Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Envera @ the Board (E@TB). Today we’re going to answer a question that is on the mind of almost everyone who submits a permit application to AQMD, and that is:
How long does it take to get a permit from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD)?
Let’s get started.
A Common Question About Air Permit Applications Is… [00:30]
This is one of the most common questions we get when it comes to permitting, and the answer is that it depends. I was once told that if you’re in a corporate meeting, you fall asleep, and you’re called on to answer a question or to provide feedback, if the first thing out of your mouth is, “It depends,” you will be right about eighty percent of the time. A lot of things in life depend on a number of other things.
For example, a public notification can affect the permitting process. Sometimes when a permit application goes through the public notification process, it will take time to resolve all of the comments received from that notification. The district may have to address those comments.
You, the applicant, may need to address those comments. The number and level of concern of the comments can affect the permitting timeline. If your project is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the process to prepare a CEQA document and to submit that document for distribution and comment can also affect the permitting timeline. That’s a pretty lengthy process. CEQA documents tend to be pretty long.
The EPA’s forty-five-day review can also affect the permit processing timeline. In this case, if you operate a Title V facility and you file a permit modification or a permit application, the EPA has forty-five days to provide comments on that permit application.
Last but not least is the full completion of your permit application. If it is incomplete, the district engineer is going to go back and forth with you to get the information he or she needs to process it. In previous videos we’ve thrown out a number: twenty percent. We got that when we attended an AQMD stationary source committee meeting, and it refers to the average percent a district engineer spends each week trying to get more information from an applicant in order to have a complete permit application. The full completion of your permit application is very important when determining the length of time it takes to get a permit from the AQMD.
Now, when we say it depends, two things are certain:
- The AQMD’s rules give a specific time limit for issuing a permit. That’s reassuring because it means they need to work hard to stick to their timeline so that they don’t operate contrary to their own rules.
- There is something you can do to speed up the process, but I want you to think about it before I tell you what it is.
Responsibilities of the Applicant and the Air District When it Comes to Air Permits [05:05]
To really understand how things work at the AQMD when it comes to permitting, especially permitting timelines, it’s important to understand the rules that you, the applicant, and the AQMD must comply with. The fulfillment of these responsibilities is key to ensuring that the permit gets issued quickly. We’ll tie this all together at the end, but let’s look at the first responsibility of you, the applicant: provide all of the information about your piece of equipment in the format prescribed by the AQMD.
The responsibility of the District is to take that information and determine whether or not that piece of equipment can be constructed and operated in a manner that ensures compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the Air District.
If you look at these two responsibilities together, the responsibility falls on you to provide all of the information needed so that the District can do its job. Without that information, the District cannot do its job, so they’ll contact you to get that information. If you find that you’re going back and forth like you’re playing table tennis, that’s probably a sign that the application wasn’t complete or wasn’t in the correct format.
Time Limits and Rule 210 [08:12]
Let’s move on to the time limits that are within the rules that govern how long the District has to issue a permit. Most permits will fall under the processing timelines of Rule 210. When you submit a permit application to the Air District, the engineer will have thirty days to make an initial determination of whether or not your permit application is complete. When I say complete, I mean that it has all of the information in it so that the engineer can do the analysis.
If more information is needed, the District will notify you. In the AQMD vernacular, this is called an “AI” or additional information request. You have to respond to that request. Depending on how incomplete your application is will determine how much information is needed to fulfill this AI request. Once you submit all of the information, the engineer will have another thirty days to review it to determine if everything is present to process the application.
This process can keep going back and forth. If it’s missing information, they’ll notify you, you provide it, they have thirty days to review. If it’s missing information, it will go back. It’s easy to see how this process can turn into a loop if your application is missing a lot of information. Once you’re able to break out of that loop, and the district engineer has determined that all of the information is there, Rule 210 allows them one hundred and twenty days to either accept or deny the permit application based on the information submitted.
Time Limits and Rule 1710 [11:43]
Rule 1710 falls under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits. According to Rule 1710, the AQMD has one hundred and eighty days to determine if they will issue a permit based on receiving a complete permit application.
Time Limits and Rule 3003 [12:16]
Title V is another common class of permit filed to the AQMD. Title V facilities tend to be large, and they’re sometimes called major sources. Under Title V and Rule 3003, the District has between sixty days and eighteen months to issue a permit. Simple permits, like an admin change, tend to get issued in fewer than sixty days. More complex permits, like a renewal or significant modification to a Title V permit, take closer to eighteen months. It depends on how much information is needed by the engineer to do his or her job. If all of the information is there, it’s quick. If it’s not there, it’s long.
What You Can do to Speed Up The Processing of Your Air Permit? [13:38]
The amount of time it takes to process a permit application depends on a number of things, but two things are certain. We saw in Rules 210, 1710, and 3003 that the District must process permit applications within certain timelines. We also noted that there is something you can do, and that comes down to looking at the responsibilities between the applicant and the District. The role of the applicant is to provide all of the information needed, and if the all information isn’t there, the applicant will be stuck in a loop.
The one thing you can do is to prepare a complete permit application. We’ve said it many times because it’s important. If you can prepare a complete permit application, you’ve fulfilled your responsibility as an applicant, and the engineer can do his or her job by making a determination.
So again, the single best thing you can do is to prepare a complete application. One that has all of the forms and fees and, most importantly, a detailed engineering evaluation. That detailed engineering evaluation is the meat and potatoes of the entire application because when the District looks for information, they’re going to look at this one document. If it’s not there, they’re going to come back to you and ask for more information.
One follow-up question to an engineering evaluation is: what is required to go into an engineering evaluation? There are ten elements that go into an engineering evaluation, which we talked about in a previous E@TB video. We’ll refer you to that video to learn more. One thing we find very beneficial is that when you start down the road of permitting, talk to your permit engineer to know exactly what is needed. Find out what types of data they want to see in your engineering evaluation so that the engineer can do his or her job.
I’ve always wanted to ask a permit engineer, “What do you want to see in my permit application? Tell me everything you want to see.” Then, simply prepare that permit application based on the engineer’s recommendations.
Give it to the engineer and say, “Okay, I’ve fulfilled my responsibility. I’ve given you everything you need. Can you give me a date for when I can come and pick up my permit application?” If we agree, there should be no fuss about the permit, and you should be able to get it quickly.
There you have it. The answer to the question that’s on almost everyone’s mind when it comes to permits—how long does it take to get a permit?—is that it depends. There is something you can do, however, and that’s to submit a complete application. We hope you enjoyed this video. We’ll hope to see 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 needs to get an air permit from the AQMD? Help them out by sharing this video with them. I promise you that they’ll appreciate it … and we’ll appreciate it as well.
Thing 2. If you enjoyed this video, sign up for the Envera Consulting newsletter so you won’t miss the next video. By subscribing to our newsletter, you’ll get exclusive easy-to-understand content that saves you time by not having to read through all of the boring air quality regulations.
Thing 3. Getting air permits from the AQMD quickly is one of the ways that we help our clients navigate through all of California’s air quality regulations.
If you need to get a permit from the AQMD, contact us and we can help.
Do you see a typo or anything that’s incorrect? If so, please contact us and we’ll get it fixed.