Local Air Districts (APCD or AQMD) Authority to Construct

This page last reviewed April 20, 2010

I. Who needs an Authority to Construct?
  Any person or oganization proposing to construct, modify, or operate a facility or equipment that may emit pollutants from a stationary source into the atmosphere must first obtain an Authority to Construct from the county or regional air pollution control district (APCD) or air quality management district (AQMD). Air districts issue permits and monitor new and modified sources of air pollutants to ensure compliance with national, state, and local emission standards and to ensure that emissions from such sources will not interfere with the attainment and maintenance of ambient air quality standards adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  Each air district determines which emission sources and levels have an insignificant impact on air quality and, therefore, are exempt from permit requirements. Examples of activities that may be exempt from the permit requirements include:
  A. Combustion Equipment Less Than 2 Million Btu / Hr. Fired on Natural Gas / Liquefied Petroleum Gas
  B. Stationary Piston-Type Internal Combustion Engines with 50 Brake-Horsepower or Less, and
  C. Incinerators Used in Residential Dwellings for Not More Than Four Families.    
  Many projects also require a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The U.S. EPA requires this permit on a pollutant-by-pollutant basis when two conditions exist:
  A. The project's emissions may exceed 100 tons per year for certain industrial activities and 250 tons per
year for other industrial activities; and
  B. The project is in an area where the ambient air quality standard is not being exceeded for the pollutant
that the proposed project will emit.
  The types of pollutants that do not exceed ambient air quality standards vary from district to district. Developer-applicants should contact U.S. EPA, Region IX, in San Francisco to determine whether their project requires a PSD permit. Because a project may emit several types of pollutants, developer-applicants may need both a PSD permit from U.S. EPA and an Authority to Construct from the local Air District. The number of the New Source Section is (415) 744-1254.
II. Where should the Developer-Applicant apply?
  Developer-Applicants should direct inquiries and applications to the appropriate county or regional APCD / AQMD.
III. What information should the Developer-Applicant provide upon applications?
  Each air district uses its own application form for the Authority to Construct permit, generally requesting the following information:
  A. Description of the business and industrial process, including the types of all material used and the
products manufactured, as well as wastes generated. This description should also include the type of
air pollution control equipment by design, size, or its anticipated degree of control. Applicants should
also describe the types of fuels to be used, their rates of use, and the sulfur and nitrogen content of
the fuels.
  B. Detailed description of the equipment to be used, including the size and type for the entire unit or
major part of each unit. This description should include all auxillary equipment and the location, size,
and shape of all features which may influence the production, collection, or control of air contaminants.
If the equipment uses burners, the description should specificy the type, size, and maximum capacity
of each burner.
  C. Identification Numbers of Existing Air District Permits, If Any
  D. Operating Schedule for Emission Sources by Hours Per Day, Days Per Week and Weeks Per Year
Including Preventive Maintenance Schedules, and
  E. Description of how the developer-applicant intends to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Typically, a final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is needed
before the air district can determine application completeness.
IV. What application fee must the Developer-Applicant submit? 
  Each air district sets its own filing fees for the Authority to Construct application. Applicants may expect to pay from $100.00 to $20,000.00 in major metropolitan areas. Air districts also charge a permit fee, generally greater than the filing fee, based on the size of the project.
V. How does the air district evaluate and process the application?
  Criteria for Evaluation. The California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have established standards based on public health considerations which govern the quality of the surrounding atmosphere, known as ambient air quality standards.
  Emission limits for specific types of equipment have been established in order to assure that ambient standards are attained and maintained. In addition to emission limits and ambient air quality standards, air districts have adopted what are commonly known as New Source Review Rules (See Appendix F for District New Source Review Requirements for Best Available Control Technology and Offsets). Some districts regulate toxic air contaminants (for which there are no ambient standards) in order to prevent endangerment of the public health. Applicants may be required to provide information, risk assessments, and control methods for these pollutants in such districts.
  New Source Review Rules regulate new or modified sources which emit or have the potential to emit any pollutant, or precursor to such pollutant, for which there is a state or national ambient air quality standard. Standards exist for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone particulate matter smaller than 10 microns, and carbon monoxide, among others. There are two major requirements in each district New Source Review Rule:  Best Available Control Technology (BACT) and offsets. Many air districts require BACT and offsets for any increase in emissions from a new or modified stationary source, as opposed to a mobile source. Others have established emission thresholds which trigger BACT and offset requirements when emission increases from new or modified sources exceed these thresholds.
  In areas where the ambient air quality standards are not being violated, an air district may determine whether additional emissions would cause a violation. The developer-applicant must reduce the emissions to a level where no violation would occur.
  A new or modified stationary source which triggers district offset requirements must reduce emissions from the same or other existing stationary source to mitigate the effect of new or increased emissions on ambient air quality. The amount of offsets required is dependent upon the distance between the source of offsets and the new or modified source. Offset distance ratios range from 1:1 for reductions occurring within the same stationary source to 3:1 and higher for reductions occurring 50 miles or more and within the same air basin from the new or modified source. For example, an applicant proposing a new or modified source producing 1,000 pounds of pollutants per day with the use of BACT would be required to obtain reductions totaling 1,200 (1.2:1 offsets ratio for source within 15 miles) pounds of pollutants per day from other existing sources.
  If an applicant obtains emission offsets outside the areas described above, or if one type of pollutant is offset against another type, the applicant must show through modeling that these offsets will result in a net benefit to air quality. Modeling combines the emission rates from the facility with identified meteorological conditions to indicate the point of maximum concentration at ground level. The emission reduction from these offsets must improve the air quality in the area affected by the emissions from the source.
  If developer-applicants reduce emissions below actual emission levels allowed by the local air district, they may in some cases "bank" the reduction in actual emissions for use as offsets for future projects. Emissions banked in this manner can be used as offsets by the developer-applicant or sold, in whole or part, to other sources seeking offsets.
  Procedures. Each air district has adopted specific procedures for evaluating permit applications. In general, the local air district staff first reviewed the application to determine whether it contains complete and accurate information. If not, the staff returns it to the developer-applicant specifying what additional information must be provided. When the air district accepts the application as complete, the staff evaluates it for conformance with the New Source Review Rule, district, state and national emissions limitations, and national and state ambient air quality standards.
  The staff calculates the emissions from the new source and any offsetting source using the maximum design capacity of the new source and the actual operating conditions averaged over three years preceding the date of the application to determing the existing source's emissions. The air district requires applicants to calculate maximum expected quarterly emissions from the new source. For modified sources, the air districts compare the emissions of the proposed source after modification to the emissions of the existing source to determine the net increases. The air district credits all banked reductions in emissions associated with the existing source to the new source and determines the net increase in emissions from the modifications.
  In addition to evaluating criteria pollutant emissions from the proposed source, the air districts will also evaluate whether there exists potential to emit non-criteria pollutant emissions or toxic air contaminants from the proposed facility.
  The air districts' evaluation of non-criteria pollutants will include estimating the amount and composition of identifiable toxic compound emissions that originate from the source. These estimates are used to predict public exposure to specified toxic compounds. When these predictions are used along with population density and health data, they can serve as the basis for an assessment of risk to public health. The determination of what is an acceptable public health risk from exposure to non-criteria air pollutants is normally made at the local government level.
  In addition to air districts' evaluation of non-criteria pollutants, the ARB has established a process under state law for identifying toxic air contaminants and developing control measures. Toxic air contaminant regulations developed pursuant to this process are adopted and enforced by air districts. These regulations must be as effective as control measures developed by the ARB.
  After completing the evaluation, the air pollution control officer (APCO) decides whether to approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove an Authority to Construct. The APCO writes a preliminary decision and publishes a notice providing 30 days for the ARB, the U.S. EPA, and the public to submit written comments about the preliminary decision. The APCO must consider all written comments and make a final decision within 180 days after accepting an application as complete.
  The air district may take about four to six months to review an application for an Authority to Construct.
  Appeals. If the APCO denies an Authority to Contruct, the applicant may appeal the decision within 10 days of the denial notice to the district's Hearing Board. The applicant must file a petition with the Hearing Board and submit a fee. The petition usually includes:
  A. Petitioner's Name, Address and Telephone Number
  B. Petitioner's Name, Address and Telephone Number
  C. Type of Business or Activity Involved in the Application
  D. Brief Description of the Article, Machine or Equipment Involved in the Application and
  E. Reasons for the Denial and the Appeal.
  The Hearing Board conducts a public hearing at which the applicant, air district staff, and the general public may present testimony. The Hearing Board must reach a decision within 30 days of receipt of the appeal, unless the applicant and the air district agree to additional time.
  The Hearing Board mails a copy of its decision to the applicant, the air district, and all persons who testified at the public hearing. The decision contains a brief statement of facts found by the Board to be true, the Board's determination of the issues involved, and its order. This decision generally becomes effective 30 days after the Board mails the copies to the parties listed above.
VI. What are the Developer-Applicant's rights and responsibilities after the permit is granted?
  Rights. The developer-applicant may begin the approved construction or modification according to the terms and
conditions of the Authority to Construct. The permit remains valid for a specified period. The air district may, under
certain conditions, extend the deadline if construction is not complete.

Responsibilities. The developer-applicant may not transfer the Authority to Construct to another party. The
developer-applicant must comply with all conditions included in the permit. Developer-applicants may also be
required to ensure that Permits to Operate, which are held by a source which is being used as an offset, are kept in compliance.
VII. What Are the Air District's Rights and Responsibilities After the Permit is Granted?
  Rights. The air district may, after holding a public hearing, revoke an Authority to Construct permit if it finds the developer-applicant has violated any district rules, regulations, or permit conditions.
  Responsibilities. The air districts are responsible for ensuring that ambient air quality standards are attained and maintained in their respective air basins.
VIII. What other agencies should the Developer-Applicant contact?
  The developer-applicant should consider whether the agencies listed below must issue permits for the proposed project:
  A. Local - City, County or Special District
  B. State - Coastal Commission
    Department of Conservation

Division of Oil and Gas

Department of Fish and Game

Department of Forestry

The Reclamation Board

Regional Water Quality Control Board

San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission

Integrated Waste Management Board

State Lands Commission

State Water Resources Control Board

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
  C. Federal - United States Army Corps of Engineers
    United States Environmental Protection Agency
  (Note: See Appendix F for Telephone Numbers and Appendix G for Internet addresses.)
IX. What other sources of information are available to the Developer-Applicant?
  The developer-applicant may refer to the publications listed below for further information about the Authority to Construct:
  A. Rules and Regulations / Permit Applications, Published by Each Air District
  B. Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 1857 et seq.)
  C. Code of Federal Regulations, Review of New Sources and Modifications, 40 CFR 51.18
  D. Code of Federal Regulations, Emission Offset Interpretative Ruling, 40 CFR, Part 51, Appendix S
  E. Code of Federal Regulations, Prevention of Significant Deterioration, 40 CFR 51.24
  F. California Air Pollution Control Laws, Published Annually by the Air Resources Board
  G. Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.)
  These publications are generally available at air district offices, county or state law libraries, or the California Air Resources Board, P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, California 95812.

California Stationary Sources Permitting - Background