Ins and Outs of the Indiana Air Permitting Process

For people who are not involved in the air permitting process on a daily basis, it can seem unnecessarily complicated and overwhelming. Even if your company does not need an air permit, there may be a good reason to prove you’re exempt. The DECA Environmental Team has been working in this arena for over 19 years and is very familiar with the ins and outs of the Indiana air permitting process.

Whether your facility needs an air permit is initially based upon your Potential To Emit (PTE), a theoretical number that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) calculates from known emission factors, such as pollution rates normalized to specific industries or specific emission units. The assessment is based upon the processes associated with your facility. Allowable thresholds dictate the level of permit you may need.

Indiana Air Permit Levels:

Exemptions, Registrations & MSOPs – Exemptions and registrations are appropriate permit levels for facilities that fall under the lowest level of allowed emissions. A Minor Source Operating Permit is for facilities expected to emit for most criteria pollutants. For these three permit types, the state bases your permit level on the unlimited PTE rather than your actual emissions. Often this permit level does not require a site visit, since, based on your processes, the state knows that there is no way for you to exceed the regulatory thresholds. Usually there is no record keeping or reporting required; however, there are always exceptions.

FESOPs – Under the regulations for Federally Enforceable Source Operating Permits, your facility is considered a potential major source of air pollutants. Your potential emissions would exceed major source thresholds of 100 tons per year, but the state allows you to limit actual emissions to below that threshold in order to avoid requiring a Part 70 Operating Permit. At this permit level you will often be required to record, report, and in some cases, perform stack tests.

Part 70 – The highest level of Indiana air permit is for facilities with PTE greater than 100 tons per year, and choose not to limit actual emissions to below FESOP thresholds. Part 70 permits typically include emission limits, record keeping, reporting, and also often have stack testing requirements. Due to the complexity of compliance and potential risk to surrounding air quality, these permits also have more frequent inspections from the state.

Permitting vs Environmental Regulations:

Air emissions are often subject to state and federal rules, besides the requirement to obtain a permit, therefore there are many situations where it makes sense to seek help in managing your emissions and reporting requirements. Few facilities are simple and straightforward. While your facility may emit at a MSOP level, you may have a portion of your process that falls under other state and federal rules that require monitoring and reporting. To ensure you are in compliance from all angles, you may want to complete a comprehensive assessment of your business.

When You Might Need an Environmental Consultant:

A sign that you may need an air permit is if your facility produces any dust or smells. Although indoor air quality is not regulated by IDEM, these may be indicators that your equipment is emitting air pollutants. While your senses can help you initially, a consultant may be able to determine what is really going on. Just because you can see or smell it does not mean IDEM is going to regulate it!

If you are asking, “Do I emit enough to require a permit?” it may be time to bring in an expert. They can perform an “Air Emissions Audit” to help you uncover accurate calculations that determine your PTE. They will take a look at your process, your throughputs, how much you are producing and the materials you’re using, and then calculate your facility-wide PTE. From there, you can assess the appropriate permit level, as well as other applicable environmental rules.

Perhaps you already have an air permit or have inherited one via an acquisition. An environmental consultant can help you determine if your permit is still accurate and up to date. It is a liability to operate with an out-of-date permit, and there is a real potential for enforcement and fines, depending on the severity of the lack of compliance.

There are many variables within the air permitting process, which leave gray areas with lots of room for interpretation. How do you know when to push back on an IDEM determination and when to accept it? Having an advocate with experience in dealing with those gray areas to represent you can be of great service during the negotiation process.

When Do You Need an Indiana Air Permit?

Indiana businesses can get an air permit regardless of facility size. Even if you qualify for an exemption, it may behoove you to get that determination in writing from the state. Then, if your neighbors complain about your emissions, you will have proof that your facility has gone through the permitting process and has been deemed exempt from permitting requirements.

The DECA Environmental Team is always ready to answer your questions regarding air permitting and other environmental regulations. Send us an email, or give us a call at 317-575-0095.