Preconstruction Permitting Overview

Pre-construction permitting is generally intended to ensure that local air quality goals are maintained and that any new or modified source has an acceptable level of emissions control built into it. The pollutants considered and technical criteria for permit approval vary with the size and type of source and the location's ambient air quality. In most instances, it is illegal to initiate construction of an air emissions source without obtaining the applicable pre-construction permit(s).

There are four types of pre-construction permitting review that a source might incur and all or any of them may apply to each source:

1. State-level minor source review

2. Federal Attainment Area Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) review

3. Federal Nonattainment Area New Source Review (NSR)

4. The relatively new federal review for Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) requirements to determine if specific limits on HAPs must be established

All four reviews are normally carried out by the local or state agency, even those based on federal law. However, the U.S. EPA may be directly involved if a state has not been officially delegated the authority to implement the Clean Air Act (the Act) permitting provisions.

• State/minor: Most states have state-level permit programs, analogous to the federal NSR program, to address the construction and installation of minor sources and modifications that would not otherwise trigger federal NSR requirements. More than 90% of all pre-construction permits in the United States only go through state agency review with no direct involvement of the Act requirements.

• Prevention of Significant Deterioration: Areas that are in attainment with the NAAQS are required to conduct PSD reviews to assure that emissions from new or modified major stationary sources will not cause nonattainment. The definition of "major" varies with the pollutant, but is generally 100 or 250 tpy, depending upon the source type. PSD regulations limit air quality degradation below certain prescribed amounts, but do allow some margin for economic growth. Most PSD permits are issued by states. However, there are still some states that have not met the EPA's permit issuing criteria. In these states, the EPA plays varying roles in permit review, depending on the degree to which it has delegated permitting authority.

• Nonattainment New Source Review: Areas that are in nonattainment with the NAAQS are required to conduct NSR reviews to limit emissions growth at new major sources. Typically, the threshold level for defining a major source or a major modification are lower in nonattainment areas and range from 10 to 100 tpy. Permits for new major sources in nonattainment areas are issued by respective state environmental protection regulators.

• HAPs Review, MACT: Under the Act, EPA has proposed maximum available control technology (MACT) standards for many of the 189 identified HAPs [see Chapter 15]. The Act also sets HAPs requirements related to the construction of new major sources or certain modifications of existing sources. Under this provision, the definition of "major" is 10 tpy of any one HAP or 25 tpy of all HAPs now regulated. Construction or modification of a major source of HAPs is prohibited prior to a state determination that the MACT standard for that source will be met. This requirement does not take effect until a state has an EPA-approved operating permit program, after which new source construction or modifications will be subject to a case-by-case determination if the applicable MACT standard has not yet been promulgated.

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