Time is running out for residents to submit comments on the Title V permit fee schedule changes proposed in April by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Comments are due June 17.
Care about environmental issues and want to ensure your voice is heard, but just not sure what a Title V permit is or what all is changing about DEP’s fee schedule? We get it. And we’re here to help!
About those Title V permits…
Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires “Major Sources” of air pollution to obtain operating permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a state or local agency that EPA has authorized to issue these permits, in this case, the PA DEP.
By way of background: A Major Source of air pollution has the potential to:
emit at least 100 tons per year of any air pollutant
10 tons per year of any single hazardous air pollutant
or 25 tons per year of any combination of hazardous air pollutants
To put it simply, a Title V Operating Permit is like a snapshot that gives a picture of all emissions limits and standards to which a source is subject, as well as all operating, monitoring, and reporting requirements that apply at the time of a permit’s issuance.
By including all requirements in one document, these permits help air pollution source operators comply with those regulations. They also help regulators and members of the public enforce them–all with the ultimate goal of reducing air pollution.
So, what’s up with the fee schedule? DEP’s existing fee schedule sets the fees that applicants pay to DEP for processing applications for plan approvals for:
new sources of air pollution
operating permits for existing sources of air pollution
administering operating permits
The fee schedule also imposes a per-ton fee on emissions of pollutants regulated by Title V sources. Together, these fees fund the operation of DEP’s Air Quality Program, which works to protect public health and Pennsylvania’s environment by administering and enforcing air pollution laws.
So, what are the proposed changes? The proposed fee schedule changes would essentially do three things:
increase the fees for submitting many types of plan approvals beginning in 2020, with further increases to those fees set for 2026 and 2031;
increase Title V and non-Title V operating permit application fees and annual administration fees, also beginning in 2020 with further increases set for 2026 and 2031; and
impose fees for certain determinations and assessments that DEP regularly performs for regulated sources, including plant-wide applicability limit determinations, requests for determination, confidential business information determinations, risk assessments, and evaluations of asbestos removal notification forms.
Uh, can you help put that in context? Glad to—happy you asked! Here’s what the changes boil down to:
The proposed amendments to the fee schedule would increase application fees for plan approvals, operation permits, and the annual administration fees charged to operating permit holders that were based on a schedule set all the way back in the 1990s (and last increased 14 years ago).
Another thing to consider: If approved, the proposed amendments would, for the first time, impose fees on regulated sources of air pollution for certain determinations and assessments that DEP regularly performs for them, including:
requests for determination
confidential business information determination
Here at GASP, we believe that it is absolutely appropriate for the regulated community to pay for these types of determinations and assessments. Why? Because they ultimately benefit from them, and because preparing all those determinations and assessments burns up a significant portion of the Air Quality Program staff’s time.
OK, now that I understand, what should I say? And how do I say it? While GASP submitted formal comments (you can read them here), we put together some sample language for likeminded folks who’d like to echo them:
“My name is __________________ and I am writing in support of the PA DEP’s proposed Title V permit fee schedule changes because:
The Air Quality Program’s expenses now exceed its revenue, which means the money being generated by the existing fee schedule is not adequate to fund the program.
That revenue gap has resulted in a reduction in Air Quality Program staffing, which negatively affects the turnaround time for issuance of plan approvals and operating permits. It also impacts the program’s ability to effectively conduct inspections, respond to complaints, and pursue enforcement actions, when necessary.
The potential negative impacts to the environment—and public health—are obvious. Not as obvious are potential impacts to our state economy by slowing or altogether preventing businesses from investing in new facilities and modernizing existing ones.
Sincerely, Your Signature”
Written comments regarding the proposed amendments will be accepted by the Environmental Quality Board by email through June 17, 2019, addressed to RegComments@pa.gov, and may also be submitted to the board using DEP’s eComment webpage.