Air Pollution Permitting in Ohio

Permits specify limits on the quantity of air contaminants emitted and requirements for construction and operation of regulated of air contaminant sources. 

Permits are issued for stationary sources of air contaminants. The issued permits specify limits on the quantity of air contaminants emitted and requirements for construction and operation of regulated of air contaminant sources. Permit conditions also specify the emission testing, monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements applicable to each source. These requirements are the primary means for evaluating and demonstrating compliance with the emission limits established in each permit.

There are a variety of permit options available depending on the type of source, existing air quality where a source is or will be operated, operational flexibility needed by the source and whether additional voluntary restrictions are requested to be included in the permit. More than one of these factors can apply to the permitting process for a given source. In general, think of permitting in terms of “permitting programs” and “types of permits” based on the type of facility and when sources are installed and operated as described below. When the source was installed or will be installed also affects the type of permits that must be issued for the source. Finally, several types of exemptions have been developed over the years that range from not being subject to regulation (de minimis operations) to permit-by-rule exemptions (i.e., there are restrictions and obligations that must be complied with, but no issued permit is required).

 

Minor Source – Smaller emitting facilities with generally less complicated permitting requirements (e.g., dry cleaners, small industrial operations, gas stations)

  • Generally referred to as “Non-Title V” or “Synthetic Minor Title V” sources depending on whether voluntary restrictions on the quantity of air contaminants are included in issued permits that prevent the source from becoming subject to the Title V operating permit program.
  • Permit-to-Install and Operate (PTIO) is issued for these types of sources.
  • Permit duration is 10 years for Non-Title V facilities and five years for Synthetic Minor Title V facilities.

Major Source – Larger emitting facilities with complex to very complex permitting requirements (e.g., medium to large-sized industrial operations, utilities, refineries, forging operations). 

  • Generally referred to as “Major Source” and/or “Title V facility” depending on what stage they are in the permitting, installation and operation process. Voluntary restrictions on the quantity of air contaminants can be placed on some operations at these types of sources in order to avoid certain rule requirements (i.e., synthetic minor restrictions) but as long as the facility-wide potential to emit triggers at least one major source permitting requirement and/or Title V thresholds, the facility is generally referred to as a “Major Source” and/or “Title V facility."
  • The type of permit issued to one of these sources depends on when a given operation at the facility was installed or modified. Generally speaking though, new installations and modifications to operations at these major sources are required to apply for and be issued a Permit-to-Install and then apply for a Title V Permit-to-Operate or Permit Revision if an effective Title V Permit-to-Operate has already been issued for the facility.
 

Major sources can be subject to multiple major source regulatory programs that, historically, have been referred to in conjunction with describing the permit that is being processed. Below are the most common facets present in permits. Note that some of the programs identified below can be processed as part of the same permit document. As a result, you may hear of the same permit document being referred to as both a “PSD” permit and a “NESHAP” permit. Note however, that all the programs identified below are “New Source Review” permit actions and that facilities subject to these programs inherently end up being Title V facilities once the emissions are authorized through the final-issued PTI.

Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD)
This type of permit is issued to large air pollution sources located in areas that meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

Nonattainment New Source Review (NSR)

This type of permit is issued to large air pollution sources located in areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)

NESHAP permits are issued with technology-based standards for hazardous air pollutants (HAP's) for categories of facilities/emissions units specified by U.S. EPA. These standards are identified in Section 112 of the Clean Air Act.

New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)

NSPS permits are issued with emissions standards prescribed for criteria pollutants from specified stationary source categories. These categories are identified in Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. 

 

Whether the permit for an air contaminant source is considered to be a “New Source Review” or an “Operating Permit,” “Non-Title V” or “Title V,” the requirements have to be issued as a final action of the Director in order to be enforceable. There are many other enforceable actions of the Director, but permits constitute the vast majority of actions that establish enforceable restrictions on the quantity of air contaminants emitted and allow companies to legally operate a regulated air contaminant source. Below are descriptions of the various permit document types.

Permit-to-Install and Operate (PTIO) 

This permit document is issued to Non-Title V and Synthetic Minor Title V facilities. The PTIO is a relatively recent permit document type. Effective June 30, 2008, Ohio EPA began issuing a single PTIO for an air contaminant source rather than a Permit-to-Install (PTI), followed by a separate Permit-to-Operate (PTO) for Non-Title V and Synthetic Minor Title V facilities. The PTIO streamlines the permitting process for non-major facilities with low emissions of air contaminants. PTIOs are issued as final actions of the Director and are appealable to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission. If the permit is establishing federally enforceable terms and conditions or has high public interest, it will first be issued as a draft permit to allow a 30-day comment period by the public, U.S. EPA or other interested parties.

Federally Enforceable Permit-to-Install and Operate (FEPTIO)

This is a specific type of PTIO issued with federally enforceable limitations that limit the facility-wide potential to emit. The limitations restrict emissions below what is otherwise required by regulation so the permittee can avoid various regulations. The most common restrictions apply to one or more permitted operations at the facility in order to reduce the overall facility-wide potential to emit. In some cases the restriction is requested to avoid an operationally specific requirement (e.g. a MACT standard). FEPTIOs are issued at the same draft and final stages as described for the PTIO above.

Permit-to-Install (PTI)

A PTI is issued for any new or modified source that is located at a facility that is, or will be permitted as a Title V source. PTIs are issued as final actions of the Director and are appealable to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission.  If the permit is establishing federally enforceable terms and conditions or has high public interest, it will first be issued as a draft permit to allow a 30-day comment period by the public, U.S. EPA or other interested parties.  

Title V Permit-to-Operate (Title V PTO)

The Title V permit is a comprehensive facility-wide permit that identifies all regulated operations at the facility. This federal permitting program was established as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Title V permits identify all “applicable requirements,” a defined term in the federal regulations. Ohio EPA implements the Title V program in Ohio by issuing Title V permits as part of Ohio’s approved Title V program. The primary path to final issuance flows through four stages: Draft, 30-day public comment period; Preliminary Proposed, 14-day company comment period; Proposed, 45-day U.S. EPA comment period; and Final, appealable to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission. 

 

 

Various mechanisms have been developed over the years to speed up the permitting process. The basic process is described by the “Steps to obtain Ohio EPA air pollution permits." However, additional permitting options may be available depending on the type of operation being installed. These options fall into two broad categories: exemptions and general permits. Ohio EPA has developed several types of permitting exemptions. These exemptions include:

  • De minimis: Outright exemption established in the de minimis rule for very small potential air contaminant sources.
  • Permit exempt: Exempt an operation from being required to first be issued a permit but remain subject to certain criteria in the exemption rule and/or air pollution control limitations or restrictions established in certain air pollution rules.
  • Permit-by-Rule (PBR): Permit exemptions that establish emission limits and/or other conditions through the specific exemption rule.

General Permits

General permits speed up the permitting process for certain well-defined operations that are not eligible for a permit exemption. General permits are designed to identify the emission limits, operational restrictions, monitoring, record-keeping, reporting and testing requirements for the majority of sources covered by the general permit. The benefit of seeking a general permit is that the permit is issued very quickly once a complete application is received; the trade-off is that there is no source-specific tailoring of the permit terms. When it comes to general permits, what you see is what you get. 

Other Options

In addition to the two streamlining options developed by the Agency, a company can also choose to use one of these options as the starting point for a traditional permit. For example, if the terms of a general permit don’t quite fit a specific situation, an applicant can suggest slight modifications to the general permit terms as the basis for quick processing of a traditionally processed permit. Feel free to discuss this option with your Ohio EPA District Office or Local Air Agency contact.

Permit exemptions that establish emission limits and/or other conditions are available through the specific exemption rule (known as Permit-by-Rule).