Air permitting compliance is a crucial aspect of operating a facility that generates air emissions. The process involves obtaining permits from regulatory agencies that establish requirements to demonstrate that the facility operates within limits set by air quality regulations.
Air permitting is not just for industrial operations but impacts many businesses.
In Miami-Dade County, Florida, the agency responsible for issuing air permits is the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). Businesses that emit air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (dust), volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants, or which operate combustion equipment such as ovens, furnaces, boilers, and backup power generators must obtain air permits to operate legally. The Florida Department of Environmental Quality provides state guidance here. These permits are required to ensure that the facility’s emissions are within limits set by air quality regulations and that the facility is taking the necessary steps to control and reduce emissions.
Local business example
In the case of one apparel printing facility in Miami-Dade County, SCS Engineers (SCS) was hired to assist with obtaining the necessary air permits from DERM. The scope of services included reviewing current and proposed operations information, calculating air emission estimates, and preparing the narrative and application forms. SCS also prepared a Request for Information (RFI) to confirm the necessary background information, such as equipment specifications, facility layout, projected usage, and operating records. The deliverables included an Air Construction Permit Application and an Air Operating Permit Application. In this case, SCS could prove that the client did not need a permit even though the regulatory agency thought they might.
What are the steps?
The process of obtaining an air permit can be complex and time-consuming, which is why businesses often hire specialized environmental engineering firms to assist them. In this example, SCS provided DERM with a detailed report and application package, including a process flow diagram, equipment specifications, and actual and potential emissions calculations.
It’s important for businesses operating in Miami-Dade, or any county, to understand the air permitting process and the regulations set by local authorities. Environmental engineering firms can provide more accurate and detailed information, so management understands the specific air quality regulations that apply to their business.
The value is in implementing the practices necessary to maintain compliance with air quality regulations and keeps your reputation with workers and the community stellar. Businesses continuing to operate illegally face administrative and civil violations, court actions, and potential environmental insurance challenges. Another consideration is that the same engineering firm can likely advise you on stormwater and groundwater permits and compliance for your facility.
About the Author: Troy Schick, PE, is a Project Manager based in our Miami, Florida, office. He is a Professional Engineer licensed in Florida and a Qualified Stormwater Management Inspector.
Stormwater and Air Permitting Compliance Resources for Businesses:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking (Federal Register, Vol. 87, No. 198, Friday, October 14, 2022) that would address a 2008 Fugitive Emissions Rule that was subsequently granted reconsideration based upon a petition from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The key issue is how fugitive emissions are considered under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), as related to the definition of modification.
Modification means any physical change in, or change in the method of operation of, a stationary source which increases the amount of any air pollutant emitted by such source or which results in the emission of any air pollutant not previously emitted. 42 U.S. Code § 7411(a)(4).
In 2008, the Bush EPA published its Fugitive Emissions Rule that sought to “reconsider” the inclusion of fugitive emissions under this language. Fugitive emissions are defined as:
Those emissions which could not reasonably pass through a stack, chimney, vent, or other functionally-equivalent opening.
NRDC’s petition for reconsideration argued that the Bush EPA weakened the standard for determining major modifications by excluding fugitive emissions from major Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and non-attainment New Source Review (NSR) applicability.
The proposed rulemaking would result in a formal reversion to the pre-2008 language. EPA’s Director for its Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards (OAQPS) has indicated that the rule “would require fugitives to be counted in all new and modified major source determinations,” effectively ending the Bush-era limitations on counting of fugitive emissions.
The potential impact of EPA’s planned fugitive emissions rule may prove significant and is expected to affect a wide range of diverse industry sectors being impacted, such as power generation, oil & gas extraction, mining, paper mills, petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing, coatings operations, and solid waste facilities. In particular, both landfills and compost facilities can have significant fugitive emissions.
Based on our current understanding, the proposed rule will effectively eliminate the ability to exempt fugitive emissions under the current exemption in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 52.21(i)(vii). This would mean that if a source is an existing major PSD or non-attainment NSR source for ANY pollutant, and modifies, then both non-fugitive AND fugitive emissions for ALL pollutants must be counted to see if the project is a major modification under PSD/NSR. Triggering a major modification would also mean that fugitive emissions are included in the various compliance elements of PSD or NSR (e.g., best available control technology [BACT], lowest achievable emission rate [LAER], modeling, offsets. etc.).
To add more context for landfills, as an example, if an existing landfill, which is already deemed major due to carbon monoxide (CO) or sulfur dioxide (SOx) emissions from flares (Potential to Emit [PTE] >250 tons per year [tpy]), conducts an expansion that will result in 15 tpy of new particulate matter less than 10 microns(PM10) [and/or 10 tpy of PM2.5] fugitive emissions from windblown dust, this would be a major modification under PSD, requiring BACT and modeling for fugitive PM. This could also include BACT and other requirements for fugitive methane as a regulated greenhouse gas (GHG) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs)/non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs) from the additional fugitive landfill gas (LFG) emitted from the expanded landfill. Compost facilities can also have significant VOC emissions, which could put them at risk from this rule change.
Public comment on the rulemaking ends on February 14, 2023, which is an extension of the previous deadline. The solid waste industry will provide comments through the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the National Waste and Recycling Association (NW&RA). This will be the last chance to have any effect on the rulemaking. Otherwise, landfills and possibly compost facilities could face more stringent requirements under the PSD and NSR programs when it comes to fugitive emissions.
The EPA and, in some cases, states are rolling out new emissions guidelines at least as stringent. The EPA estimates that the plans could cover about 1,600 landfills. These landfills are in 41 states, tribal entities, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
MSW landfills without Gas Collection and Control Systems (GCCS) that reach a specific threshold will need to add these systems and have 30 months to install or update control systems to meet new standards. As you’ve noticed by now, we’ve greatly oversimplified what is happening.
The new regulations and timetables are difficult to understand and untangle. SCS Engineers, in concert with SCS Field Services, have prepared resources to help during the transition period and afterward when landfills are likely to need more monitoring and measurement, thus creating millions of more bits of data to store, analyze, and report.
We hope you find these resources useful. We will be publishing more soon.
These resources may help you with future monitoring and maintenance:
Thank you to the many folks attending SCS’s live webinar on July 15th about managing the NESHAP, NSPS/EG transition period. As promised, we’ve created a library of resources for you to use and share with your colleagues.
These resources may help you with future monitoring and maintenance:
May 27, 2021, from two separate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcements:
EPA intends to reconsider and revise the 2020 CWA Section 401 Certification Rule
Congress provided authority to states and Tribes under CWA Section 401 to protect the quality of their waters from adverse impacts resulting from federally licensed or permitted projects. Under Section 401, a federal agency may not issue a license or permit to conduct any activity that may result in any discharge into navigable waters unless the affected state or Tribe certifies that the discharge is in compliance with the Clean Water Act and state law, or waives certification.
EPA intends to reconsider and revise the 2020 CWA Section 401 Certification Rule to restore the balance of state, Tribal, and federal authorities while retaining elements that support efficient and effective implementation of Section 401. While EPA engages with stakeholders and develops a revised rule, the 2020 rule will remain in place. The agency will continue listening to states and Tribes about their concerns with implementing the 2020 rule to evaluate potential administrative approaches to help address these near-term challenges.
The agency’s process of reconsidering and revising the 2020 CWA Section 401 Certification Rule will provide an opportunity for public and stakeholder input to inform the development of a proposed regulation, and will include sustained dialogue with state and Tribal co-regulator partners and local governments around these issues. EPA will begin a stakeholder engagement process in June to hear perspectives on this topic and how to move forward. More information will be available at: www.epa.gov/cwa-401.
EPA, Region 7, public listening sessions on the RMP Rule
Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments requires EPA to publish regulations and guidance for chemical accident prevention at facilities that use certain hazardous substances. These regulations and guidance are in the Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule, which requires facilities using extremely hazardous substances to develop a Risk Management Plan that:
These plans provide information to local fire, police, and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
The Region 7 EPA announced two upcoming virtual public listening sessions on the Agency’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule. The RMP rule has been identified as an action for review under Executive Order 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis.
The listening sessions will give people the opportunity to present information, and provide comments or views pertaining to revisions made to the RMP rule since 2017. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will also participate in the listening sessions and receive comments on their Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, which contains similar requirements to the RMP rule.
Virtual public listening sessions will be held on:
For more information on the public listening sessions:
Submit written comments via the docket at: http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2021-0312 until July 15, 2021.
EPA Region 7 serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Nine Tribal Nations.
SCS periodically prepares Technical Bulletins to highlight items of interest to our clients and friends who have signed up to receive them. We also publish these on our website.
Our most recent Bulletin summarizes the 2020 Virginia State Plan for New Landfill EG approved by the USEPA on June 23, 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Clean Air Act (CAA) section 111(d) plan submitted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ). This plan was submitted to fulfill the requirements of the CAA and in response to EPA’s promulgation of Emissions Guidelines and Compliance Times for municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.
The Virginia plan establishes emission limits for existing MSW landfills and provides for the implementation and enforcement of those limits. Highlights of the plan are explained in a newly published SCS Technical Bulletin.
SCS Engineers will continue to post timely information, resources, and presentations to keep you well informed.
REPRINT OF USEPA PRESS RELEASE
WASHINGTON (Dec. 3, 2019) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing several actions to clarify and improve New Source Review (NSR) permitting requirements. These Clean Air Act actions are part of a suite of measures EPA is taking to modernize and streamline the NSR process, without impeding the Agency’s ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance the nation’s air quality. These actions will improve regulatory certainty and remove unnecessary obstacles to projects aiming to improve the reliability, efficiency, and safety of facilities while maintaining air quality standards.
“NSR reforms are a key component of President Trump’s agenda to revitalize American manufacturing and grow our economy while continuing to protect and improve the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “NSR regularly discouraged companies from investing in and deploying the cleanest and most efficient technologies. Through the Trump Administration’s efforts, EPA is providing clarity to permitting requirements, improving the overall process, and incentivizing investments in the latest energy technologies.”
“For too long, New Source Review permitting requirements stifled job creation, hampered innovation and slowed the ability to modernize critical energy infrastructure. Worse, in previous administrations, the permits were weaponized, so liberal activists could delay key projects,” said U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (OK). “New Source Review hasn’t been updated in over four decades—making it hard to integrate new technologies into our energy infrastructure. I’ve worked for years to modernize the review process, and applaud today’s action by President Trump and Administrator Wheeler to streamline the NSR permitting process.”
“One of my consistent frustrations with New Source Review is what seems to be a perverse incentive away from innovation. Thank you to Administrator Wheeler and the Trump Administration for recognizing this and finalizing these positive reforms,” said U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (ND). “The EPA’s actions provide certainty while restoring the proper scope of the Clean Air Act.”
“I applaud the EPA for taking further steps to reform the New Source Review permitting program. NSR’s burdensome process can impede upgrades that would actually increase efficiency and improve air quality. The EPA is moving toward a better NSR program that streamlines the process without sacrificing environmental protections,” said U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (VA-09).
“I applaud Administrator Wheeler for implementing a strong regulatory reform agenda at the EPA. Today’s actions are a solid first step in the right direction to reform the NSR permitting program. I look forward to continue working with the Trump Administration to further reform NSR and allow America’s industry to make their units more reliable and efficient, while maintaining strong environmental standards,” said U.S. Representative Andy Biggs (AZ-05).
“President Donald Trump continues to deliver on his promise to cut burdensome regulations that strangle American manufacturing and energy development. These improvements to the New Source Review (NSR) permitting requirements will protect our air quality, while incentivizing businesses to grow and expand. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump and Administrator Wheeler to cut needless regulations and create American jobs,” said U.S. Representative Alex X. Mooney (WV-02).
“This Administration is clearing the path for manufacturers to invest in more energy efficient technologies that conserve energy, reduce emissions, and keep U.S. manufacturers competitive,” said Portland Cement Association President and CEO Mike Ireland. “For energy-intensive industries like cement, strategic investment in energy efficiency and emissions reduction are key components of any long-term climate and sustainability strategy, and EPA’s New Source Review reforms announced today help unlock new opportunities for sustainable operation.”
Final Guidance: Revised Policy on Exclusions from “Ambient Air”
After considering public comments, EPA is issuing final guidance, identifying the sort of measures which EPA may take account of in determining whether a source owner or operator has precluded the general public from having access to its property. Where access is precluded, the portion of the atmosphere above that property is not considered “ambient air” for the purpose of conducting air quality analyses under the Clean Air Act. The guidance updates EPA’s policy to recognize that a variety of measures may be considered effective in keeping the public off a source owner/operator’s property. These measures, which account for advances in surveillance and monitoring, depend on site-specific circumstances and continue to include, but are now not solely limited to, fences or other physical barriers. State, local and tribal permitting authorities have the discretion to apply this guidance on a case-by-case basis. The regulatory definition of “ambient air,” as stated in 40 CFR § 50.1(e) to mean “that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has access,” remains unchanged.
Final Guidance: Interpreting “Adjacent” for New Source Review and Title V Source Determinations in All Industries other than Oil and Gas
EPA has also recently issued a final guidance that revises the agency’s interpretation of when multiple air pollution-emitting activities are located on sufficiently “adjacent” properties to one another that they should be considered a single source for the purposes of permitting. To determine what activities comprise a single source under the NSR and Title V air permitting programs, three factors must be satisfied: the activities must be under common control; they must be located on contiguous or adjacent properties; and they must fall under the same major group standard industrial classification (SIC) code. In this guidance, for all industries other than oil and natural gas production and processing for which there is a separate set of rules and to which this guidance does not apply, EPA adopts an interpretation of “adjacent” that is based on physical proximity only. The concept of “functional interrelatedness” would not be considered by EPA when determining whether activities are located on adjacent properties. This interpretation should help clarify and streamline the permitting process.
Additional NSR Proposals
EPA also recently issued a proposal to address minor errors that have accumulated over time in four NSR regulations. While these minor errors, such as outdated cross references and typographical errors, have not materially impeded the effective operation of the NSR program, EPA believes that it is important to remove such errors from the regulations in order to provide regulatory certainty and clarity. The proposed corrections are all considered to be non-substantive and are intended to provide clarity and precision to the NSR regulations without altering any NSR policy or changing the NSR program as a whole.
EPA is also proposing to remove from the NSR regulations various provisions, such as certain “grandfathering” provisions, that, with the passage of time, no longer serve any practical function or purpose. EPA will be taking comment on this proposal, which will be published in the Federal Register.
More information on these actions and other NSR improvements are available at: https://www.epa.gov/nsr
Coming Soon: Revisions to Petition Provisions of Title V Permitting Program
EPA is currently working to take final action on a 2016 proposal for revisions to the title V regulations. This proposal would streamline and clarify processes related to the submittal and review of title V petitions.
The proposed rule would bring more certainty for all stakeholders, including the sources required to obtain and maintain title V permits; more focused petitions; better title V permit records which are expected to result in fewer petitions; and reduced administrative burden in the EPA’s review of petitions in a tight timeframe.
Congress established New Source Review as a preconstruction permitting program in the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments. The program intended to ensure the maintenance of air quality standards around the country and that state of the art technology is installed at new plants or existing plants undergoing major modifications.
Under the NSR program, before constructing a new stationary emission source or major modification of an existing source, the source operator must determine whether the new source will emit or the project will increase air emissions above certain thresholds. If so, the operator may need to get a permit from a state government or EPA that may require installation of pollution control technology or other measures.
Contract your SCS project manager, or if you have questions about the impact of these recent actions.
An aggressive carbon abatement goal often referred to as deep decarbonization, requires systemic changes to the energy economy. The scale and complexity of these projects are enormous, but achievable in our children’s lifetime. Legal Pathways recently published a legal toolkit Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States containing key recommendations and information from its larger publication to be released later this year. Both are a treasure trove for public and private decision-makers who desire pathways to a smaller carbon footprint.
The slimmer version works as a legal guide for businesses and municipalities interested in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. While each entity may draw on some, but not all, of the publication, it is a significant resource for public and private decision-makers who desire, or are working toward meeting stricter regulatory policies.
The authors identify all the legal options for enabling the U.S. to start addressing a monumental environmental challenge. Decision-makers can use combinations of resources to achieve their desired goals by employing these legal tools.
Thirty-four chapters cover energy efficiency, conservation, and fuel switching; electricity decarbonization; fuel decarbonization; carbon capture and negative emissions; non-carbon dioxide climate pollutants, and a variety of crosscutting issues.1 Each topic area identifies the main legal issues; then covers the options involving federal, state, and local laws.
With enough detail for readers to comprehend pathways best suited for them, the book is written for those who do not have legal or environmental engineering backgrounds. The authors include options even if they are not politically realistic now, recognizing that some may have value over time by becoming a legal pathway.
Notes and Citations
1 “Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States,” by M. Gerrard and J. Dernbach, Editors, 2019, Retrieved from https://www.eli.org/eli-press-books/legal-pathways-deep-decarbonization-united-states
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently proposed increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all types of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The proposed increases would boost renewable fuel production and provide for ambitious yet achievable growth.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual RFS volume requirements for four categories of biofuels: cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. EPA implements the program in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
EPA will hold a public hearing on this proposal on June 9, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri. The period for public input and comment will be open through July 11, 2016.
For more information on the proposal, see www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/proposed-renewable-fuel-standards-2017-and-biomass-based-diesel.
For more information on the public hearing, see www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-25/pdf/2016-12358.pdf.
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) returned comments and recommendations on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft Part 71 Operating Permit for Ocean County Landfill and MRPC Holdings LFGTE Operations, Permit Number: P71-0CMH-001 (Draft Permit) to EPA Region 2 Permitting Section, Air Programs Branch. The letter was sent on January 28, 2016, to Mr. Steven C. Riva of the EPA.
NWRA and SWANA expressed concerned that the EPA’s issuance of the Draft Permit, and the circumstances under which it has been prepared, represent a significant departure from practical permitting policies and will constitute a disincentive to expand existing and develop future landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) projects around the country.
The jointly submitted comments from both not-for-profit Associations on the Draft Permit were intended to convey their members’ strong interest in these projects, which represent an economic investment in alternative renewable energy sources and the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Both Groups have expressed concern that the EPA’s actions should not undermine those investments and the benefits derived from these LFGTE projects.
The main points of the letter cover the Associations’ disagreement with the EPA’s approach to common control. NWRA and SWANA support the position that the OCL and MRPC are two separate sources that are not under common control, and they oppose the position proposed by EPA Region 2 in the Draft Permit. Both Groups are urging EPA to re-evaluate this decision and utilize an environmentally beneficial approach when making common control determinations for landfills and third-party LFGTE plants both now and in the future. Other portions of the letter address the uncertainty that EPA’s position would create for affected facilities and how it could re-open already settled compliance expectations.
Members of NWRA and SWANA have access to the letter and may continue directing comments and questions through either Association.
Questions directed to SCS Engineers should be addressed to Pat Sullivan, Senior Vice President and the SCS National Expert on the Clean Air Act.