All proposed electrical power generating plants will be subjected to an extensive permit review process in order to prevent the deterioration of the local ambient air quality. The air permit review process includes steps to ensure that:
- The appropriate regulatory emission standards are applied.
- The proposed permit includes adequate means for demonstrating compliance with the emission standards.
- The appropriate emission control technology is incorporated into the design of the facility.
- The public is adequately informed of the proposed project and has the opportunity to participate in the permit review process.
- The permit review process is completed in a timely manner.
Types of Permits
The steps that must be taken to receive an appropriate air permit depend on whether the proposed electrical generating plant may be classified as a synthetic minor source or as a Major Stationary Source. If the emissions of regulated pollutants from the proposed electrical power generating plant are significant enough for it to be classified as a major stationary source, the location of the proposed plant will determine whether it is subject to Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit requirements or Nonattainment permit requirements.
Permit Processing Steps
The process of obtaining an air permit for the construction or modification of a major stationary source typically includes most or all of the following steps. If the proposed electrical power generating plant turns out to be a synthetic minor source, then the air permit review process is less complex. The steps that are applicable to each type of permit (Minor, PSD and NA) are noted in parenthesis after the description below.
Pre-Application Meeting - Recommended for all Permits
The company has the option of meeting with DEQ prior to submitting an application. During the meeting, the company will brief the agency on its proposal, discuss emission control technologies, review possible standards, and present timeline for the project. DEQ will provide the company with direction concerning completing and submitting the permit application, discuss modeling requirements, explore the particulars of testing and monitoring the facility, and comment on the project timeline. Federal land managers of affected Class I areas usually attend these meetings.
Submission of the Air Permit Application - Required for all Permits
The company must complete a DEQ Form 7 application. The application must contain sufficient information to determine the facility's effect on local ambient air quality and its ability to comply with the applicable standards, or it will not be considered complete. The completed application is submitted to the appropriate DEQ regional office based upon the location of the proposed facility.
Virginia regulations prohibit construction, reconstruction or modification without a permit. Submission of the application is not sufficient to begin construction.
Air Permit Application Completeness
The company must complete all applicable pages of the DEQ Form 7 application. The following items must also be submitted before the application will be considered complete:
- Document Certification Form: As a part of the application, a responsible official of the company must certify under penalty of law that the application was prepared under his supervision, and that the application is true, accurate and complete to the best of his knowledge. Who can sign the certification as a responsible official is defined in the application.
- Local Government Approval: As part of the application for an air permit, the company is required by law to provide DEQ with notice from the locality that the site and the proposed operation are consistent with local ordinances. Normally the planning office from the city, town or county where the facility is to be located will sign the notice and forward it to DEQ. If the locality responds with notice to DEQ that the facility has not yet met all of the local requirements, then the application will not be processed until this notification is received. If the locality does not provide a response within 45 days after receipt of a notification request, then the application may be deemed complete without the notice.
- Proposed Control Technology: The application must contain a proposed control technology analysis for each new or modified emission unit:
- Synthetic Minor source: The application must contain a proposed Best Available Control Technology or BACT analysis. Contact the appropriate DEQ regional office for guidance.
- Major stationary source subject to PSD: If the applicant determines that the proposed source is a major stationary source subject to PSD requirements, then the application must contain a proposed Best Available Control Technology analysis.
- Major stationary source subject to Nonattainment: If the applicant determines that the proposed source is a major stationary source subject to Nonattainment permit requirements then the application must contain a proposed Lowest Achievable Emission Rate or LAER analysis for the proposed source.
- Air impacts analysis: The application may contain an analysis of impact of the emissions on the local air quality.
- Participation by the federal land managers: Federal regulations charge the appropriate federal land managers with direct responsibility for protecting air quality-related values in federal Class I areas. If the proposed source will impact a Class I area, Virginia regulations require DEQ to notify the federal land managers and provide them with the necessary information to conduct an impact analysis on the affected Class I areas.
DEQ will review the application for completeness within 30 days of receipt and provide the company with a completeness determination letter. DEQ will notify the appropriate federal land managers, EPA, other affected states when required, and local government officials and planning districts, as appropriate, when a permit application is submitted. Additionally, DEQ keeps a list of members of the public who have requested notification of all major source applications, and will notify these people. Persons wishing to be added to this list should contact the air permitting section at any DEQ regional office.
No later than 30 days after receiving the completeness determination letter, Virginia regulations require that the permit applicant notify the public about their proposal. The applicant is also required to have an informational briefing about the proposed source for the public in the locality where the source is or will be located. This is required only for Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Nonattainment.
Engineering Evaluation and Draft Permit -
When the application has been determined to be complete, the proper control technology has been approved, and the environmental impact has been evaluated, then DEQ will complete the technical and regulatory analysis of the application and will draft an air permit. In most cases, the company will be provided an opportunity to make comments on the draft permit.
In addition to having an opportunity to be notified of all major stationary source air permits, and having the opportunity to attend the company's briefing on the proposed facility, the public will be provided with an opportunity to comment on the permit application, the draft permit and the supporting documentation. The public will be provided with 30 days prior notice of:
- A public briefing by DEQ on the draft permit and supporting documentation for the proposed major stationary source.
- A comment period in which written comments concerning the draft permit and supporting documentation for the proposed major stationary source may be submitted to DEQ.
- A public hearing during which written and oral comments concerning the draft permit and supporting documentation for the proposed major stationary source will be taken by DEQ for consideration.
The public notices for these events will be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the affected area. The notices will be published in the classified advertising section and will normally be among the legal notices if such a section is featured in the newspaper. DEQ must consider all public comments in making a final determination regarding the permit application.