology that ensures that the emissions are as clean as possible.
Air permits achieve these goals for two reasons:
First, NSR requires that new sources of air pollution not result in an increase of emissions. Therefore, New Source Review requires new pieces of equipment to have a known net increase of emissions. The operator, owner-operator, or person applying for the air permit is required to secure emission reduction credits to offset the amount their equipment is going to emit.
New equipment will emit a known amount, but the operator will need to procure emission reduction credits to offset that amount with credits that are generated by an emission decrease from decommissioning old equipment at the facility, or it could come from the decommissioning of equipment somewhere else in the basin.
Second, NSR ensures that construction uses technologies that make certain the emissions are as clean as possible by requiring the use of Best Available Control Technology (BACT).
AQMD Regulation XIII deals with NSR and quantifying the emission increase, and showing that it’s offset somewhere else is a requirement, as well as ensuring that the equipment needs or meets the requirements for BACT.
All of those requirements need to be satisfied when doing a rule analysis for Regulation XIII.
The AQMD will issue the permit if the requirements of New Source Review are met. That’s in addition to ensuring that the operator has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the permit engineer that this piece of equipment can operate in compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the Air District.
Who Needs an Air Permit? [06:11]
According to Rule 201, any owner or operator of a piece of equipment that emits, has the potential to emit, or controls air contaminants will need a permit from the AQMD.
When Is an Air Permit Needed? [06:42]
According to Rule 201, any piece of equipment that emits, or controls, or has the potential to emit or control air contaminants will need a permit.
Determining when a piece of equipment needs a permit is important. A lot of people have problems with this. To properly deduce whether or not a piece of equipment will need a permit, it requires you to look at three rules: 201, 219, and 222.
We call it the Trio of Applicability Rules.
Rule 201 is basic applicability. It simply states that if you have a piece of equipment and it emits, has the potential to emit, or controls the emissions of air contaminants, you’ll need a permit.
That covers most pieces of equipment that emit air contaminants. It’s going to cover engines, it could cover mobile sources, it could cover a lot of different things. It’s a very broad rule.
Rule 219 will give you all of the exemptions to Rule 201. In some cases, where a piece of equipment appears to need a permit under Rule 201, it might be exempt from needing a permit.
Most commonly, mobile sources are exempt under Rule 219. Typically, engines under 50 brake horsepower are exempt under Rule 219. External combustion devices under 2 million BTU per hour are usually exempt under 219.
Most people stop there, they look at Rule 201 and decide, “Well, that needs a permit.” They look at Rule 219 and find that it’s exempt. Then they stop. But to really know if a piece of equipment needs a permit, you need to look at Rule 222.
Rule 222 outlines the district’s registration program, which you can view as a very simple permit. There are certain types of equipment that are exempt from permitting under Rule 219 but that need to be registered.
When you register a piece of equipment, you simply fill out a form, provide the data, pay the fee, and renew every year.
That’s Rule 222.
To really know if a piece of equipment needs a permit, you have to look at the Trio of Applicability Rules in order: first 201, then 219, and then 222.
People will often go through the sequence properly but not document it.
That’s a problem because an inspector can show up at your facility and ask, “Where’s your permit for this piece of equipment?” Then you’ll say, “It doesn’t need a permit.”
Then the inspector will say, “How do you know it doesn’t need a permit?” You’ll say, “We did this analysis a long time ago, and we know it’s exempt.”
Often times the inspector will request documentation, so It’s best if you have it prepared to show that it’s exempt.
Just because it’s exempt now doesn’t mean it will be exempt forever.
Rules are amended.
Rule 219 gets amended every now and then, and sometimes a piece of equipment that was exempt is no longer exempt, so it needs a permit. If you go through your analysis and find out that a piece of equipment is exempt, verify the exemption status so that you don’t get into trouble.
What Is an Air Permit? [12:10]
An air permit is a legal document that authorizes the owner or operator to construct and/or operate a piece of equipment according to the Federal Clean Air Act.
When a facility receives a permit for a piece of equipment, that permit means that the equipment is expected to comply with all of the rules and regulations of the Air District, in addition to state air quality regulations and federal air quality regulations. Included with that is NSR, and that’s demonstrated by compliance with Regulation XIII.
The AQMD, or another air district, will have conditions printed on the face of a permit. As a holder of a permit, you must comply with those conditions at all times.
If there’s a typo, and that typo results in a change in operating time from two hundred hours to two hours, as long as it’s printed on the face of the permit, you are responsible for complying with that condition.
Therefore, if there’s a problem with a permit condition, it’s important that you get it fixed as soon as possible. The longer you leave compliance problems untouched, the more they tend to grow in size and complexity, and the more expensive they get to fix later on.
Where Do You Apply for an Air Permit? [15:01]
You apply from an air permit from the South Coast Air Quality Management District or from a related agency if you’re not from this area. In California, that’s going to be through your local air agency. In other states, that may be through the local environmental agency or other types of agencies.
Applying for a permit is simple, in theory. It’s a five-step process:
- Determine the applicability.
- Prepare an application. Generally, an application will have three components—forms, fees, and a detailed engineering evaluation—which we’ve talked about in another At The Board video.
- Submit that application to the Air District.
- Answer any questions the engineer may have related to the documents or the permit application you submitted.
- Get your permit in the mail.
It seems like a simple process. Where people tend to go wrong is by preparing an application that’s incomplete. An incomplete application takes a very long time to process because the district will need to ask lots of questions. It may require the facility to go back and forth with the district and do further analyses.
The best thing you can do is to prepare an application that is complete so that the permit engineer can determine if your piece of equipment can operate in compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the Air District.
We’ve talked about the five Ws of air permits, so hopefully we’ve provided you with a little more detail as to the purpose an air permit serves within the larger framework of air quality regulations. Thanks for watching and we hope to see you for another video. Take care.
Also published on Medium.