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Air permit streamlining initiative

Air Management Study Group

The DNR Air Program is working to simplify and improve the operational efficiency of the air pollution permitting processes while remaining consistent with state statutes and federal Clean Air Act requirements. The streamlining initiative includes revisions to the state rules addressing construction and operation permits (chs. NR 406 and 407, Wis. Adm. Code), as well as limited revisions to the state air toxics rule (ch. NR 445, Wis. Adm. Code).

The initiative involves significant collaboration with the Air Management Study Group, a forum that allows the Air Program to receive input from and provide information to stakeholder organizations. The study group’s participation ensures that the program considers a broad range of interests. This initiative consists of two phases. The first phase was completed in December 2015. The second phase began in late 2016. Refer to the tabs below for more information about each phase.

Phase 1

First phase (finalized December 2015)

The first phase of the streamlining initiative was completed in December 2015. The Air Program formed four workgroups (comprised of Air Management Study Group members as well as other stakeholders) to develop streamlining recommendations.

As a result of the discussions and work performed during the first phase, a new type of registration permit is available. The DNR has issued a Type B registration permit available for facilities with air pollution emissions up to 50 percent of the major source threshold for each of the criteria pollutants. More information can be found in Type B Registration Operation Permit (AM-531) [PDF]. More information on registration permits can be found on Air permit options.

Additional outcomes of the first phase include a natural minor source operation permit exemption, changes to non-Part 70 source permit expiration, a new emergency engine exemption, streamlined permit revocation procedures for closed facilities, and flexibility to use higher sulfur diesel in ch. NR 445.09, Wis. Adm. Code. These changes were finalized in rule revisions effective Dec. 1, 2015 (Clearinghouse Rule 15-005 [PDF]). The workgroup documents below provide more information about these topics and the associated rule revisions.

Workgroup products

The Air Program also revised ch. NR 406, Wis. Adm. Code to exclude certain activities from the definitions of “commence construction” and “commence modification.” However, the program will revisit the topic as part of the second phase of permit streamlining because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not approve the revision as part of Wisconsin's State Implementation Plan (SIP). The EPA determined that the DNR’s request to amend the SIP was incomplete and that the department must show how the revised section is protective of the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

Phase 2

Second phase (beginning late 2016)

The Air Program convened a workgroup for the second phase of the initiative in late 2016. The workgroup met throughout 2017. The meeting schedule and notes for the workgroup meetings can be viewed on the Air Management Study Group webpage under the "Past meetings" tab.

The second phase of the streamlining initiative focused on clarifying and cleaning up definitions and language pertaining to air permit exemptions. Revisions specifically include:

  • Creation of an exemption from permit requirements to allow law enforcement to incinerate drugs confiscated by law enforcement as long as the incineration equipment meets certain specifications and appropriate records are kept.
  • Revisions to the exemptions from permit requirements for external combustion furnaces to account for use of ultra-low sulfur fuel oil.
  • Revisions providing operational flexibility for sources operating under a Plantwide Applicability Limitation (PAL) as intended by federal rules.
  • Revisions to language to allow the use of e-Signature or the electronic submittal of application materials and reports in lieu of paper copies and ink signatures.
  • Changes to align state and federal regulations.
  • Updates to definitions.
  • Other changes that are cleanup and clarifying in nature.

The Air Program also revisited the exclusions from the definition of "commence construction," proposed in s. NR 406.03(1e), Wis. Adm. Code. This topic was addressed under the first phase of the initiative; however, the EPA notified the DNR that the revised rule language cannot be approved as part of Wisconsin's State Implementation Plan (SIP) as written. The program made additional revisions to the exclusions during this phase of permit streamlining to address EPA concerns.

The stakeholder group also spent significant time considering a definition of what constitutes the “cause or exacerbation of an ambient air quality standard or an ambient air increment.” Ultimately, the group decided that adding such a definition would not result in improvement of operational efficiency or simplification of the permit processes. Some stakeholders were concerned that defining the term could, in fact, complicate permit processes.

Workgroup documents