Air Quality Permits

The LLCHD Air Quality Program is an authorized permitting and enforcement program that has been delegated authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to write permits for sources of air pollution in Lancaster County. These permits are enforceable by both the LLCHD and by the U.S. EPA, and are the primary tool used to implement air quality regulations. Before getting into the specific details of construction permits and operating permits, the following ‘frequently asked questions’ can provide some useful information to better understand the terms used:

What pollutants are regulated by the Air Quality Program?

Pollutants regulated under the operating and construction permit programs are as follows:

  • Particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Sulfur oxides (SOx)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)
  • Greenhouse gases (GHGs), including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
What is the difference between an operating permit and a construction permit?

A construction permit must be obtained prior to constructing, modifying, or reconstructing an air contaminant source and is valid for the life of the emission units contained in the permit. The conditions set forth in a construction permit apply only to those emission units contained in the permit application. A source can elect limits in their construction permit that can allow them to avoid the requirement to obtain an operating permit.

An operating permit must be applied for within 12 months of startup of an air contaminant source and is valid for up to 5 years. Operating permits contain all applicable requirements for all emission points at a facility. This includes incorporating conditions from any construction permits issued to that source.

What is an ‘emission unit’?

An emission unit is any part or activity of a stationary source that emits or would have the potential to emit any regulated air pollutant.

What is the difference between ‘potential emissions’ and ‘actual emissions’?

Potential emissions, also referred to as ‘potential to emit’ or PTE, are the maximum emissions that would result from operating the facility at full capacity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year (8,760 hrs/year) taking into consideration any federally enforceable requirements that may apply to the source, or any limitations and/or emission control requirements imposed by a federally enforceable construction permit. The PTE must be calculated separately for each pollutant

Additionally, you can take into consideration certain process limitations or bottlenecks when calculating your PTE. A bottleneck is an activity or process that restricts the capacity of another operation. For example, a grain elevator dryer has a capacity of 45,000 bushels per hour (bu/hr). The facility has one conveyor leg that feeds grain to the dryer. The leg has a capacity of 30,000 bu/hr. Since the leg physically limits the amount of grain that can be dried, it is a bottleneck and 30,000 bu/hr can be used to calculate the PTE for the dryer.

Actual emissions are emissions produced by a facility, based on actual operating times and actual operating conditions.

How do I obtain a permit application?

The Air Quality Program’s permit applications are available on our website. Click here to view our page for air quality forms and applications.

Construction Permits

Anyone planning to construct a new source of air pollution, modify an existing source of air pollution, or to move a portable source of air pollution into Lancaster County must first obtain a construction permit from the Air Quality Program. If you are planning to build, modify, or relocate an air pollution source in Lancaster County, then be sure to contact the Air Quality Program at least two months in advance of your planned activities, because sources cannot commence construction prior to issuance of a permit, and a permit cannot be issued until the public has been provided with a 30-day comment period. Click on the links below to find out more about the construction permit process.

What is the purpose of a construction permit?

A construction permit allows the facility to construct the emission unit(s) while protecting the ambient air quality. In addition to allowing construction, the permit will also establish operating, monitoring, and record keeping requirements. These requirements are necessary to assure the emission units are in compliance with the applicable regulations. The requirements are also necessary in the event the source isn’t required to obtain an operating permit. A construction permit is issued for the life of the emission unit(s).

Who must obtain a construction permit?

Any source planning to install any kind of incineration or cremation unit must obtain a construction permit.

In addition, any source that is planning to construct, modify, or reconstruct an emission source must obtain a construction permit if the sum of the potential emissions associated with the new/modified/reconstructed emission units equals or exceeds the following quantities: 15 tpy of PM10; 40 tpy of NOx, SOx, or VOC; 50 tpy of CO; 0.6 tpy of lead; 2.5 tpy of any single HAP; or 10 tpy of a combination of HAPs.

Are there any fees associated with applying for and obtaining a construction permit?

Any source wishing to obtain a construction permit must pay a fee for each hour the Air Quality Program staff spend reviewing the permit application, providing technical assistance, writing the draft construction permit and the ‘statement of basis’ for the draft permit, and preparing a public notice for the proposed permit.

The fee for work associated with construction permits is established in Article 1, Section 6 of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Air Pollution Control Program Regulations and Standards (LLCAPCPRS). Click here to navigate to the LLCAPCPRS.

What if I determine I don’t need a permit?

While there are no requirements stating that a source needs to demonstrate to the Air Quality Program that no permit is required, we prefer to be notified of ‘no permit required’ (NPR) determinations so that we can verify the information used to reach said determination.

To demonstrate you don’t need a permit, you should be able to provide the PTE calculation and any supporting documentation used in the calculation.

You must document what emission factors you used in your PTE calculation and the source of the emission factors. Emission factors may originate from continuous emissions monitor data, stack test data, material balance equations, industry/trade organizations, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents. You must use the emission factor(s) that best represents your emission unit(s).

You must also document the emission unit(s) design capacity. Manufacturer’s data can be used when the nameplate capacity is used in the PTE calculation. You must also provide documentation if you utilized any bottlenecks, permit limitations, or control equipment in your calculation and be able to explain how and why those were used in the PTE calculation. For instance, if a permit limitation was used, have a copy of the permit available. Be sure your calculation documentation includes the appropriate units (i.e. pounds/hour, Btu/hour, etc). It is also beneficial to provide the date that the PTE was calculated.

Operating Permits

The operating permit program is the result of the Federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, as well as the passage of LB1257 (1992) by the Nebraska Legislature. The Air Quality Program implements a comprehensive operating permit program for sources of certain air pollutants. The Federal operating permit program is referred to as the “Title V” operating permit program. The LLCHD’s Title V operating permit program is referred to as the ‘Class I operating permit program’. While the Federal Title V program only regulates major sources of air pollution, the LLCHD’s Air Quality Program also regulates minor sources, or ‘Class II’ sources, as well. Click on the links below to find out more about the operating permit program.

What’s the difference between a ‘major source’ and a ‘minor source’?

A source’s status as either ‘major’ or ‘minor’ is determined by its emissions, with the larger emitting sources being considered Major and the smaller emitting sources being considered Minor. The following are explanations of these terms:

  • Class I Source: Any source that is required to obtain a Class I operating permit. The criteria is the same as that of a Major source;
  • Class II Source: Any source that is required to obtain a Class II operating permit. The criteria is the same as that of a Minor source;
  • Major Source: Any source that has the potential to emit 100 tons per year (tpy) or more of any of the following pollutants: PM10, NOx, SOx, VOC, or CO. Lower thresholds exist for hazardous air pollutants: 10 tpy of any single HAP; or 25 tpy of a combination of HAPs; and 5 tpy of lead.
  • Minor Source: Any source that has the potential to emit below the Major Source criteria, but still have the potential to emit equal to or more than the following: 15 tpy of PM10; 40 tpy of NOx, SOx, or VOC; 50 tpy of CO; 0.6 tpy of lead; 2.5 tpy of any single HAP; or 10 tpy of a combination of HAPs.
How do I know if I need an operating permit?

You may need an operating permit based on your source’s potential to emit, or based on requirements set forth in federal regulations that apply to your facility. The Air Quality Program can offer technical assistance to help you determine whether or not you need an operating permit.

How do I determine if my emissions meet or exceed those requiring an operating permit?

Generally, an estimation of emissions using emission factors will have to be done. However, emissions data, from testing on a similar unit, may be acceptable. For estimations, the Air Quality Program generally uses emission factors from the Compilation of Air Pollutants Emission Factors (AP-42) or from EPA’s web-based Factor Information Retrieval Data System (WebFIRE). These and other emission factor sources may be found on the internet at the EPA’s Clearinghouse for Inventories & Emissions Factors (CHIEF). Most emission factors are based on fuel usage, throughput or other quantifiable process information. When calculating emissions from your equipment, make sure you’re using the same throughput units as those specified by the emission factors. Depending on the process, you may also be able to calculate your emissions based on a relatively simple ‘mass balance’ equation process. The Air Quality Program has forms that can help you with mass balance equations.

What types of operating permits does the Air Quality Program issue?

General permits are issued to sources that fall within a category in which the emission units are all very similar. For example, grain elevators generally consist of pits to receive grain, elevator legs to move grain into storage bins, and shipping pits to load-out grain into railcars or larger trucks. Some may have grain dryers or other grain processing equipment, but for the most part, all grain elevators are very similar in their operations. General permits will contain identical conditions, and the source to which the permit is issued must determine which conditions apply to his/her source, and maintain compliance with those conditions. General permits significantly reduce the demand on the Air Quality Program staff resources. In addition, once a general permit has been issued for a source category, any source needing an operating permit in the following 5 years can be covered by that general permit without going through the individual public comment process, making the permit process much more streamlined for industry.

Because of the appeal of general permits, the Air Quality Program has developed specialized application forms for several source categories, including the following: grain elevators and fee mills, concrete batch plants, asphalt plants, concrete & asphalt reclaim plants, incinerators and crematories, and industrial/commercial/institutional steam plants (boilers). Because the Air Quality Program establishes criteria for coverage under a general permit and the permit conditions are uniform, the source doesn’t have very much flexibility in certain areas. If the source wishes to maintain flexibility, a specific permit may be a better option.

Specific permits are issued to sources that don’t fall into a general source category, or that want more flexibility than a general permit offers. These permits address the particular needs and issues at the source in question. Because they are “tailor made” for the source, they are much more labor intensive which increases the development costs and the associated administrative costs. In addition, all specific permits must go through a 30-day public comment period, so the timeframe, from application to issuance, is much longer. Therefore, individual permits can be more expensive to develop and require a much longer timeframe to issue.

Are there any fees associated with applying for and obtaining an operating permit?

There are currently no fees associated with operating permit application and issuance.

Compliance Activities

The LLCHD has been delegated authority to adopt and enforce local air quality regulations, as well as the authority to enforce many federal air quality regulations. Program personnel conduct annual on-site inspections of permitted and regulated sources to assure compliance with all local, state, and federal air regulations, as well as all air quality permits.

Staff are often able to identify problem areas and offer suggestions to correct the problems. However, if violations of regulations or permit requirements are discovered, program personnel will initiate enforcement action, which often results monetary penalties. The Air Quality Program staff routinely recommends Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) as a means of penalty mitigation in an effort to improve future air quality conditions, and to help prevent recurring violations.