Section 5.0 Permit Program
One of the most effective means of applying the requirements of SIPs in reducing air emissions is through an air pollution permitting program for stationary sources. New York's air permitting program identifies and controls sources of air pollution, ranging in size from large industrial facilities and power plants to small commercial operations, such as dry cleaners.
Before 1970, few emission limitations were placed on the pollutants that could be discharged to the air. When the first federal air quality standards were issued, New York's air was more polluted than the standards allowed in several areas. Today, however, air quality in most areas of New York meet standards that are much more rigorous than those of 1970. As new information on the health and environmental effects of air pollution has become available, new state and federal standards have been established and emission limits have been tightened to protect public health and the environment. By requiring the use of effective pollution control technology and enforcing compliance with these requirements through permitting, the Department's air permitting program has been a vital means of reducing air emissions to meet ever more stringent air quality standards.
Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires states to implement a permitting program for major stationary sources. Section 19-0311 of Article 19 of the Environmental Conservation Law directs the Department to establish a permitting program to implement Title V of the CAA. In addition, the Department has implemented a permitting program for minor sources of air pollution. The Department's permitting regulations are set forth at 6 NYCRR Part 201, "Permits and Certificates". The two most common types of permits for air contamination sources are described in 6 NYCRR Part 201 include State Facility permits (Subpart 201-5) and Title V permits (Subpart 201-6).
State Facility permits are issued to facilities whose emissions are below the major source threshold (as defined in Part 201), but meet the criteria for permitting under Subpart 201-5. These are generally facilities which meet any of the following characteristics:
- stationary sources which require and have accepted an emission cap pursuant to Subpart 201-7 to limit their potential to emit to avoid the requirement to obtain a Title V permit or other applicable requirement
- stationary sources which have been granted a variance pursuant to an air regulation implemented by the Department
- stationary sources which are new facilities subject to a New Source Performance Standard
- stationary sources which emit hazardous air pollutants and have a potential to emit that is below major stationary source thresholds.
Title V facilities are required for major facilities under the CAA and the ECL and implementing regulations at 40 CFR Part 70 and 6 NYCRR Subpart 201-6. These include facilities which:
- have a potential to emit which is major as defined in Part 201
- are subject to a NSPS and/or are not a deferred source category
- are subject to a standard or other requirement regulating a hazardous air pollutant
- are subject to federal acid rain program requirements.
Title V permits have greatly assisted the Department's efforts to ensure that major sources are operating in compliance with applicable air pollution control laws and regulations. Notably, the Title V permit, in one document, contains all applicable requirements for a major stationary source, the approved test methods by which a source will determine whether it is in compliance with those requirements and conditions requiring prompt reporting of all violations and emission limit exceedances. The Title V permit also includes conditions for recordkeeping, monitoring and reporting, including the requirement for facilities to prepare semi annual and annual reports of their emissions and an annual certification that they have operated in compliance with all applicable requirements. All of this information is accessible to the public. Thus, the Title V permit provides both the Department and members of the public with a clear picture of what a facility does, what requirements are applicable to a facility, what measures the facility must implement to control its emissions of air pollutants, and how the facility will determine whether it is operating in compliance with those applicable requirements. The terms of the Title V permit are also federally enforceable which means that citizens can bring suit to address violations of the permit.
To obtain a permit, a facility owner or operator must apply to the Department using a form designated for this purpose. Applicants must supply information on the facility's emissions, the processes operating at the facility, the raw materials being used, the height and location of stacks or vents, the requirements that apply to the facility, and the controls being applied. The Department develops air pollution permits based on the information in the applications and the Department's own assessment of the rules that apply.
The information generated by the permit process is also used by the Department in its air quality planning to ensure the effective implementation of control measures needed to curb air pollution. Air permits play a direct role in the implementation of emission reduction requirements at stationary sources. For example, RACT requirements intended to reduce VOC and NOx emissions, as well as NOx budget and other requirements applicable to large sources, are set forth in regulations which serve as the source of conditions in permits issued by the Department. Permit terms and condition in turn ensure that the facility is in fact complying with applicable regulatory requirements. The result is that the Department can document that it is achieving the emission reduction targets contemplated by the SIP which are necessary to improve air quality in New York State.
All other non-major facilities that meet the criteria of Subpart 201-4 can obtain a minor facility registration, rather than a permit. These facilities typically have actual emissions which are less than one-half of the major source threshold.
Facilities with registrations are still required to meet any applicable requirements that are subject to in accordance with the Department's regulations. The Department, in addition, can enforce these regulatory obligations through its authority under New York State Environmental Conservation Law and the CAA.