“Does this piece of equipment need a permit from the AQMD?”
It’s one of the most common questions our environmental-consulting firm gets asked.
To help you with the answer, we’ve compiled a guide that details the three rules you need to understand.
The Trio of Permit-Applicability Rules
When determining whether a piece of equipment needs a permit, you need to refer to each of these three rules:
- AQMD Rule 201: Permit to Construct
- AQMD Rule 219: Equipment Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
- AQMD Rule 222: Filing Requirements for Specific Emission Sources Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
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 approach the permitting applicability process systematically.
Here’s an overview of each rule.
AQMD Rule 201
Permit to Construct
The primary rule, AQMD Rule 201, tells you what equipment types must be permitted. If you have a stationary piece of equipment that emits or controls the emissions of air contaminants, you will most likely need a permit.
Rule 201 exemptions
There are cases when a piece of equipment emits air contaminants but does not need a permit. Those exemptions are found in AQMD Rule 219. That means your equipment can be subject to the permitting requirements of Rule 201, unless the criteria of Rule 219 allow for an exemption. In this case, you’d be exempt from a written permit.
Still with me?
To complicate matters, even though a piece of equipment might be exempt from needing a permit under Rule 219, AQMD Rule 222 might require the equipment to be registered.
An equipment registration can be viewed as a “permit lite”: You still need to provide the AQMD with information related to the equipment, but you’re spared having to go through the whole rigamarole of the permitting process.
AQMD Rule 219
Equipment Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II
AQMD Rule 219 outlines 21 different categories of equipment that do not need air permit permits, including:
- 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 AQMD Rule 219 is your friend when it comes to air permitting, there are a few things that make it seem like your enemy.
First off, 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 AQMD Rule 219, it’s exempt from permitting.
Second, there are exceptions to the exemptions (yes, that’s how complicated it is), and those are listed in Rule 219 (s). So although a piece of equipment might be exempt under AQMD 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.
Let me give you an example. An aerospace company has a “manually operated abrasive blast cabinet” that fits the description of Rule 219 (f)(2):
Manually operated abrasive blast cabinet, vented to a dust-filter where the total internal volume of the blast section is 1.5 cubic meters (53 cubic feet) or less, and any dust filter exclusively venting such equipment.
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 AQMD Rule 1401? Does the blast cabinet need an air permit?
Based on the requirements of 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 AQMD Rule 1401, the blast cabinet requires a permit because of Rule 219 (s)(2):
Equipment when the Executive Officer has determined that the risk will be greater than identified in subparagraph (d)(1)(A), or paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) in Rule 1401 — New Source Review of Toxic Air Contaminants or the equipment may not operate in compliance with all applicable District Rules and Regulations. Once the Executive Officer makes such a determination and written notification is given to the equipment owner or operator, the equipment shall thereafter be subject to Rules 201 and 203 for non-RECLAIM sources, Rule 2006 for RECLAIM sources, and Regulation XXX – Title V Permits for major sources.
This case is the exception to the exemption that we spoke about earlier.
As a third point to note, the equipment descriptions in AQMD Rule 219 are extremely specific, meaning context is essential. 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).
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 the exemption noted in AQMD Rule 219 (b)(7):
Internal combustion engines used exclusively for training at educational institutions.
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 AQMD Rule 219 (l)(8), as it relates to painting:
Control enclosures with an internal volume of 27 cubic feet or less, provided that aerosol cans, air brushes, or hand applications are used exclusively.
In this case, if your painting control enclosure is greater than 27 cubic feet, you cannot use this permitting exemption.
Gray areas of permit applicability and Rule 219
Environmental regulations, like laws, are very black and white — they tell you exactly what you can and cannot do in order to maintain compliance. However, in our experience working with these regulations, effectively complying with the environmental regulations requires facilities to manage the “gray areas” in order to stay out of trouble.
In other words, what happens if the equipment doesn’t completely fit into one category or another? In that case, you have two (maybe more) options:
- Proceed with permitting the device and having the regulatory agency tell you that the equipment is exempt
- Discuss your equipment with the AQMD 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 possible decision.
AQMD Rule 222
Filing requirements for specific emissions sources not requiring a written permit pursuant to regulation II
The last rule you need to understand in terms of permit applicability is AQMD Rule 222, which, as we mentioned earlier, outlines the registration program for certain types of equipment. The rule can be viewed as an alternative to a full permit.
If AQMD 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 AQMD, state, and federal rules and regulations
Permit Applicability Example
Let’s see how the “trio of permit-applicability rules” applies to a 1.9-MMBTU/hour natural gas-fired boiler that produces less than one pound of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) per day and has been in operation since 2012.
AQMD Rule 201: This rule dictates that a permit is required because the equipment emits oxides of nitrogen, an air contaminant.
AQMD Rule 219: The boiler does not need a permit because of Rule 219 (b)(2):
Written permits are not required for:
Boilers, process heaters, or any combustion equipment that has a rated maximum heat input capacity of 2,000,000 Btu per hour (gross) or less and are equipped to be heated exclusively with natural gas, methanol, liquified petroleum gas, or any combination thereof… and where the maximum NOx emission output of the equipment is less than one pound per day and uses less than 50 gallons of fuel per day, and have been in operation prior to May 3, 2013 provided a filing pursuant to Rule 222 is submitted to the Executive Officer…
But then you come to Rule 222:
AQMD Rule 222: The rule requires that that the equipment be registered under AQMD Rule 222 (b)(1).
The verdict: In order to comply with the AQMD’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).
My Equipment Is Exempt. Now What?
Awesome! But there’s still some work to be done. Your equipment’s exemption status can change at any time, and it can change without your knowing, so be sure to do the following:
- Document and save the exemption memo, including the date that your applicability analysis was performed and the exact version of the rules that were used, since the AQMD’s rules change quite often. And if you’re asked during an inspection why a particular piece of equipment does not have a permit, your memo can act as your Get Out of Jail Free card.
- Continue to follow the rule amendments to AQMD Rule 219 to determine if your equipment remains exempt after each rule amendment. AQMD Rule 219 (u)(1) states that if a piece of equipment that was previously exempt becomes subject to permitting, you’ll need to file a permit modification within one year of the rule change, unless another timeframe is specified.
You can track the proposed amendments to Rule 219 and all of the other rules by following the Proposed Rules page on the AQMD’s website.
Still confused? Contact us and we’ll guide you through the process.