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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.

Overview

Types of Air Permits

Wild roses and blue sky

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.

Permitting Process

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.

Construction

Construction Permits

A construction permit allows a company to construct, reconstruct, modify, relocate 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 permit requirements differ depending on the permittee's potential to emit (PTE) certain pollutants and the air quality where the 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 is meeting ambient air quality standards. More information on air quality standards and a map showing attainment and nonattainment areas and their permit requirements is available on the Permitting requirements for nonattainment areas in Wisconsin webpage. 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.

Exemptions

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 page.

Construction Permit Revisions

Construction permit revisions can be used to make changes to construction permits issued under chapter NR 406, Wis. Adm. Code, that are not modifications or are exempt modifications. This commonly includes changes to requirements such as compliance demonstration, monitoring or recordkeeping. More information on construction permit revisions can be found by clicking on the frequently asked questions (FAQ) link.

Construction Permit Revision FAQ
What is the difference between a construction permit and a construction permit revision?

Differences include:

  • Purpose: A construction permit can authorize the construction, reconstruction, replacement, relocation and modification of emissions units. A construction permit revision can only be used for a change to a construction permit that is not a modification or is an exempt modification.
  • Cost: A construction permit revision has a fixed fee of $1,500 while the initial application fee for a construction permit is $7,500. The ultimate cost of a construction permit will vary depending on a number of factors specified in ch. NR 410, Wis. Adm. Code.
  • Public input process: A construction permit has a 30-day public comment period, while a construction permit revision has a 21-day notification period as described in s. NR 406.11(1), Wis. Adm. Code. Construction permit revisions are typically processed along with an operation permit revision. In that case, the required 30-day public comment period for the operation permit revision would satisfy the notification requirements for the construction permit revision.
What changes can be made in a construction permit revision?

A construction permit revision can be used to make changes to a construction permit to reflect a change at a source that is not a modification or an exempt modification. Some common changes that can typically be made with a construction permit revision include:

  • Changes to compliance demonstrations, monitoring and recordkeeping requirements, except those that established under major source construction permitting (typically cited with s. NR 405.08 or NR 408.04, Wis. Adm. Code).
  • Establishing elective limitations such as synthetic minor limitations.
  • Changes to conditions in a construction permit to reflect an exempt modification of an emissions unit. A common example of this is a change to an emission limit established in a construction permit to reflect an exempt modification of an emissions unit under the controlled actual emissions exemption in s. NR 406.04(1q), Wis. Adm. Code.
  • Incorporation of conditions of consent decrees, administrative orders or other judicial decisions.
What changes cannot be made in a construction permit revision?

The following changes cannot be made in a construction permit revision and instead would require a new construction permit:

  • Add an emissions unit to a project which was issued a construction permit. This is a modification of a source and requires a new construction permit.
  • Modify an emissions unit associated with a project, unless the modification is a separate project and the change qualifies as an exempt modification under the controlled actual emissions exemption in s. NR 406.04(1q), Wis. Adm. Code.
  • Increase a permit emission limitation, unless the change qualifies as an exempt modification under the controlled actual emissions exemption in s. NR 406.04(1q), Wis. Adm. Code.
  • Change or establish Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) or Nonattainment Area (NAA) major source construction permit conditions under chs. NR 405 or 408, Wis. Adm. Code. These types of changes require a new permit under chs. NR 405 or 408, Wis. Adm. Code.
How does a facility apply for a construction permit revision?

The construction permit revision application checklist contains details of how to apply for a construction permit revision.

Can a facility revise a construction permit if the authority to construct under the construction permit has expired?

Yes. While the authority to construct under a construction permit does expire, the conditions in a construction permit are permanent unless changed through a revision of the construction permit or through the issuance of a new construction permit.

Can an operation permit revise conditions contained in a construction permit?

No, operation permits do not have the legal authority to revise conditions contained in a construction permit. Under s. 285.66(1), Wis. Stats., the conditions of a construction permit are permanent unless changed through a revision of the construction permit or through the issuance of a new construction permit.

Can a construction permit revision extend the expiration date for the authorization to construction under a construction permit?

No. The authority to construct under a construction permit can only be extended for up to an additional 18 months as allowed under s. 285.66(1), Wis. Stats. or through the issuance of a new construction permit.

If a facility applies for a revision of a construction permit condition and that condition also appears in the facility’s operation permit, does the facility also need to apply for a revision of the operation permit?

Yes. A facility can apply for a revision to the construction permit and the operation permit in the same permit application.

Construction Permit Waiver

A construction permit waiver can be issued to sources when they can:

  1. 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
  2. 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; or
  • other unique conditions on a case-by-case basis.

A complete construction permit application must be on file with the department to submit a waiver request. All requests should include:

  • an explanation of why the request is necessary
  • a list of the circumstances creating undo hardship and when they arose or are anticipated to arise
  • a $300 nonrefundable fee

For more information on construction permit waivers and for general questions about construction permits, contact Dave Minkey

Application Process

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 conditions in the construction permit are permanent unless changed through a new construction permit or construction permit revision, and the conditions are included in an operation permit or operation permit revision.

Applications for minor (ch. NR 406, Wis. Adm. Code) and major (ch. NR 405 and/or NR 408, Wis. Adm. Code) construction permits, construction permit revisions and construction permit exemptions each require different information. The application checklists on DNR’s Air Permit and Compliance Forms webpage contain the information that should be included in permit and exemption applications.

Timing

After a construction permit application is complete, 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 a final permit decision within 60 days after the close of the comment period or hearing.

Withdrawal of construction permit applications

If a company has applied for a construction permit and, prior to issuance of that permit, has decided not to move forward with the project, the company should request that the construction permit application be withdrawn. To withdraw the permit application, the responsible official for the facility (i.e., the person legally responsible for the operation of the permitted air pollution source [see s. NR 400.02(136), Wis. Adm. Code]) should submit a written request to DNR by e-mail or letter. This request should be sent to DNRAMAIRPERMIT@wisconsin.gov or Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Air Program – AM/7, Attention: Construction Permits, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921. Additional applicable permit fees in s. NR 410.03, Wis. Adm Code, may be charged for work that has been completed by DNR on the permit application review.

Fees

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. If a construction permit application also includes a request for a waiver to commence construction under s. NR 406.03(2), Wis. Adm. Code, an additional $300 should be added to the $7,500 construction permit 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.

Permit fees table
Fee Description Amount
Major source construction (PSD or nonattainment area permit) $16,000
Major modification $12,000
Minor modification at major source $7,500
New minor source or modification of a minor source $3,000
Modeling analysis for a minor source or minor modification $1,000
Modeling analysis (detailed for a major source) $4,500
MACT, BACT, LAER (case-by-case analysis) $4,500
Expedited review (Major source PSD-under 60 days) $7,500
Expedited review (Major Source PSD-61 to 90 days) $4,000
Expedited review (non PSD-under 50 days) $5,000
Establish limits on PTE to make source or modification minor $3,500
Emission testing (initial pollutant, additional fees for multiple pollutants) $2,500
BACT/LAER determination under NR 445 $2,000
Revision to a construction permit $1,500
Public hearing $1,500
Actual based exemption $1,250
Research & testing exemption $1,250
Emission limit under NR 446 to 469 or for HAP in Table A, B or C of s. NR 445.07 $1,000
Analysis of emission unit (per unit, 2 or more units) $800
Emission limit determination under NR 424.03(2)(c) $600
Exemption determinations $500 to $5,500

Operation

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.

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

Registration Permits

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.

Benefits

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.

For more information on qualifying for a registration permit and the benefits and disadvantages of the permits, read the following fact sheets.

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.

General

General Permits

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.

Eligibility

Each general permit will have specific eligibility criteria that are spelled out in the permit application and the source-specific fact sheets listed here.

Benefits
  • 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.

Additional Information

For more information about general permits, crushers and hot mix asphalt plants, contact Erin Hansel (920-662-5403).

Exemptions

Permit Exemptions

Some air emissions sources are exempt from the need to obtain an air permit. The department provides written confirmation of exempt status upon request. Facilities eligible for exemptions must still abide by all other applicable air quality regulations.

The construction permit exemptions in s. NR 406.04, Wis. Adm. Code, are evaluated based on the air emission units associated with a construction project. The operation permit exemptions in s. NR 407.03, Wis. Adm. Code, are evaluated based on the air emission units at the entire facility.

A summary of the available construction permit and operation permit exemptions, and frequently asked questions about these exemptions are on the Air Permit Exemptions page.