The EPA is responsible for the provisions of the Clean Air Act and enlists the aid of analogous state agencies for permitting and enforcement. At its best, this is a symbiotic relationship, where the states and the EPA work together to ensure proper application and enforcement of the law. The EPA typically allows state and local air quality guidelines to trump their own when those laws are at least as rigorous. However, conflict sometimes arises when the EPA determines that state permitting is less rigorous than federal interpretations. In those cases, the Clean Air Act can become a battleground of states' rights versus federal rights.
The laws regarding air compliance are complex and continually in flux. Interpretation varies from state to state, industry to industry, and company to company. Staying on top of new regulations, interpreting air compliance requirements, and putting a comprehensive plan in place to stay compliant can be a messy process, especially when a state's interpretations—and willingness to apply and enforce the law—might be at odds with the EPA.
Vapor Point is in continual communication with federal and state regulatory agencies, attending meetings and contributing to technical expertise and content related to CAA requirements and applications. We are also members of many trade associations and industry panels such as AFPM, ILTA, 4C HSE, and GPA Midstream. By staying connected with the regulators, we can help you stay on top of all your compliance challenges.
The EPA was established in late 1970 amidst growing public concern about environmental pollution. This new federal agency soon found itself charged with overseeing a showcase piece of legislation, the Clean Air Act (CAA). The intent of the Clean Air Act was to provide comprehensive air emission regulations for both stationary and mobile sources. It soon became evident, however, that the CAA as originally constituted was inadequate to either define the true scope of the country's air quality issues, or to provide authority to enforce the rules.
In 1990, the Clean Air Act was significantly updated to expand regulatory requirements and strengthen enforcement actions. Titles I, II, III, IV, and VI concerns the “what” of the law, and Title V defines the “how” of compliance.
The purpose of the operating permits program is to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements of the Clean Air Act, and to enhance the EPA's ability to enforce the Act. Air pollution sources subject to the program are required to obtain an operating permit, and states have been directed to develop and implement the permitting program. The EPA issues permit program regulations, reviews each state's proposed program, and oversees the state's efforts to implement any approved program. When a state fails to create its own program, the EPA steps in with its own federal permit program.
The EPA's permit program—in many ways the most important procedural reform contained in the new law—is intended to greatly strengthen enforcement of the Clean Air Act. It enhances air quality control in a variety of ways. Adding the Title V permitting program made it more consistent with other environmental statutes that already required permits. It also clarified and increased enforcement for source pollution control requirements. Before Title V, a source's pollution control obligations might have been scattered throughout numerous hard-to-find provisions of state and federal regulations, and in many cases the source was not required—under then-existing applicable State Implementation Plans—to submit periodic compliance reports to the EPA or the states. Title V ensures that all of a source's obligations with respect to its pollutants will be contained in a single permit document, and that the source will file periodic reports identifying the extent that it has complied with those obligations. These requirements greatly enhance the ability of Federal and state agencies to evaluate air quality situations.
Title V provides a ready vehicle for states to assume administration—subject to federal oversight—of significant parts of the air toxics program and the acid rain program. Through the permit fee provision, Title V greatly augments a state's resources to administer pollution control programs by allowing fee collection from permitted facilities to cover reasonable direct and indirect costs of the permitting program.
All sources subject to the permit program must submit a complete permit application. The state permitting authority must determine whether or not to approve an application within 18 months of the date it receives the application.
Once a state has issued a permit, the EPA has 45 days to review each permit and to object to permits that violate the Clean Air Act. If the EPA fails to object to a permit that violates the Act or the implementation plan, any person may petition the EPA to object within 60 days following the EPA's 45-day review period, and the EPA must grant or deny the permit within 60 days. Judicial review of the EPA's decision on a citizen's petition can occur in the Federal court of appeals.
Each permit issued to a facility will be for a fixed term of up to five years.
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