Air permit options
Air permits limit the amount of air pollution a facility is allowed to emit to keep the air clean and healthy. Individual permits are customized to promote environmental compliance and provide a basis for legal enforcement if permit conditions are violated.
Types of air permits
The Wisconsin air pollution control permit program has permits for two kinds of scenarios: new and existing facilities. For new facilities, construction permits ensure that proposed projects can meet air pollution standards before they are constructed. For existing facilities, operation permits set emission limits and establish monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements. These permit conditions may be revised as facilities expand, replace equipment or change operations.
Source-specific construction or operation permits are written and issued individually for new and existing power plants and other significant air emission sources. In some cases, source-specific permits are required by federal law, such as for major facilities like paper mills, utilities or the larger printing shops. In other cases, the permit reviews may be desirable because they can better help an industry understand which air regulations apply to them and what they need to do to comply with those regulations.
Wisconsin has also developed general construction permits and general operation permits for asphalt plants, rock crushing facilities and various types of printers.
Finally, the DNR has developed a registration permit that allows small emitters to quickly register themselves for a permit in return for keeping emissions low. The permits contain facility-wide emission caps as well as monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
We also have an interactive Permit Primer to help you determine which environmental requirements may apply and what permits you need.
The permitting process is designed to be transparent. Almost all permit-related documents are open records, including applications, modeling analyses and permit drafts. Input from the public and the permit applicant is encouraged throughout the process and can affect the content of the permit. Federal and state laws require all air pollution sources in Wisconsin to have a permit unless the source is determined to be exempt.
A construction permit allows a company to construct, modify, expand or replace an air pollution source. Administrative code requirements for construction permits are found in chapters NR 405, 406 and 408, Wis. Adm. Code.
Minor and major sources
Construction permits have different requirements, depending on the permittee's potential to emit certain pollutants and the air quality where the new source is located. For example, a major emission source located in an area where air quality is not attaining an ambient air quality standard may undergo a different permit process than that of a major emission source located in an area where air quality has been shown to be meeting the ambient air quality standards. More information on air quality and a map showing the attainment and nonattainment areas and their permit requirements is available on Permitting requirements for nonattainment areas in Wisconsin. Definitions of major, minor and exempted sources, nonattainment areas and new source review - a process that affects new and modified major pollution sources - are found in the Air permits glossary.
A construction permit is not required if the project meets one of the exemptions available in ch. NR 406.04, Wis. Adm. Code. For more information, review the Exemption tab on this page.
Construction permit waiver
A construction permit waiver can be issued to certain sources in situations where they can:
- demonstrate that the construction or modification does not require a major source permit or a permit to establish enforceable limitations on potential to emit to avoid major source permit requirements; and
- demonstrate undue hardship if the waiver is not granted.
Undue hardship may result from any of the following:
- adverse weather conditions;
- catastrophic damage of existing equipment;
- a substantial economic or financial hardship that may preclude the project; or
- other unique conditions on a case-by-case basis.
The waiver request should detail the situation necessitating the request and when those circumstances arose or may be anticipated to arise. There is a $300 nonrefundable fee required with the waiver request. A complete construction permit application must also be on file with the department.
For more information on construction permit waivers and for general questions about construction permits, contact Dave Minkey (920-662-5179).
Companies submit applications for construction permits using a set of forms. The construction permit typically allows 18 months to complete construction unless the permit specifies otherwise. The permit may be extended up to another 18 months. A company must complete construction activities within the timeframe allowed under the construction permit. Though the authority to construct expires, all the conditions in the construction permit are permanent and are written into an operation permit or operation permit revision.
An application for a major permit contains more elements than an application for a minor permit. This checklist will assist companies in determining what information to include in a PSD major permit application.
After a construction permit application is complete, the DNR will prepare a preliminary decision to approve or deny the permit. A 30-day public comment period follows, and a public hearing may be held if requested. The DNR will respond to any comments received and prepare and issue a final permit within 60 days after the close of the comment period or hearing.
Fees for construction permits vary depending on the type and level of review needed. The table below lists many of the most commonly applied fees (effective Jan. 1, 2011). A complete list of these fees can be found in ch. NR 410, Wis. Adm. Code.
An initial application fee of $7,500 must be submitted with any construction permit application. This fee is credited towards the final cost of the permit. A refund of the difference will be made to the applicant if the total cost of the permit is less than the initial application fee.
To pay the initial application fee include a check issued to "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" with the hard copy application. To receive an invoice to pay online by credit card, call the Air Program at 608-266-7718 and ask for the construction permit processor. Please have the Facility ID readily available when calling.
|Major source construction (PSD or nonattainment area permit)||$16,000|
|Minor modification at major source||$7,500|
|Expedited review (PSD-under 60 days)||$7,500|
|Modeling analysis (detailed for a major source)||$4,500|
|MACT, BACT, LAER (case-by-case analysis)||$4,500|
|Expedited review (PSD-61 to 90 days)||$4,000|
|Expedited review (non PSD-under 50 days)||$5,000|
|Minor source construction||$3,500|
|Emission testing (initial unit)||$2,500|
|Revision to a construction permit||$1,500|
|Actual based exemption||$1,250|
|Research & testing exemption||$1,250|
|Analysis of emission unit (per unit, 2 or more units)||$800|
|Exemption determinations (not otherwise specified)||$500|
An initial application fee of $7,500 must be submitted with any application for a construction permit. The total amount of this fee is credited towards the final cost of the permit. A refund of the difference will be made to the applicant if the total cost of the permit is less than the initial application fee.
Source-specific operation permits
Many Wisconsin companies have air pollution control operation permits. With this type of permit, a facility can operate according to the specified permit conditions. An operation permit is issued to cover an entire facility.
There are two types of operation permits: Title V and non-Title V. All Title V permits (major sources) include an expiration date and must be renewed. Since December 2015, non-Title V operation permits issued after this date do not expire and therefore do not include an expiration date, unless otherwise determined by the department. So long as an operation permit has an expiration date on its cover page, it will need to be renewed. Upon renewal, any non-Title V permit (synthetic minor or minor sources) will no longer expire and all conditions in the permit will remain in effect unless revised or revoked. For a permit that requires renewal, the permittee must apply for the renewal at least six months prior to the permit’s expiration, but no more than 18 months prior to expiration. To renew an operation permit, go to Air permit renewals.
For application instructions, refer to the following documents.
- Operation Permit Application Instructions for Initial or Renewal Applications (AM-300)
- Form-by-Form Instructions (AM-565)
- Renewal Application Checklist
Facilities with existing operation permits may have reduced their emissions sufficiently to be eligible for streamlined permit options. For more information, review the Registration and Exemptions tabs on this page.
Registration permits allow low emitting facilities to quickly register for an Air permit. The permits contain facility-wide emission caps as well as monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. All four registration permit types have a 15-day or less required review period by the DNR.
Both the DNR and companies that qualify, benefit from registration permits. The expedited review process saves the DNR time. Facility benefits include:
- a simplified application process;
- 15-day DNR decision on applications for coverage, if there is no existing permit to revoke. If there are existing permits that must be revoked, a 14-to-30-day revocation waiting period is required prior to making a decision on coverage;
- the permit allows facility modifications without the need for a construction permit;
- the permit does not expire; and
- simplified and less frequent recordkeeping.
Rather than annual emission fees charged per ton of emissions, all facilities with registration permits are charged a $400 annual fee. The fee is due at the end of June each year, beginning the year after the facility is covered under the permit.
More information on qualifying for a registration permit and the benefits and disadvantages of the permits, read the following fact sheets.
- Type A Registration Permits (AM-364)
- Type B Registration Permits (AM-531)
- Type C Registration Permits (AM-379)
- Type G Registration Permits (AM-568)
For more information on registration permits, including access to final permits, application forms and resources to assist with the application process, visit the Registration permit options page.
A general permit is intended for facilities that:
- perform the same or similar operations;
- emit similar air contaminants;
- use the same or similar emission control technologies; and
- are subject to the same limitations, standards and requirements.
General construction permits and general operation permits have been developed for asphalt plants, rock crushing facilities and various types of printers. The general permits for printers are for natural minor sources; and synthetic minor sources, and include lithographic heatset (web) offset, lithographic non-heatset web, lithographic non-heatset sheetfed, screen printing and digital printing. The general operation permits for the crushing facilities and hot mix asphalt plants do not expire.
Each general permit will have specific eligibility criteria that are spelled out in the permit application and the source-specific fact sheets listed here.
- Easy to get. Permit applications are written in language familiar to facilities within that category.
- Fast. By statute, DNR must make a decision on a general permit application within 15 days of submittal.
- No construction permits required. In most instances, a facility operating under a general permit can install new equipment or modify existing equipment without a construction permit as long as the equipment meets the eligibility criteria of the existing general operation permit. However, replacement of a primary crusher or the drum and burner of an asphalt plant at the same time, require a construction permit.
- Consistency. For similar sources in Wisconsin, the permits will look the same.
General permits versus other permits
General permits are standard permits, so if a facility needs source-specific limitations or cannot meet a requirement set in the general permit, they would need another type of permit.
General construction permits
|Press Type||Facility Operational Status|
|natural minor||synthetic minor||major|
|non-heatset sheet fed|
General operation permits
|Press Type||Facility Operational Status|
|natural minor||synthetic minor||major|
|non-heatset sheet fed|
For more information about general permits, crushers and hot mix asphalt plants, contact Erin Hansel (920-662-5403).
A permit exemption is a release from the requirement to obtain a permit. The goal of any exemption is to address unintended regulatory burdens that would not provide any meaningful environmental gain. Facilities eligible for exemptions must still abide by all other applicable air quality regulations. Chapters NR 406 and 407, Wis. Adm. Code, list a number of different types of exemptions for which sources may be eligible. In December 2015, the latest exemption option became available with a natural minor exemption.
A summary of these exemptions is provided by the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program.