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TCEQ’s RAP: Committing to Streamline Air Permitting, How Fitting

Posted: December 5th, 2016

Authors: Frank D. 

As promised in my November 8, 2016 blog, let’s discuss the much anticipated implementation of the newest Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permitting program: Readily Available Permit, otherwise known as RAP.  To start our discussion, let’s travel back in time to the 73rd Texas Legislature – Senate Bill (SB) 248 Section 2303.054.  This SB required TCEQ to streamline, to the greatest extent possible, the consideration of air permitting applications.  To demonstrate compliance with this legislation, TCEQ has been in action to create innovative ways to streamline the air permitting process.  That brings us to TCEQ’s latest effort to make the air permitting process more efficient: RAP.  Before we dive into the details, please note that TCEQ presented on the RAP program at their annual Advanced Air Permitting Seminar held in early October 2016.  The official slide deck used for the presentation can be found here.

Why RAP: A More Efficient Way of Permitting! Clap, Clap, Clap!

The RAP program is intended to streamline the air permitting process.  The nuts and bolts of a RAP require an applicant to file all technical information associated with a project up-front in an application.  Having the project information presented up-front, in turn will eliminate the back-and-forth communication, which occurs between TCEQ and the permittee when TCEQ needs additional project information.  By eliminating this additional time-consuming communication step, TCEQ intends to increase the efficiency for the permitting of specific projects (see below for specifics).  Therefore, once the up-front project information has been received from the permittee, TCEQ can issue a draft permit and decision for publication.  For ALL4, adjusting to the RAP program will be business as usual.  ALL4 already implements the philosophy of providing the information an agency requires up-front in its air permit applications.

What is a RAP?

TCEQ is currently developing a RAP for minor sources only.  In the future TCEQ may expand the program to be used for more complicated Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD)/Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) permitting; but for now, a RAP will only be used for minor sources.  For select minor sources, TCEQ will prepare a template air permit with specific conditions intended for specific source categories.  Once TCEQ reviews and approves all of the up-front information provided by the permittee, TCEQ will issue a permit with pre-approved permit conditions that cannot be customized.  Because this permit would be categorized as “readily available,” the air permitting process would not only reduce the amount of time needed for TCEQ to write and review a site-specific permit, it would also reduce the amount of time needed for the applicant to prepare project information since TCEQ is essentially identifying all of the key informational needs upfront.

From an air permitting perspective, a RAP will be subject to the same procedural requirements as case-by-case permits; therefore, the public notice requirements (e.g., sign posting, notice of receipt and intent [NORI], notice of application and preliminary decision [NAPD], etc.) will be required, along with health effects evaluations, and a best available control technology (BACT) analysis.  As required in case-by-case permits, a RAP will also be required to be in compliance with state and Federal air quality rules (e.g., State Implementation Plans [SIP], Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources [NSPS], National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants [NESHAP]).  TCEQ is in the process of developing an official toolkit to further help streamline the RAP air permitting process and facilitate the air permit application process for permittees.  Stay tuned for a blog discussing this toolkit.  

Is there a Limitation to this Permitting Creation?

It is to be understood that because a RAP will contain pre-approved conditions, the air permit will not be able to be customized.  Also, in order for a RAP to be approved, a source must meet all existing requirements specified in that RAP.  Currently the RAP program is being developed for a limited number of sources, which include simple-cycle combustion turbines, fuel marketing terminals, and certain surface coating operations.  TCEQ may expand this list in the future, but for now, the list only includes the aforementioned source categories.

When Will RAPs be Available?

While there is no set or published schedule, it is anticipated that the RAP program will be available for some sources in early 2017.  ALL4 will be keeping an eye on the development of this program and will assess its feasibility to support our clients.  As usual, we will keep you updated on the topic.  Feel free to reach out to me at fdougherty@all4inc.com, if you have any questions.


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