Environmental Insights

Air Permit Applicability Determination

Mitch Lagerstrom, Director of Consulting - EHS Practice

Date: 4/19/2022

One of the most common questions consultants are asked is if an emission source currently in operation or soon to be located at a facility is required to have an air permit. This question involves some research as there is not a one size fits all answer.

Each state has their own independent requirements for which sources are required to have an air permit, making these determinations difficult to answer on the spot as the regulations need to be reviewed. Consultants may respond to this question in a multitude of ways, including “it depends” or “maybe” or “I’ll need to review the regulation.” In my experience the best answer when looking at the structure of state regulations is “yes a permit is required, unless an exemption can be found.”

Each state requires an air permit for any stationary source (or emission unit) emitting to the atmosphere unless the source qualifies for an exemption. For example, the state of Wisconsin states inWis. Adm. Code NR §406.03(1) that “[…] no person may commence construction, reconstruction, replacement, relocation or modification of a stationary source unless the person has a construction permit for the source or unless the source is exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit […]”.

All too often facilities are not reviewing the regulation to determine if the source qualifies for an exemption. And if a facility has done the research and determined that a source qualifies for an exemption from permitting, they rarely document that determination. It is worthwhile documenting this exemption and exemptions that apply to all sources at the facility known as an air permit applicability determination in preparation for a future regulatory inspection.

Another common problem is that companies are not looking at additional air regulations (beyond an exemption) to determine if requirements apply to a stationary source. Requirements for sources that qualify for an air permit exemption are common within many states. One example is parts washers, also known as degreasers. Requirements for this stationary source commonly include:

  • Waste solvent be stored in covered containers
  • Keeping the parts washer closed whenever parts are not being handled
  • Drain the cleaned parts until dripping ceases

These conditions are further required to be posted on a permanent sign near the parts washer in plain view of an operator. A comprehensive air permit applicability determination for any stationary source will capture requirements for air permitting, exemptions that apply, and conditions that apply to sources that are exempt from air permitting.