As you can expect, the most accurate answer to this question is:
But the fact is this:
The processing timelines for your air permit depend on a number of factors that include:
- Does the air permit need to undergo a public notice?
Does the air permit need to be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?
Does the project need to satisfy any requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
Does the air permit have all of the necessary in it for processing?
As you can see, the timelines for processing an air permit application vary on a number of factors, but there are two things that are concrete.
- There are statutory permit processing timelines set forth by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).
- There are things you can do to accelerate the processing of your permit application.
Let’s explore both of these items in this article.
Responsibilities when it comes to preparing and processing air permits
Believe it or not, both you and the SCAQMD have specific responsibilities and obligations when it comes to submitting and the processing of air permit applications.
Responsibilities as an applicant (Rule 210)
As part of SCAQMD Rule 210, you as the applicant shall file air permit applications in the form prescribed by the SCAQMD.
And while it is not easy to find, you can find the standard format for a Certified Permitting Professional (CPP)-style permit application on the SCAQMD’s website.
In addition, you can learn about what is needed for a complete SCAQMD air permit application by viewing our free permitting mini-seminar.
The key to preparing complete air permit applications is this …
You must include all of the information necessary to allow the SCAQMD to determine if the proposed equipment can operate in compliance with all of the applicable rules and regulations.
To understand how this works, you will need to familiarize yourself with all of the rules and regulations of the SCAQMD. And more specifically, the specific rules that apply to the piece of equipment that you are permitting.
The key here is that you must include all of the information necessary to allow the SCAQMD to process your application.
Like we mentioned earlier, the most important factor that determines how long the SCAQMD will take to process your application is whether or not your application has all of the information in it for them to do their job.
Responsibilities of the SCAQMD as a processing agency (Rule 212)
On the other hand, under SCAQMD Rule 212, the agency must determine if the permitted equipment is designed, controlled, or equipped with air pollution control equipment in order to operate without emitting air contaminants in violation of the SCAQMD’s rules or the California Health and Safety Code.
The SCAQMD can only make that determination if you provide them with all of the information needed to complete their assessment.
Again, it’s important that you submit all of the necessary information so that the SCAQMD can make that determination.
Permit processing timelines
As we talked about earlier, the permit processing timelines vary on various factors, but there are required permit processing timelines set by the SCAQMD.
That means that there are specific timelines in the SCAQMD’s rules and regulations that specify how long they have to process a permit application.
Let’s look at three rules that cover these timelines.
Timelines under SCAQMD Rule 210
SCAQMD Rule 210 specifies that the permit engineer has thirty days upon receipt of the application to determine if it is complete (contains all of the information).
If the application is incomplete, the permit engineer will notify you of the deficiencies.
Now, upon receipt of the missing information, the permit engineer has thirty more days to review the information and make another determination if the application is complete.
Now after the second review for completeness, the permit engineer has 120 days to either deny or accept the application depending on if it is complete or not.
Timelines under SCAQMD Rule 1710
In certain cases, permits will be filed to the SCAQMD as part of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program (PSD).
Under the PSD, covered facilities are required to demonstrate that the emissions from their project will not cause or contribute to a violation of “any national ambient air quality standard in any air quality control region.”
Generally speaking, larger and more complex projects are subject to the permitting requirements of the PSD program.
As a result, the permit processing timelines are different.
For example, SCAQMD Rule 1710 allows the SCAQMD to issue a preliminary decision on the PSD permit application 180 days after receipt of the application.
Rule 1710 also allows the SCAQMD to issue the final permit within 180 days of receiving the complete permit application.
Timelines under SCAQMD Rule 3003
SCAQMD Rule 3003 outlines the permit processing timelines for Title V facilities.
For applications for initial permits, significant permit revisions, and permit renewals, the SCAQMD has eighteen months after receipt of a complete application to issue the permit.
For applications submitted for an administrative permit revision, the SCAQMD has sixty days after receipt of a complete application to issue the permit.
For applications submitted for minor permit revisions, the SCAQMD typically has ninety days after receipt of the complete application to issue the permit.
For applications submitted for de minimis significant permit revisions, the SCAQMD has typically 180 days after the receipt of a complete application to issue the final permit.
What impacts the permit processing timelines?
Again, there are many factors that can affect the processing timeline of a permit application. Let’s look at three of them.
1. Insufficient information
By far, the most common item that affects the processing of a permit application is one that contains insufficient information.
As mentioned in the SCAQMD’s June 2014 Stationary Source meeting, Mohsen Nazemi indicated that permit engineers spend ~20% of their time trying to obtain additional information from permit applicants.
That equates to more than eight hours per week trying to get information from a specific applicant (assuming a 40-hour week).
2. Finalization of CEQA documents
Under CEQA, state and local agencies within California must analyze and disclose, publicly, environmental impacts related to a proposed project.
These agencies are also required to adopt all feasible measures to mitigate those disclosed impacts.
For these projects, the project owner makes these disclosures in the form a written document, typically, called a “CEQA Document.”
The process to prepare, circulate, and finalize a CEQA document is another process in and of itself (which is not being discussed in this article).
Most of the permit applications submitted to the SCAQMD are exempt from CEQA.
However, for the small amount that are not, the process to finalize an entire CEQA document can take anywhere between six to twelve months.
3. The public notice process
In certain cases, the SCAQMD is required to notify all addresses within a given area of the project of their intent to issue a specific permit.
In these cases, the project is located in close vicinity to a school or has emissions that pose a significant health risk to the public due to the air toxics from the project.
And when am application makes a notification, there is a thirty-day period to submit public comments related to the project.
The single most important thing you can do to accelerate the processing of your air permit is this …
Prepare a permit application according to the Certified Permitting Professional (CPP) Standard.
- Submit correct and completed forms
- Submit correct fees
- Submit a detailed engineering evaluation
- Respond to Information requests promptly
Permit engineers can only process your permit application as quickly as they receive the information that is needed to do so.
With that being said, if your application does not have all of the information in it, or the engineer has questions on the process or the equipment being permitted, it is in your best interest to respond to them as quickly as possible.
If you don’t, the SCAQMD can deny your permit application.
At the end of the day, the SCAQMD wants to issue your permit just as much as you want it to be issued.
Let take this over to you
Were you aware that the SCAQMD has permit processing timelines in their rules?
Did you know that there are things that you can do to accelerate the processing of your permit application?
Join the discussion on the Envera Consulting LinkedIn page.
Did you enjoy this article?
If so, sign up for the Envera Consulting newsletter so you won’t miss the next one.
Image Credit: Clock (CC)