4 The record articles

Things You Should Know About Air Permitting in NC – Now and When We Get Back to Normal

Posted: April 9th, 2020

Authors: Amy M. 
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This article is part of ALL4’s 4 The Record: Quarantine Series.

Most staff at the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (NC DAQ) are currently working at home, as are ALL4 staff in NC.  You might be wondering how this is impacting NC DAQ operations and the processing of your submittals.  Based on conversations we’ve had with NC DAQ personnel and first-hand experience, here is what we know.

A few essential NC DAQ staff are going into the office a day or two every week to look at items coming in by mail and process them appropriately.  Applications and other documents are being scanned, at least partially, and sent to staff that log submittals into their tracking database and assign document identification numbers.  Per the NC regulations, three copies of a non-prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) air permit application must be submitted and six copies of a PSD permit application must be submitted.  These rules still apply – NC DAQ needs hard copies and a wet signature eventually, but while many facility environmental staff and consultants are working from home, NC DAQ will accept scanned copies.  NC DAQ will work with electronic submittals while we are all tele-working, and they are learning what the future of electronic submittal of all applications might be like.  If you submit your air permit application only via hard copy, the permit engineer assigned to review your application will likely reach out to you to request an email with the electronic files.

Some air permit applications require a professional engineer’s seal – if you left your seal in your desk drawer at the office you won’t be back in until likely May (like I did) you can follow up with a stamp and signature when you are back in the office.  Note that online electronic payment is now available for all types of permit applications.  When you are assigned a permit application ID, you can go on NC DAQ’s website and pay the application fee.

As of now, it is difficult to say whether the current situation has impacted application processing times.  However, the number of applications being submitted has decreased, so staff are catching up on work.  When required, applications are still being sent to public notice electronically.  Final copies of permits are being sent to facilities electronically.  NC DAQ has tested the use of WebEx for public hearings and they are planning to use this format for an upcoming public hearing on their proposed new log fumigation rule.  Anyone that wants to speak will have to pre-register and will be called upon to speak when it is their turn.  The public hearing will be recorded and a transcript developed.

Regarding compliance and enforcement, requests to delay stack testing and similar obligations that require contractor support due to force majeure are being evaluated on a case by case basis.  The following message was posted to the agency’s website on March 30, 2020:  “During the current public health crisis, DEQ continues to protect air quality, water quality and human health under all state environmental rules and regulations.  Under our authority, DEQ will work with regulated entities to ensure they remain in compliance and in instances of non-compliance, pursue enforcement actions on a case-by-case basis.”

What should you know about air permitting in NC outside of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and working from home?

  • Issued air permits, and other documents issued or received related to air permit compliance, are on DAQ’s website.
  • NC DAQ does have a state air toxics program and there are limited opportunities to avoid a toxics modeling exercise when permitting new sources or modifications.
  • In some cases, construction prior to receipt of an air permit is allowed. Guidelines are on the agency’s website.
  • There are few exemptions to projects that do not require a permit for Title V facilities. Small changes to components of a piece of equipment on the air permit that do not affect regulatory applicability may not require an air permit application, but equipment replacement typically requires either a 502(b)(10) change submittal or an air permit application.  Staff will respond fairly quickly to a request for determination of whether your project needs a permit application.
  • Most modifications to your facility require a zoning consistency determination or public notification in areas without zoning.
  • Make sure to document the basis of your emissions calculations and include emissions (not a reference to calculations in an appendix) on the application forms.
  • Annual Permit Fees and Permit Application Fees are updated in December, becoming effective January 1st of the upcoming calendar year.
  • If you have operating parameter limits in your permit (e.g., scrubber pressure drop and flow rate), NC DAQ’s current policy on updating parameter limits is if the parameter limit needs to be more stringent based on your latest stack test, you must request to administratively amend the value when you submit your stack test report. If the stack test shows the operating parameter limit can be less stringent than the value in the permit, you must submit a permit application for a minor modification in order to update the value in the permit.

If you need assistance with an air permitting project in NC, please contact Amy Marshall or Claire Corta.

Engineering services provided by ALL4 (NC), P.C.


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