This resource page will give you a little background on air permits, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) air permitting process, as well as our resources for permitting within the SCAQMD.
New Source Review (NSR)
The Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments of 1977 established the new source review permitting program to ensure two things.
One, that air quality is not degraded by the addition of new sources of air pollution.
Two, that the construction of new sources of air pollution are done using the technology that ensures that the emissions are as clean as possible.
In practice, NSR program requires that air permits be secured prior to starting construction on any new source of air pollution, use the best available control technology, as well as procure emission reduction credits to ensure a “no net emission increase.”
The SCAQMD’s Permitting Program
The SCAQMD’s permitting program has been established in order to meet the requirements of the CAA, and the California Health and Safety Code (Cal HSC) 42300 (a).
Every district board may establish, by regulation, a permit system that requires, except as otherwise provided in Section 42310, that before any person builds, erects, alters, replaces, operates, or uses any article, machine, equipment, or other contrivance which may cause the issuance of air contaminants, the person obtain a permit to do so from the air pollution control officer of the district.
Under its permitting program, the SCAQMD issues various different types of permits.
A few of these permits include:
- Permits to Construct
- Permits to Operate
- Change of Condition
- Compliance Plans
- Facility Permits
A graph breaking down the different types of permit applications processed by the AQMD in the past three years is given below.
What is a Permit?
A permit is a written document that formally authorizes the holder to either construct or operate a piece of equipment.
Permits usually include a description of the equipment being built or operated, as well as conditions that limit operations, the types of air pollutants, amounts of air pollutants, among others.
An example of an equipment description is given below.
INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE, CATERPILLAR, MODULE G379 SI-NA, NATURAL GAS, FOUR CYCLE, RICH BURN, NATURALLY ASPIRATED, RATED AT 330 BHP, WITH A NON SELECTIVE CATALYTIC CONVERTER, MIRATECH, MODEL RHSS-3016-X3-08-EC2, AND AN AIR/FUEL RATIO CONTROLLER, ALTRONIC, MODEL EPC-100E, DRIVING A WATER PUMP
Operating or constructing a piece of equipment in contrary to the conditions in a permit can lead to non-compliance and potential legal issues.
Examples of permit conditions are given below.
OPERATION OF THIS EQUIPMENT SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH ALL DATA AND SPECIFICATIONS SUBMITTED WITH THE APPLICATION UNDER WHICH THIS PERMIT IS ISSUED UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED.
AN AIR TO FUEL RATIO CONTROLLER SHALL BE MAINTAINED SO AS TO REGULATE THE AIR-TO-FUEL RATION WITHIN THE TOLERANCE LIMITS AS RECOMMENDED BY THE CATALYST SUPPLIER.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 206, THIS PERMIT TO OPERATE OR COPY SHALL BE POSTED ON OR WITHIN 8 METERS OF THE EQUIPMENT.
THE EQUIPMENT SHALL USE ONLY NATURAL GAS AS A FUEL.
THE TEMPERATURE OF THE ENGINE EXHAUST AT THE INLET OF THE NON-SELECTIVE CATALYTIC REDUCTION SYSTEM UNIT SHALL BE BETWEEN 600 AND 1200 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT (EXCEPT DURING THE COLD ENGINE START-UP, NOT TO EXCEED 30 MINUTES).
THIS EQUIPMENT SHALL COMPLY WITH RULE 1110.2, WHETHER OR NOT EXPLICITLY STATED ON THIS PERMIT.
When is a Permit Needed?
In the SCAQMD, Rule 201 specifies when a written permit is needed. An excerpt from Rule 201 is given below.
A person shall not build, erect, install, alter or replace any equipment or agricultural permit unit, the use of which may cause the issuance of air contaminants or the use of which may eliminate, reduce or control the issuance of air contaminants without first obtaining written authorization for such construction from the Executive Officer.
Now, there are exemptions to Rule 201, and those are listed in SCAQMD Rule 219. Interestingly, although a piece of equipment may be exempt under Rule 219, sometimes a registration is required instead.
In that case, you need to look in Rule 222 (see this page for more information on the Rule 222 program) to see if a piece of equipment that is exempt from a permit under Rule 219 needs to be registered under Rule 222.
In in order to receive a permit to either construct or operate a piece of equipment, you will need to submit a permit application to the SCAQMD. The SCAQMD will process your permit application and decide whether or not to issue you a permit.
When deciding to issue you a permit, the SCAQMD will determine if the proposed source (or equipment) can meet the compliance requirements of the SCAQMD, as well as any federal or state air quality rules.
To do this, the SCAQMD will review the proposed equipment, the proposed operation of the equipment, the types and amounts of emissions from the equipment, among other things.
The SCAQMD will also review the applicability of the equipment to their own Rule and Regulations such as:
- Federal Rules (NSPS or NESHAPs);
- Prohibitions (Regulation IV);
- RECLAIM and Title V (Regulations XX and XXX, respectively);
- Toxics (Regulation XIV);
- Public Notice (Rule 212);
- New Source Review (Regulation XIII); and
- Source Specific Rules (Regulation XI).
If the SCAQMD determines that the proposed source can meet all of the compliance requirements of the air district, they will issue the permit along with a number of conditions that must be met.
Like we mentioned earlier, if the conditions are not followed, it can lead to non-compliance or potential legal issues.
The permitting process can be long and complicated, depending on your project, so it is advised that you understand the permitting process beforehand, and ask questions before actually submitting your permit application.
Ways to Ensure Permitting Success
Some of the ways to ensure success in the permitting process are:
- Retain a consultant (preferably one who is a Certified Permitting Professional, and knows the permitting process);
- Discuss your potential project with the SCAQMD prior submitting your permit application;
- Be sure everyone on your team knows about how the permitting process will affect the project (Project Manager, Environmental, Legal, Finance, Operations, Maintenance, etc.);
- Start early and build in contingencies into your project plan; and
- Do not purchase any equipment before submitting your permit application.
- Download our free SCAQMD Permitting 101 eBook.