In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources

    EPA Permitting Terms and Definitions

    Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), major new stationary sources of air pollutants, as well as facilities that will be modified to such an extent that air pollution emissions will increase by a large amount, are subject to two permitting programs -- New Source Review pre-construction permits and Title V operating permits.

    > The New Source Review (NSR) permitting program is intended to ensure that new or modified facilities do not significantly degrade air quality.

    > Title V of the 1990 CAA Amendments requires major sources of air pollution to obtain an operating permit. The permit clarifies what facilities must do to control air pollutants and includes emissions limits and monitoring, record keeping, and reporting requirements. Permits are reviewed every five years and contain all air emission control requirements that apply to the facility, including the requirements established as part of the PSD permitting process.

    > Subject to regulation. The PSD and Title V permitting programs apply to pollutants that are "subject to regulation." A pollutant becomes subject to regulation on the date that a requirement in the CAA -- or a rule adopted under the CAA to control that pollutant -- takes effect. For GHGs, this occured on January 2, 2011, the date on which EPA's light-duty vehicle rule regulating GHG emissions took effect.

    > The CAA requires EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) -- concentration limits for air pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. Primary standards set limits to protect public health; secondary standards set limits to protect the public welfare and the environment. EPA has set NAAQS for six principal ("criteria") pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide.

    > Tailoring Rule. PSD and Title V permits are required for any source that emits 100 or 250 tons/year (depending on the source) of any criteria pollutant. While these thresholds are appropriate for criteria pollutants, they are not feasible for GHGs, which are emitted in much greater quantities. If the lower emissions thresholds were applied to GHGs, it would greatly increase the number of required permits -- tens of thousands of PSD permits and millions of Title V permits.

    EPA, therefore, issued a rule that sets new thresholds for GHG emissions and thus "tailors" the permitting programs to focus on the largest industrial sources, those responsible for 70 percent of the GHG pollution from stationary sources. The thresholds for GHG emissions are 75,000-100,000 tons/year. This rule shields millions of small businesses from the requirements of the permitting process.

    During the first six months of 2011, EPA phased in the permitting requirements for GHGs, giving large industrial facilities and state governments time to develop the capacity to implement the new rules. EPA intends to undertake an additional rulemaking, taking comment on whether to establish lower GHG thresholds for PSD and Title V permit applicability and also whether certain smaller sources can be permanently excluded from permitting. EPA will also explore potential streamlining techniques to reduce the permitting burden.

    > Best Available Control Technology (BACT) is a pollution control standard mandated by the CAA. It applies to facilities covered by the PSD and Title V permitting programs. BACT requirements are established for a given facility on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration technical feasibility and cost as well as other energy, environmental, and economic impacts.

    EPA issues guidance to assist the states in determining what to require as BACT from major new and modified facilities. In November 2010, EPA issued BACT guidance for GHG emissions. The guidance emphasizes the use of energy-efficient technologies rather than installation of particular pollution control technologies. It does not require that specific types of fuels be used, nor will carbon capture and sequestration be considered BACT, except in extremely rare circumstances.

    > State Implementation Plan (SIP). Under the CAA, each state is required to monitor the ambient air to determine whether it meets NAAQS for criteria pollutants. If the air quality does not meet the standard for one of the pollutants, the state must develop and implement pollution control strategies to attain that standard. For areas that meet the standards, the state must develop a plan to maintain the standards while accounting for future economic and emissions growth. These plans and control strategies constitute its State Implementation Plan (SIP).

    Most SIPs also include regulations for issuing PSD and Title V permits. With GHGs now subject to regulation, states were required to ensure that their SIP included permitting requirements to cover GHGs by January 2, 2011, the date when regulation of GHG emissions from large stationary sources took effect. For the minority of states that weren't ready by that date, EPA can permit sources directly. Texas was the only state to refuse to revise its SIP or to accept EPA's role to permit sources on an interim basis. EPA has taken additional steps to ensure that facilities in Texas can obtain legally valid permits directly from EPA.

    > New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). The CAA requires EPA to set industry-specific standards for stationary sources that emit significant quantities of harmful pollutants. The standards set the level of pollution that new facilities may emit and address air pollution from existing sources. Guidelines for meeting NSPS requirements encourage flexible and innovative approaches that take into account cost, health and environmental impacts, and energy requirements.

    Several states, local governments, and environmental organizations sued EPA over its failure to issue regulations addressing GHG emissions from power plants and refineries. These sources account for about 40 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions. Under settlement agreements reached in December 2010, EPA agreed to propose rules establishing NSPS for new and modified power plants -- and emission guidelines for existing power plants -- by July 2011 and to issue final regulations by May 2012. For refineries, the agency agreed to issue proposed regulations and emissions guidelines by December 2011 and to finalize these rules by November 2012.

    EPA postponed release of these draft rules and has been negotiating with the plaintiff states and environmental groups to set new timelines for issuing the standards. In November 2011, EPA submitted proposed new performance standards for power plants to the Office of Management and Budget for review.


    Last updated: 2/24/2013