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Contact information
For information about the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program, contact:
Small Business Hotline
Toll free: 855-889-3021
DNRSmallBusiness@wisconsin.gov

Air permit exemptions

Some facilities may be small enough to be exempt from obtaining air pollution permits and this is especially relevant to small businesses. The goal of any exemption is to address unintended regulatory burdens that would not provide any meaningful environmental gain. However, if your business is eligible for exemptions, it is important to know that you must still abide by all other applicable air quality regulations. The DNR has different types of exemptions, and you need to calculate your emissions to determine if you meet them.

You might notice that the exemptions mentioned below will use two different types of terms for emissions: “will emit” and “maximum theoretical emissions.” “Will emit” means the actual emissions the unit will generate under normal operations. “Maximum theoretical emissions” (MTE) means the emissions from your operations at their absolute highest production level physically allowed by the design capacity. It is not just the maximum level at which you expect to operate your process line. MTE also does not consider any control device that might be used to reduce emissions. The process design capacity may be the maximum conveyor line speed if you paint parts attached to an overhead conveyor line, or maximum press speed, etc. These are important distinctions to consider when determining if you meet one of these exemptions. The MTE Calculations for Air Permit Exemptions (AM-548) [PDF] fact sheet may help explain these definitions further.

If you decide you are exempt, you may need to submit an application form to gain approval from DNR that you are eligible for the exemption or you may simply need to submit an application for revision of your operation permit when a new construction project is exempt. Each of the exemption options are listed on Form 4530-100, Facility Details and Permit Actions Air Pollution Control Application [PDF]. Contact your local air permit engineer or the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program staff for help.

If you do not meet one of these exemptions, you should review the different permits types available. If you are exempt, there are still other air regulations that may apply.

Available exemptions:

  • General exemptions
  • Specific categories of exemptions
  • Actual emissions-based exemption for operation permits (OP)
  • Actual emissions-based exemption for construction (new Source, or NS) permits
  • Natural minor exemption from operation permits

General

General exemptions

The general exemptions are available for both construction and operation permits, in chs. NR 406 and NR 407, Wis. Adm. Code. They are based on the MTE of each criteria pollutant and hazardous air pollutant. The MTE of each pollutant may not exceed the following:

  • 9.0 pounds (lb) per hour of sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide
  • 5.7 lb/hr of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • 3.4 lb/hr of PM less than 10 microns in size (PM10)
  • 2.2 lb/hr of PM2.5
  • 0.13 lb/hr of Lead (Pb)
  • the value for any hazardous air contaminant listed in Tables A, B, or C in ch. NR 445, for the respective stack height listed in each column

There are a few other thresholds that must be met to use this exemption. Be sure to review the rule in ss. NR 406.04(2) or NR 407.03(2) for the most current thresholds.

MTE calculation examples [XLS] - Calculating the maximum theoretical emissions (MTE) for the general exemptions can be difficult to understand. These examples try to make it more straightforward.

For example, if you want to add a new unit or increase the capacity of a unit like a solvent based parts washer, the added emissions of VOCs must be less than a maximum theoretical emission rate of 5.7 pounds per hour, and any hazardous air contaminants must meet NR 445 levels. A new combustion unit will have emissions of all criteria pollutants that should be compared against the thresholds listed above.

Specific

Specific categories of exemptions

The specific categories of exemptions are available for certain industries where DNR has set operational or production limits that ensure a facility or construction project will not exceed major source permitting thresholds. Similar to the General Exemptions, these are available for both construction and operation permits, in chs. NR 406 and NR 407, Wis. Adm. Code.

There are slight differences in the way these categorical exemptions can be combined for your project or the whole facility. Contact your local air permit engineer or the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program staff for help.

Some categories of exemptions include:

  • painting or coating operations that emit or will emit no more than 1,666 pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per month, which are measured prior to entering any emission control device;
  • graphic arts operations that emit or will emit no more than 1,666 pounds of VOCs per month, which are measured prior to entering any emission control device;
  • motor vehicle refinishing shops that emit or will emit no more than 1,666 pounds of VOCs per month, which are measured prior to entering any emission control device;
  • cold cleaning equipment with a total air to vapor interface of 1.0 square meters or less during operation;
  • dry cleaning operations with a total maximum operating capacity for all machines of 75 pounds of clothes per hour;
  • gasoline dispensing facilities that dispense gasoline or other petroleum products;
  • grain storage facilities with an average of less than 5500 tons grain received per month; and
  • grain processing facilities with an average of less than 4500 tons per month.

For example, if the unit(s) you want to install or modify are either a painting/coating or printing line and will emit less than 1,666 pounds of VOC per month, your project may be exempt. This can be either the capacity of the line or your expected capacity into the near future.

If you have the a potential to go over the exemption level within a year or so, you should consider whether you meet one of the other exemptions, or it may be best to just apply for a construction permit.

Actual emissions OP

Actual emissions exemption from operation permit

In June 2007, the DNR created two new types of exemptions from air pollution control permit requirements. One of those was an operation permit exemption for facilities with low actual emissions. Facilities that remain eligible for this exemption are also exempt from construction permit requirements.

Note: If you are a small facility constructing a new unit, check first to see if you are eligible for the operation permit exemption. If you are eligible, you can add the unit under this exemption without a construction permit, as long as you stay under the exemption threshold.

The following fact sheets contain more information on this exemption and how to determine if your facility is eligible:

It is important to understand that exemption from the requirement to get a permit does not exempt your facility from other air pollution regulations. The Small Business Environmental Assistance Program has resources to help facilities determine what rules apply and how to show compliance with them. Contact SBEAP staff at the hotline or email to the right of this page.

How to obtain an exemption

If you are eligible for an operation permit exemption, you will need to notify the DNR in writing of your intent to operate under the actual emissions exemption if either of the following conditions apply to your facility:

  • your facility is required to report annual emissions under s. NR 438.03, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR] or
  • you have submitted an operation permit application or are currently operating under an air pollution control permit.

To notify the department of your intent to operate under the actual emissions exemption, complete Form 4530-100 Facility Details and Permit Actions Air Pollution Control Application [PDF], and select the appropriate Operation Permit exemption option. In addition, submit information to demonstrate that you qualify for the exemption, including an estimate of the air pollution emissions from the facility. Read page four of Actual Emissions Based-Exemption from Operation Permits (AM-388) [PDF] for a list of elements to submit along with the request. Mail the form to:

DNR
Bureau of Air Management, Actual Emissions Exemption - AM/7
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Additional information

For information on the operation permit exemption, contact:
Kristin Hart
Section Chief
608-266-6876

Actual emissions NS

Actual emissions exemption for construction permit

In June 2007, the DNR created two new types of exemptions from air pollution control permit requirements. One of those was for a construction permit exemption for projects at any facility that meet certain emissions limits. Facilities with a Registration Permit or General Operation Permit do not need to apply for this exemption.

Note: If you are a small facility constructing a new unit, check first to see if you are eligible for the operation permit exemption. If you are eligible, you can add the unit under this exemption without a construction permit, as long as you stay under the exemption threshold.

The following fact sheets contain more information on permit exemptions and how to determine if your facility is eligible:

It is important to understand that exemption from the requirement to get a permit does not exempt your facility from other air pollution regulations. The Small Business Environmental Assistance Program has resources to help facilities determine what rules apply and how to show compliance with them. Contact SBEAP staff at the hotline or email to the right of this page.

How to obtain an exemption

If you are eligible for a construction permit exemption, before starting on any projects, you must take the following steps.

  • Make a claim of exemption from construction permitting by completing Form 4530-100 Facility Details and Permit Actions Air Pollution Control Application [PDF], and submitting a thorough description of the project, emission estimates and any other information needed to confirm eligibility for the exemption. Read page four of Exemptions from Construction Permits Based on Actual Emissions (AM-387) [PDF] for a list of elements to submit along with the request.
  • In addition, you must include a complete application for a revision to your facility-wide operation permit or, if the DNR has not yet acted upon your application for an operation permit, you must submit an amendment to your application. Identify the appropriate revision option on Form 4530-100, Facility Details and Permit Actions, and submit any additional application forms as appropriate to submit a complete amended/revision application.
  • If control equipment is used to limit actual emissions from any unit in the project, the operation permit revision application or amendment must propose methods that will be used to monitor operation of the control equipment.

Mail your claim of exemption and complete operation permit revision application or amendment to:

DNR
Bureau of Air Management, Exemptions - AM/7
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Additional information

For information on the construction permit exemption, contact:
Dave Minkey
Air management engineer
920-662-5179

Natural minor

Natural minor exemption for operation permits

Effective December 1, 2015, the DNR created the natural minor exemption to allow minor source facilities to operate without being required to obtain an operation permit. It is important to note that all other air pollution requirements still apply, as well as the requirement to obtain construction permits when needed.

Who is eligible?

The rule states that any source that is not a major source under chapters NR 405 or NR 408, is not a synthetic minor source under NR 407 or to avoid permitting under NR 405 or NR 408, or is not a Part 70 source would be exempt. Facilities with existing operation permits or construction permits should be able to sort out whether any of these apply based on the types of construction and operation permit types issued previously. If you have an operation permit number that ends in "-S" followed by two digits, then you are considered a "NON-Part 70" source, and are likely to be eligible for this exemption.

Sources that do not have an operation permit yet should calculate their current Maximum Theoretical Emissions (MTE) from the whole facility to determine if they are eligible. MTE greater than the following levels would make the facility a Part 70 source, and not eligible for this exemption:

MTE calculation examples [XLS] - Calculating a source's MTE can be difficult to understand. The examples in this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet try to make it more straightforward.

How to apply

Sources that qualify and wish to operate under the natural minor exemption can declare their intent to operate under this exemption by completing Form 4530-100 Facility Details and Permit Actions Air Pollution Control Application [PDF] and selecting the appropriate Operation Permit exemption option. In addition, submit information to demonstrate that you qualify for the exemption, including MTE calculations. Submitting a request to operate under this exemption will trigger the DNR to revoke all existing operation permits. While exempt from operation permits, sources must still obtain and comply with construction permits when needed.

For more details on eligibility, what to submit and the process to obtain the exemption, read the fact sheet Natural Minor Source Exemption from Operation Permits (AM-547) [PDF].

Mail your notification of intent to:

DNR
Bureau of Air Management, Natural Minor Exemption - AM/7
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Demonstrating compliance

It is important to understand that exemption from the requirement to get a permit does not exempt your facility from other air pollution regulations. Sources with an existing operation permit that are considering the use of this exemption, may want to review their current operation permit for all applicable requirements listed and be sure they can maintain compliance with those conditions going forward. Sources that have not been issued an operation permit may want to review the "Compliance resources" tab on the small air sources page for more information on requirements that may apply and how to demonstrate compliance.

Sources should be aware that revoking all previously issued operation permits will remove any synthetic minor limits or other restrictions that may have been established to avoid certain requirements, such as a rule on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) to meet either Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) standards, or a Latest Available Control Techniques and operating practices (LACT) determination. Or there might be a limit to restrict emissions that was used to meet the state hazardous air pollutant rule in ch. NR 445 that is removed. If these limits were not established in a construction permit, then the source will need to determine a new compliance method for those requirements. It would be possible to request a construction permit to set those limits permanently, but that will incur construction permit application and review fees.

Additional information

For information on the natural minor exemption, contact:
Kristin Hart
Section Chief
608-266-6876
Last revised: Tuesday May 16 2017