The following text is an abridged and edited transcript of the video that follows at the end of this post.
Throughout our years in the “air permitting trenches,” we’ve seen permit applications with a variety of problems:
- No fees
- Missing signatures
- Missing forms
- Incorrect data
- Too little information
- No rule evaluation
…and the list goes on.
Air permitting can be a complex process that involves both internal and external stakeholders, but it’s a necessary process if you want to move your project forward.
We’ve come up with six ways to ensure that your next South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) air permitting project will be successful.
1. Retain Staff Who Understand the Air-Permitting Process.
Most people underestimate the complexity of the air-permitting process and the amount of detail required for each permit application. When it comes to permitting, the “devil is in the details,” and knowing how to navigate through them can be the difference between your project succeeding and failing. The easiest way to do so is to retain or hire someone who is knowledgeable about the permitting process.
Many people have the misconception that only a Certified Permitting Professional (CPP) can prepare an air permit application, but that isn’t true. Anyone can prepare a permit application, but only people who have the experience with the permitting process can prepare a complete air permit application that the SCAQMD can actually process.
If you decide to retain someone who is not a CPP, you can gauge that person’s knowledge by asking if that person knows all of the elements of a complete engineering evaluation.
2. Discuss Your Project With the SCAQMD Before Submitting Your Application.
One of the main goals of the permitting process is to determine if the equipment being permitted can operate in compliance with every rule and regulation of the air district. With all of the rules and regulations that could apply to your project, is it possible to know all of the hurdles and requirements that need to be met ahead of time?
The answer is yes and, depending on the project, the best way to get this information is to get input from the SCAQMD before starting the process. Some of the questions you can ask are:
- What is the best control technology for this piece of equipment?
- What information is needed to permit this piece of equipment?
- Is the project exempt from permitting under SCAQMD Rule 219?
- Is the project exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
- How can the air permitting for the project be expedited?
Having good communication with the SCAQMD can pay dividends, so be sure to have a list of additional questions prepared.
3. Be Sure All Stakeholders Know How the Permitting Process Can Affect the Project.
Depending on the complexity of your project, the preparation and processing of an air permit can affect several departments within an organization: legal, finance, operations, maintenance, etc. Be sure that every stakeholder has the same knowledge about how the permitting process can affect the project.
For example, maintenance/operations should know not to purchase any equipment until the permit is in hand, while the legal folks should be aware of any public workshops or comment periods that the project could trigger.
Good communication is the key to success, and having everyone on the same page can help prevent a lot of headache.
4. Start Early and Build Contingencies Into Your Project Plan.
Depending on your project, the permitting process can be time-consuming and tedious. Even if you do everything right when you prepare the application, the SCAQMD still has to handle their end of the process.
How long does it take the SCAQMD to process a permit application? That depends on a number of factors, some of which you don’t have control over, so you need to incorporate “the unknown” into your project plan.
Many people tend to wait until the last minute before they file a permit application, but that’s one of the worst things you can do since construction of the equipment can’t occur without having the air permit in hand. And if the equipment is needed to get approval for another part of the project, then you can end up delaying downstream project phases.
And in some cases, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also need to review the permit. For example, once the SCAQMD finishes processing a permit for a Title V facility, the permit must then go to the EPA for a 45-day review. This review should be included in your project timeline.
Lastly, you should also build contingencies into your project plan in the event that the project causes public notices or a public workshop. In this case, your permit cannot be processed unless all of the notices have been mailed or all of the comments have been addressed from the workshop.
So start the process well in advance of the deadline.
5. Do NOT Purchase Any Equipment Before You Receive Your SCAQMD Permit.
SCAQMD Rule 201 requires the owner or operator of a piece of equipment to obtain a permit from the air district before building, erecting, installing, altering or replacing any piece of equipment.
We have seen SCAQMD inspectors issue violations for having “constructed” equipment simply because the hardware was onsite without a permit. Although this is an extreme scenario, you don’t want to end up in this situation. Trust me, notices of violation are neither fun nor cheap.
6. Be Sure Your Fees Are Correct.
Permitting fees are one of the three core elements of a permit application (the other two being forms and the engineering evaluation), so when you submit your permit application, be sure that you’ve correctly calculated your fees. Even if your application is otherwise perfect, the district engineer cannot finish processing it until all of the fees have been collected.
So check — and then double check — that your fee calculation is correct. There’s even a handy-dandy SCAQMD fee calculator.
Permitting can be complicated, but you can make it easier on yourself by knowing the strategies that will help you achieve success in your permitting project.