Types of air permits

In general, the kind of permit a facility is required to apply for will depend on how much air pollution the facility could potentially cause based on the kinds of equipment or processes the facility operates. A table comparing features of various types of total facility permits is available below:

Federal

In general, "federal" is the term used to name those permits required specifically by federal regulations. These permits are required for the larger emitters of air pollutants. These permits programs are implemented nationwide under the same basic principles and guidance. The EPA evaluates and approves state programs that serve to implement these federal requirements.

  • Individual Total Facility — Typically a facility requiring a federal-level permit must apply for an individual permit, which is written specifically for the activities (emission units, controls, etc.) at the facility and includes only those requirements applicable to the facility.
  • General — Two general permit options are currently available at the federal level. One is for general manufacturing facilities and the other is for low-emitting facilities. General permits are pre-written to cover a range of operating scenarios and applicable requirements, so they require less processing by the MPCA. Because of this, a general permit may be quicker to obtain than an individual total facility permit. The general permit options are:

State

In general, "state" is the term used to name those permits required by state rules and statutes. In Minnesota, these permits are the result of state specific strategies approved by the federal government to regulate minor sources of air emissions and to attain compliance with broader air quality federal laws and regulations.

  • Individual Total Facility — The individual total facility permit at the state level is very similar to the federal-level individual permit. However, at the state level, there are more alternatives to the individual permit available.
  • Registration — Registration permits are for facilities with low actual emissions (i.e., what actually comes out the stack) versus their potential emissions. In general, the facility's actual emissions must be less than 50 percent of the federal thresholds. There are other requirements. These permits are similar to general permits in that they are easier to obtain and the requirements are less rigorous when making modifications.
    • Registration Permit Fact Sheet (currently being updated)
    • Registration Permit Handbook (currently being updated)
  • Capped — The “capped emission permit” option is designed for noncomplex facilities that do not qualify for a registration permit and do require site-specific permit conditions. In general, the facility’s actual emissions must be less than 75 to 90% of the federal thresholds. These permits are quicker to obtain than an individual state permit and require less agency involvement when making modifications.
  • Environmental Management System (EMS) — This individually issued state permit option allows small and medium-sized air emission facilities that employ a qualifying (ISO 14001) EMS to operate under emission caps set typically set below 90 percent of federal thresholds. To provide a regulatory incentive to establish a qualifying EMS , the permit offers relief from minor and moderate permit amendment application requirements, and from some some recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
  • General — Similar to the federal general permits except that the PTE for these facilities are below the federal thresholds. One general permit option (non-metallic mineral processing) is currently available at the state level.

State permits generally do not expire. The US EPA requires that Title V permits be renewed every five years. All individual total facility permits must be put on public notice for 30 days. Federal individual total facility permits are also subject to a 45-day EPA review period before they can be issued, which in most cases will run concurrently with the 30-day public notice period. It can take anywhere from six months to a year or longer to issue individual total facility permits depending on the number of complicated issues involved.

What about modifications?

If a facility wants to make changes at its facility after receiving a total facility permit, it should first determine if it will need an amendment to its permit. Registration Permit and Capped Permits preauthorize modifications, provided the modified facility still qualifies for the same permit. To determine if its individual permit must be amended, the facility must: calculate the PTE of the modification, review the applicable state and federal rules and regulations, and determine the applicable amendment type (if one is necessary). These items should all be done before starting construction on the modification because some amendment types require that the permit amendment be issued before construction commences on the modification. The permit amendment types are differentiated based on threshold levels of emissions and/or the applicability of certain Federal programs. The types of amendments are: administrative, contravening permit terms, minor, moderate, major. Major amendments must be placed on public notice, can take as many as six months or more to issue, and generally involve the consideration of Federal programs and other changes that have the potential to significantly affect air quality.

How are permits processed?

The degree of involvement by the MPCA with a permit action depends on the type of permit. In general, the more significant the potential impact to air quality a permit or permit amendment has, the more detailed the involvement by MPCA staff. Individual total facility permits, and all amendments except administrative amendments go to permit teams made up of a permit writer/engineer and compliance and enforcement staff who work together with the facility to draft the permit.

How does the MPCA prioritize its permitting effort?

In general, the MPCA gives priority to facilities that need their permits to begin construction or operation of either a modification or a totally new facility.

  • Construction permits: Applications for permit amendments are put in a queue, to be worked on as staff become available. There is also an expedited permit program where facilities pay to have staff work overtime to draft their permit. This is only useful when the queue is large. Total facility operating permits for new (not yet constructed) facilities are also put in this queue.
  • Total Facility Operating permits: This includes reissuance of federal permits issued five or more years ago. These applications are worked on based on the priorities set by the AQ permit management. At this point in time, most facilities in Minnesota who require one have received their total facility operating permit. Those facilities with federal permits, which have a five-year expiration schedule, have begun applying for reissuance of those permits. While still keeping up with permits and amendments required for construction projects, the goal is to manage the reissuance of federal permits to minimize the backlog.

Information/assistance

For assistance with air permits in Minnesota, contact the MPCA at 651-296-6300 or 800-657-3864 and ask for Business Assistance.