Biodiesel: Information for Facilities
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The MPCA Small Business Assistance Unit has published a guide to assist small businesses in working through the permitting and environmental review process. Each chapter begins with a flowchart to help determine if a permit is needed or not. It can be accessed as either the whole document as a PDF file, or as individual chapters. The guide also includes a list of sources for loans, grants and clean-up reimbursement funds.
Minnesota is unique among Midwestern states in mandating environmental review for certain types of projects. The environmental review process in Minnesota looks at how a proposed project could potentially affect the environment and ways to avoid or minimize impacts before the project is permitted and built. Environmental review can be a one or two-step process—the shorter, less detailed Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) or the longer, more complex and detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The environmental review process operates according to the rules of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), but is carried out by designated local government unit or a state agency. For industrial projects such as biodiesel plants, as well as many other types of projects, the MPCA leads the review.
The goal of an EAW is to provide the public with a multi-program analysis of a proposed project's environmental effects. Once an EAW is written, it is put on public notice for a 30-day comment period, during which the public or any interested party may ask questions or provide written comments on the proposed project. Following the public comment period, the project manager for the EAW responds to written comments and works together with MPCA staff to write a Findings of Fact document. The EAW project manager makes a recommendation to the commissioner about whether or not an EIS is needed. If it is determined that an EIS is not needed and there is not a formal request for an EIS, the environmental review process is complete, and the facility may pursue the issuance of any required permits. If an EAW is controversial or there are formal requests for an EIS, the EAW is normally considered by the MPCA Citizen’s Board for determination of the need for an EIS.
An EAW is required for any fuel conversion facilities with proposed construction projects or expansions that use 25,000 or more dry tons of feedstock per year. An EIS is mandatory for any fuel conversion facilities with proposed construction projects or capacity increases of 250,000 dry tons or more of feedstock per year. A more complete description of the environmental review process and the requirements included is located at the MPCA’s Environmental Review Web page. To determine if a specific project will need to go through the environmental review process, please contact the MPCA's biofuels project manager.
Recently, guidance on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint analysis has been developed. Proposers of projects that must complete environmental review and require an air emissions permit are asked to prepare a carbon footprint for their environmental review. Additionally, if a project requires environmental review and completion of an Air Emissions Risk Assessment (AERA), a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions evaluation should be completed and submitted with the project’s air permit application. The following documents provide guidance on carbon footprint development and greenhouse gas emissions.
Financial assistance programs for biodiesel project proposers include the following:
Environmental Assistance Grant Program - consists of a competitive, two-stage application process used to identify and assist projects that will be most beneficial in furthering the MPCA’s mission of working with Minnesotans to protect, conserve, and improve our environment and enhance our quality of life, particularly within the focus areas identified each fiscal year.
Small Business Environmental Improvement Loan Program - provides low-interest loans to small businesses to finance environmental projects such as capital equipment upgrades that meet or exceed environmental regulations, and costs associated with the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites.
Environmental Assistance Loan Program - allows the MPCA to award up to a maximum loan of $100,000 at zero percent interest. Program guidelines call for loan funds to be matched by a minimum dollar-for-dollar match (1:1) by loans from a participating financial institution.
Well before submitting any applications, be sure to call the MPCA biofuels project coordinator, listed under “Staff Contacts” on the “Biodiesel In Minnesota” page, to set up a preliminary meeting with MPCA staff to discuss the proposed project more completely. It is important to begin considering permitting issues such as air emissions control technology, source-water quantity and quality, and discharge quality and quantity, among others, while still considering potential sites and other variables for the proposed project before the environmental review process.
Note: Although environmental review and permitting work may be done concurrently for a proposed project, no permits can be issued for a facility until the environmental review process is completed.
It is important to consult with MPCA air permit staff to determine what types of analysis and air permits may be needed for a biodiesel facility. Information on air permitting can be found at All About Air Permits.
If you will need water appropriations permits for your facility, please visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Water Appropriations Permit Program Web site.
If a facility proposes to discharge any process or non-process wastewater, it must apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit (NPDES/SDS) for this wastewater discharge. You can find information on the Water Quality Permit Applications and Miscellaneous Forms Web page.
At this time, all biodiesel facilities must apply for NPDES/SDS permit coverage for a discharge of stormwater. Stormwater requirements are based on a facility’s SIC code and are typically included in an individual NPDES/SDS permit for biodiesel facilities, which contains requirements for both the industrial wastewater discharge as well as the stormwater discharge. If the biodiesel facility does not need an individual NPDES/SDS permit (e.g., if its wastewater discharge will be to a municipal wastewater treatment plant), the facility must apply for coverage under a permit for industrial stormwater. (In cases where a discharge is to be handled by another existing facility, any permit modifications for that facility must be completed prior to new permits being issued for the biodiesel facility). Visit the Stormwater Program for industrial activities for more information.
If discharges are proposed to be routed to another permitted facility, such as a publicly owned treatment works (POTW), any permit modifications of the existing facilities must be completed prior to any new permits being issued.
Most tanks located above ground containing liquid substances (i.e., not gaseous or solid at ambient temperature and pressure) are subject to the MPCA’s rules for design and operation of ASTs. Tank appurtenances such as piping, valves, containment areas, and loading areas, are also covered. Definitions in the rules can be found at this link. Minnesota Rules, Chapter 7151.1200
More general information on Aboveground Storage Tanks can be found on the AST Web page.
Facilities with one or more regulated ASTs with a total liquid substance storage capacity of one million gallons or more must obtain an individual permit from the MPCA following procedures outlined in Minnesota Rules Chapter 7001.4205-4250. The biodiesel industry is included in this requirement, and details for obtaining this permit are included on the AST Web page.
The MPCA’s main training Web page offers a number of training events, certification programs, and conferences. Some of this training may be applicable to the biodiesel industry.
It is important to take compliance issues seriously to avoid potential enforcement issues and monetary penalties. A proactive approach is the best way to achieve a healthy environmental compliance program at your facility.
How to maintain compliance
One of the best ways to maintain compliance with your MPCA permits is to carefully read through and make sure you understand the permit requirements. If conditions and terms are confusing, please ask questions of the MPCA compliance staff assigned to your facility; they can be of great help in providing assistance. It’s also helpful to keep your records organized and up-to-date, make the records available for inspections, track due dates, and ensure employees are trained so that required documents are submitted in a timely fashion.
Learn more about the types of enforcement tools the MPCA uses on the EnforcementWeb page.