Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
April 2005
DNR's Air Permit Improvement Initiative

The Air Permit Improvement Initiative (APII) was created in 2003 by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Secretary Scott Hassett, and requires the agency to streamline its air permit program while maintaining environmental standards. The creation of APII stemmed from growing concerns about the significant time and effort needed to produce an air permit, and whether that time and effort actually and consistently resulted in measurable environmental benefit. In addition, 2003 Wisconsin Act 118 required changes in Wisconsin's air permit program. To date, APII has made significant progress in two areas: developing rules for registration and general permits, and establishing greater public awareness.

Registration Permits
The DNR has been developing rules and guidelines for a new type of permit called a registration permit. This type of permit is popular in many states to supplement their permit programs. There would be two categories of registration permits in Wisconsin, operation and construction. For a business to qualify for either one, it must keep emissions below certain limits.

Some states, such as Minnesota and Michigan, long ago turned to 'registration' permits that allow small emitters to quickly register themselves for a permit in return for keeping emissions low. Businesses typically receive the permit within two weeks. Minnesota has issued over 1,900 registration permits since its program's inception.

Benefits of a registration permit include quick turnaround times freeing up DNR time to draft more complicated permits, and allowing companies to proceed quickly with construction. The permit language will be predictable, offering companies a sense of certainty. Once an application is received, the Department would have a 15-day review time frame for both registration permits (operation and construction).

Registration Operation Permit
To be eligible for a registration operation permit, the DNR is proposing that a facility cap emissions at 25 tons per year - twenty five percent (25%) of major source threshold - of criteria pollutants with lower thresholds in non-attainment areas. In addition, the facility must stay below 2.5 tons per year of each federal hazardous air pollutant (HAP) and 6.26 tons per year of all HAPs combined. This type of permit would allow facilities to make modifications or add equipment without applying for a construction permit as long as the facility's emissions stay below the emission caps and the changes can meet applicable requirements.

Registration Construction Permits
This type of registration permit would be available to all sources, major and minor, if the facility maintains certain thresholds for the emission unit(s) to be constructed or modified. The registration construction permits would expire as requirements are transferred to an operation permit.

General Permit
In addition to revising its permit regulations to establish criteria for registration permits, the DNR is also proposing to revise its permit regulations for "general" type permits. The DNR already has the authority to issue a standard off-the-shelf type of permit, or "general" operation permit, for similar types of sources already operating such as rock crushing plants, ethylene oxide sterilizers, and small heating units. The proposed rule revisions would allow the DNR to develop a general construction permit that could be used for similar new or modified construction projects.

Public Hearings
During fall of 2004, the DNR held public hearings on draft rules for establishing registration permits and modifying the use of general permits for similar type sources. This winter, more meetings with industry, trade and environmental advocacy groups were held. Another public hearing was held on March 3, 2005 in Madison. DNR hopes to take this proposed rule to the Natural Resources Board for adoption at the board's April meeting.

For further information on the proposed rules, please contact Caroline Garber at caroline.garber@dnr.state.wi.us. For technical information regarding registration and general permits, please contact Dave Minkey at dave.minkey@dnr.state.wi.us. To see the proposed rules, please visit the state administrative rule website.

- Thomas Coogan

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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