EPA’s Interpretation of “Begin Actual Construction” Under the New Source Review Preconstruction Permitting Regulations
This EPA guidance addresses EPA’s interpretation of when an owner or operator must obtain an NSR permit for a major stationary source or major modification before the start of actual construction on the facility. Currently, EPA considers almost every physical on-site construction activity that is of a permanent nature to constitute the beginning of “actual construction,” even where that activity does not involve construction “on an emissions unit.”
The interpretation fails to give meaning to the distinction between an emissions unit and a major stationary source. As such, it tends to prevent source owners/operators from engaging in a wide range of preparatory activities they might otherwise desire to undertake before obtaining an NSR permit. For this reason, EPA is adopting a revised interpretation that is more consistent with the regulatory text.
The proposed revised interpretation will stipulate that a source owner or operator may, prior to obtaining an NSR permit, undertake physical on-site activities – including activities that may be costly, that may significantly alter the site, and/or are permanent in nature – provided that those activities do not constitute physical construction on an emissions unit.
Begin actual construction means, in general, initiation of physical on-site construction activities on an emissions unit, which are of a permanent nature. Such activities include, but are not limited to, installation of building supports and foundations, laying underground pipework and construction of permanent storage structures.
EPA does not find it plausible that NSR permit applicants undertaking significant on-site construction activities prior to permit issuance will allow them to gain leverage with respect to the outcome of the permitting process. Stationary source owners or operators cannot expect that any site activities prior to permitting will alter or influence the BACT analysis for an emissions unit or other elements of a permitting decision. Permit applicants that choose to undertake on-site construction activities in advance of permit issuance do so at their own risk.
EPA is providing an opportunity for interested stakeholders to review and comment on the draft guidance titled, Interpretation of “Begin Actual Construction” Under the New Source Review Preconstruction Permitting Regulations through May 11, 2020. For any questions concerning this memorandum, please contact Juan Santiago, Associate Division Director of the Air Quality Policy Division, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at (919) 541-1084 or .
Submit comments using the form at https://www.epa.gov/nsr/forms/draft-guidance-interpretation-begin-actual-construction-under-new-source-review. EPA will consider the comments received and complete a revised version of the guidance.
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