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Air permit options

Air permits limit the amount of air pollution a facility is allowed to emit to keep the air clean and healthy. Individual permits are customized to promote environmental compliance and provide a basis for legal enforcement if permit conditions are violated.

Overview

Types of air permits

Wild roses and blue sky

The Wisconsin air pollution control permit program has permits for two kinds of scenarios: new and existing facilities. For new facilities, construction permits ensure that proposed projects can meet air pollution standards before they are constructed. For existing facilities, operation permits set emission limits and establish monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements. These permit conditions may be revised as facilities expand, replace equipment or change operations.

Source-specific construction or operation permits are written and issued individually for new and existing power plants and other significant air emission sources. In some cases, source-specific permits are required by federal law, such as for major facilities like paper mills, utilities or the larger printing shops. In other cases, the permit reviews may be desirable because they can better help an industry understand which air regulations apply to them and what they need to do to comply with those regulations.

Wisconsin has also developed general construction permits and general operation permits for asphalt plants, rock crushing facilities and various types of printers.

Finally, the DNR has developed a registration permit that allows small emitters to quickly register themselves for a permit in return for keeping emissions low. The permits contain facility-wide emission caps as well as monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

We also have an interactive Permit Primer to help you determine which environmental requirements may apply and what permits you need.

Permitting process

The permitting process is designed to be transparent. Almost all permit-related documents are open records, including applications, modeling analyses and permit drafts. Input from the public and the permit applicant is encouraged throughout the process and can affect the content of the permit. Federal and state laws require all air pollution sources in Wisconsin to have a permit unless the source is determined to be exempt.

Construction

Construction permits

A construction permit allows a company to construct, modify, expand or replace an air pollution source. Administrative code requirements for construction permits are found in chapters NR 405, 406 and 408, Wis. Adm. Code.

Minor and major sources

Construction permits have different requirements, depending on the permittee's potential to emit certain pollutants and the air quality where the new source is located. For example, a major emission source located in an area where air quality is not attaining an ambient air quality standard may undergo a different permit process than that of a major emission source located in an area where air quality has been shown to be meeting the ambient air quality standards. More information on air quality and a map showing the attainment and nonattainment areas and their permit requirements is available on Permitting requirements for nonattainment areas in Wisconsin. Definitions of major, minor and exempted sources, non-attainment areas and New Source Review - a process that affects new and modified major pollution sources - are found in the Air permits glossary.

Exemptions

A construction permit is not required if the project meets one of the exemptions available in ss. NR 406.04, Wis. Adm. Code. For more information, review the Exemption tab on this page.

Construction permit waiver

A construction permit waiver can be issued to certain sources in situations where they can:

  1. demonstrate that the construction or modification does not require a major source permit or a permit to establish enforceable limitations on potential to emit to avoid major source permit requirements; and
  2. demonstrate undue hardship if the waiver is not granted.

Undue hardship may result from any of the following:

  • adverse weather conditions;
  • catastrophic damage of existing equipment;
  • a substantial economic or financial hardship that may preclude the project; or
  • other unique conditions on a case-by-case basis.

The waiver request should detail the situation necessitating the request and when those circumstances arose or may be anticipated to arise. There is a $300 non-refundable fee required with the waiver request. A complete construction permit application must also be on file with the department.

For more information on construction permit waivers, contact Ron Binzley (608-264-9243). If you have general questions about construction permits, contact your local DNR office.

Application process

Companies submit applications for a construction permit using a set of forms. The construction permit typically allows 18 months to complete construction unless the permit specifies otherwise. The permit may be extended up to another 18 months. A company must complete construction activities within the timeframe allowed under the construction permit. Though the authority to construct expires, all the conditions in the construction permit are permanent and are written into an operation permit or operation permit revision.

An application for a major permit contains more elements than an application for a minor permit. This checklist [PDF] will assist companies in determining what information to include in a PSD major permit application.

Timing

After a construction permit application is complete, the DNR will prepare a preliminary decision to approve or deny the permit. A 30-day public comment period follows, and a public hearing may be held if requested. The DNR will respond to any comments received and prepare and issue a final permit within 60 days after the close of the comment period or hearing.

Fees

Fees for construction permits vary depending on the type and level of review needed. The table below lists many of the most commonly applied fees (effective January 1, 2011). A complete list of these fees can be found in ch. NR 410, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR].

Fee Description Amount
Major source construction (PSD or nonattainment area permit) $16,000
Major modification $12,000
Minor modification at major source $7,500
Expedited review (PSD-under 60 days) $7,500
Modeling analysis (detailed for a major source) $4,500
MACT, BACT, LAER (case-by-case analysis) $4,500
Expedited review (PSD-61 to 90 days) $4,000
Expedited review (non PSD-under 50 days) $5,000
Minor source construction $3,500
Emission testing (initial unit) $2,500
Revision to a construction permit $1,500
Public Hearing $1,500
Actual based exemption $1,250
Research & Testing exemption $1,250
Analysis of emission unit (per unit, 2 or more units) $800
Exemption determinations (not otherwise specified) $500

An initial application fee of $7,500 must be submitted with any application for a construction permit. The total amount of this fee is credited towards the final cost of the permit. A refund of the difference will be made to the applicant if the total cost of the permit is less than the initial application fee.

Operation

Source-specific operation permits

Many Wisconsin companies have air pollution control operation permits. With this type of permit, a facility can operate according to the specified permit conditions. An operation permit is issued to cover an entire facility.

There are two types of operation permits: Title V and non-Title V. All Title V permits (major sources) include an expiration date and must be renewed. Since December 2015, non-Title V operation permits issued after this date do not expire and therefore do not include an expiration date, unless otherwise determined by the department. So long as an operation permit has an expiration date on its cover page, it will need to be renewed. Upon renewal, any non-Title V permit (synthetic minor or minor sources) will no longer expire and all conditions in the permit will remain in effect unless revised or revoked. For a permit that requires renewal, the permittee must apply for the renewal at least six months prior to the permit’s expiration, but no more than 18 months prior to expiration. To renew an operation permit, go to Air permit renewals.

Facilities with existing operation permits may have reduced their emissions sufficiently to be eligible for streamlined permit options. For more information, review the Registration and Exemptions tabs on this page.

Registration

Registration permits

A registration permit allows small emitters to quickly register themselves for a permit in return for keeping emissions low. The permits contain facility-wide emission caps as well as monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Registration permits have a review time of no more than 15 days on all applications received by DNR. There are now three types of registration permits.

Benefits

Both the DNR and companies that qualify benefit from registration permits. The simplified review process saves DNR time that can be used to work more effectively with larger facilities that need a traditional permit. Companies benefit in the following ways.

  • Simplified application process.
  • Fifteen-day decision on applications for coverage, if there is no existing permit to revoke. If there are existing permits that must be revoked, a 14 to 30 day revocation waiting period is required prior to making a decision on coverage.
  • Allows facility modifications without the need for a construction permit.
  • Permit does not expire.
  • Simplified and less frequent recordkeeping.

Instead of annual emission fees charged per ton of emissions, all facilities with registration permits are charged a $400 annual fee due by the end of every June beginning the year after the facility is covered under the permit.

More information on who may qualify for a registration permit, including benefits and disadvantages, is found in the following fact sheets.

For more information on registration permits, please contact the Registration Permit Coordinator (608-266-7718).

Final permits

Read through the permit you are interested in applying for to know what your requirements will be once coverage is approved.

If you are ready to apply, it is best to review the appropriate application guide and application form. As you review the information, if you have questions, contact the Registration Permit Coordinator. When submitting the application form, be sure to include appropriate emissions calculations.

Once covered by a Registration Permit

Facilities who have received coverage under one of the Registration Permits may find the following documents helpful in their on-going efforts to demonstrate compliance with the permits.

  • Compliance Checklist (AM-519) [PDF] assists facilities in meeting the compliance requirements under the Registration Permit.
  • Annual Compliance Certification and Monitoring Summary: The registration permit requires this report be submitted on March 1st every year. The first report is due the March following your first full calendar year of coverage.
  • Annual Air Emissions Inventory: Complete the report by March 1st every year, unless your emissions are below reporting thresholds in NR 438.
    • Start at Air emissions inventory and reporting to learn how to complete the emissions report.
    • If your emissions are below the reporting levels, submit a letter to DNR to report that your emissions are small enough to not require reporting.
    • If you have made changes during the year, be sure to update the process and device information in the report.
  • Type A Registration Permits additional resources:
  • For printers:

General

General permits

A general permit is intended for facilities that:

  • perform the same or similar operations;
  • emit similar air contaminants;
  • use the same or similar emission control technologies; and
  • are subject to the same limitations, standards, and requirements.

General construction permits and general operation permits have been developed for asphalt plants, rock crushing facilities and various types of printers. The general permits for printers are for natural minor sources, synthetic minor sources and major sources, and include lithographic heatset (web) offset, lithographic non-heatset web, lithographic non-heatset sheetfed, screen printing and digital printing. The general operation permits for the crushing facilities and hot mix asphalt plants do not expire.

Eligibility

Each general permit will have specific eligibility criteria that are spelled out in the permit application and the source-specific fact sheets listed here.

Benefits
  • Easy to get. Permit applications are written in language familiar to facilities within that category.
  • Fast. By statute, DNR must make a decision on a general permit application within 15 days of submittal.
  • No construction permits required. In most instances, a facility operating under a general permit can install new equipment or modify existing equipment without a construction permit as long as the equipment meets the eligibility criteria of the existing general operation permit. However, replacement of a primary crusher, or the drum and burner of an asphalt plant at the same time, require a construction permit.
  • Consistency. For similar sources in Wisconsin, the permits will look the same.
General permits vs. other permits

General permits are standard permits, so if a facility needs source-specific limitations, or cannot meet a requirement set in the general permit, they would need another type of permit.

General construction permits
Press Type Facility Operational Status
natural minor synthetic minor major
non-heatset sheet fed PDF PDF PDF
screen PDF PDF PDF
digital PDF PDF PDF
heatset web PDF PDF PDF
non-heatset web PDF PDF PDF
General operation permits
Press Type Facility Operational Status
natural minor synthetic minor major
non-heatset sheet fed PDF PDF PDF
screen PDF PDF PDF
digital PDF PDF PDF
heatset web PDF PDF PDF
non-heatset web PDF PDF PDF
Additional information

For more information about General Permits, Crushers and Hot Mix Asphalt Plants, contact Erin Hansel (920-662-5403).

Exemptions

Permit exemptions

A permit exemption is a release from the requirement to obtain a permit. The goal of any exemption is to address unintended regulatory burdens that would not provide any meaningful environmental gain. Facilities eligible for exemptions must still abide by all other applicable air quality regulations. Chapters NR 406 and 407, Wis. Adm. Code, list a number of different types of exemptions for which sources may be eligible. In December 2015, the latest exemption option became available with a Natural Minor Exemption.

A summary of these exemptions is provided by the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program.

Last revised: Friday April 13 2018