The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) recently proposed its general “Permit By Rule” or PBR regulations to the Pollution Control Board. The PBR regulations will allow certain emission units at a CAAPP source to be constructed without going through the standard construction permit requirements.  Instead, the owner or operator of the unit is merely required to submit a notice of intent to be covered by a PBR prior to commencing construction. The owner or operator would then construct the unit in accordance with the conditions contained in the PBR rule for that particular unit.  There will be no actual paper construction permit issued by the IEPA.  In order to operate the unit, the owner or operator will need to submit an application for a minor modification to its CAAPP permit and can then operate the unit under the terms of its CAAPP permit.  The IEPA anticipates that a notice of intent and a minor modification application could be submitted at the same time.

There are a few caveats. The proposed emissions unit must be located at a CAAPP source with a CAAPP permit.  The emissions unit cannot be subject to any pre-construction permitting requirements for new source review (NSR) or prevention of significant deterioration (PSD), and cannot be part of a larger project that would otherwise require a construction permit. The notice of intent still contains much of the same general information that would be included in a construction permit application and the owner or operator of the unit is still subject to the same permitting fees that would apply to a person obtaining a construction permit.

The IEPA also proposed to the Board the first PBR, of likely many to come. The first PBR would allow the construction of gas-fired boilers with a heat input capacity of no more than 100 mmBtu/hr at a CAAPP source following submittal of a notice of intent.  According to the IEPA, this type of unit is appropriate for a PBR because it is a common unit type, with relatively consistent emission characteristics.  The IEPA estimates that it typically processes an average of 8-10 construction permit applications for these types of units per year.  We would expect similar types of units to be subject to future PBRs.

The PBR regulations are authorized by Section 39.12 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, which was adopted in 2011. The concept of a PBR is common in other states and is a recognition of the limited resources of the environmental agencies. The PBR will allow the IEPA to direct its resources towards permitting more complex emissions sources.  There are also potentially significant benefits to industry, in that an owner or operator can construct emissions units sooner and with fewer delays due to permitting issues.  The benefits to industry will ultimately depend, however, on how many PBRs are eventually adopted.

The Pollution Control Board is holding its second public hearing on the proposed PBR rules in Chicago on Wednesday, November 16th at 1:00 p.m.