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Region 4 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Permitting Process

EPA Region 4 is the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) sources offshore the state seaward boundaries of the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, which includes all areas of the Gulf of Mexico east of 87’30” (see CAA section 328).  Currently, there are no state agencies in Region 4 that have requested delegation of the OCS permitting program.  The OCS permitting process at EPA Region 4 can best be grouped into 5 phases, which are: (1) pre-application, (2) application, (3) draft permit preparation, (4) public participation, and (5) final decision to issue or deny an OCS permit.  These phases are described below:

1. Pre-application

During this phase, the applicant reviews the applicable requirements in light of the activities being considered at a new or modified source (e.g., drilling operations, facility construction or other operations authorized by the OCS Lands Act).  Applicants should review the OCS Air Quality Regulations at 40 CFR 55, in particular the applicable requirements listed at 40 CFR 55.13 and 55.14.  Applicants located within 25 nautical miles of a state seaward boundary are required to comply with the air quality requirements of the nearest onshore area, including applicable permitting requirements.  Applicants locating beyond 25 nautical miles from the state seaward boundary, are subject to federal air quality requirements and will likely need an OCS permit complying with the EPA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) preconstruction permit program (see 40 CFR 52.21), and/or Title V operating permit program requirements (see 40 CFR 71), and any applicable New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS).

EPA strongly recommends that potential applicants contact or meet with EPA to determine what requirements apply and to discuss what should be included in an OCS permit application.  EPA Region 4 OCS contacts are listed on our OCS Contacts page of our website.

Preconstruction Monitoring and Modeling Protocol:  Because the PSD program generally requires applicants to perform an air quality impact analysis, EPA recommends applicants consult with EPA to determine the need (if any) for ambient air quality monitoring (i.e., pre-construction or post-construction monitoring), to determine the amount of on-site meteorological data that will be needed or to determine if there are alternatives, such as nearby representative data, and to determine the appropriate offshore model.  If an air quality impact analysis is required, EPA recommends that the applicant prepare a modeling protocol for EPA review prior to commencing air quality modeling. 

Endangered Species Act (ESA):  An applicant may need to perform an Endangered Species analysis if one was not recently performed for the project as part of another federal action, such as a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analysis.  An updated analysis may be needed if new species or habitat has been listed since the most recent biological opinion was issued.  EPA encourages applicants to start consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service, as applicable, pursuant to Section 7 of the ESA, prior to submission of an application to EPA.  While the ESA process can take place apart from the air permitting process, the ESA process must be completed prior to the EPA's final issuance of the OCS permit.

Again, the applicant is strongly encouraged to request a pre-application meeting with EPA permitting staff to review permit needs, discuss any pre-application requirements, and to discuss the contents and format of a complete permit application.

2. Application

After determining pre-application needs, the applicant submits an OCS permit application to EPA.  EPA requests that the applicant provide at 2 double-sided hard copies (with page numbers) of the OCS permit application to EPA, 2 copies of the modelling files on CD, and an electronic copy or 8 CDs.  The applicant should also send an electronic copy to the appropriate Federal Land Managers (FLM) if the project may impact a federal Class I area. Contact information for these agencies is available on the EPA Region 4 OCS contacts website.

Permit applications are often lengthy. They must include a description of the facility and how the facility will be constructed, modified and operated to be protective of public health and the environment, as well as identify all applicable requirements and how the source will comply with those requirements. OCS applicants are responsible for submitting a permit application that identifies all the applicable requirements set forth in 40 CFR 55.

Applicants that must comply with PSD preconstruction permit program requirements are referred to the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Application Requirements, listed on our OCS reference page, as a general guide to preparing the PSD portion of the OCS application, as well as the Draft 1990 New Source Review Workshop Manual.  In addition to this resource, more information can be found on EPA's NSR Policy and Guidance website.

Applicants that must comply with the Title V operating permit program, should use the EPA Part 71 Permit forms and policy and guidance documents available on EPA’s website.Note that Part 71 fees are due at the time an initial Title V application is submitted. Instructions on mailing the fees can be found in the Fee Filing (FF) Form on EPA's part 71 website.

Upon receipt, Region 4 reviews the OCS application for administrative completeness.  EPA determines whether the application is complete within 30 days of receiving the application.  If the application is incomplete, EPA will request, in writing, the necessary information in order to make it complete.

EPA notifies the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service, as applicable, that a permit application has been received to determine if an ESA consultation will be necessary.  If the project could have impacts on any Class I areas (such as national parks, national wilderness areas or marine sanctuaries), EPA will also notify the appropriate Federal Land Manager.

3. Draft Permit Preparation

After the application is deemed complete, EPA prepares a draft permit and preliminary determination and/or Statement of Basis. The draft permit contains conditions for controlling air pollution. The Statement of Basis generally discusses EPA’s determination of best available control technology (BACT) and describes the basis for the conditions in the draft permit. OCS permits are typically issued within one year from the date of a complete application. We strive to issue the permits as expeditiously as we can given available resources.

4. Public Participation

Once EPA makes a preliminary determination, EPA will make the proposed decision available to the public via our website and  If EPA plans to issue a permit, then EPA will propose the draft permit and Preliminary Determination/Statement of Basis and start the public comment period.  The public comment period is usually 30 days.  However, this could be extended if EPA finds that there is significant public interest.  EPA will also directly notify any citizen who requests to be on the mailing list for the permit. If you would like to receive an email regarding the public notice of a specific project, sign up here.

Anyone may submit comments on the proposed permit to EPA during the public comment period and may also request a public hearing.  EPA may hold a public hearing if we find that there is significant public interest.  The public hearing may be held during the public comment period. All permit documents and comments received from the public, other government agencies, and the applicant during the public comment period become part of the administrative record for the permit. The administrative record is available to the public.

5. Permit Issuance

After the public comment period has ended, EPA carefully considers all timely comments.  EPA then issues a decision on the final OCS permit and a response to all  significant comments that were received by the close of the public comment period.  The final OCS permit usually becomes effective 30 days after EPA issues a decision, unless a different effective date is given or if the final OCS permit is appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). Final OCS permits issued by EPA Region can be found on our OCS website.

Any person who filed comments on the draft permit or participated in the public hearing may petition the EAB to review the final permit decision. The regulations governing the appeal process are at 40 CFR 124.19.

Footnote:  While the process for issuing air quality permits to Deepwater Ports is similar to the above, deepwater LNG terminals are not covered by the OCS Air Quality Regulations.  Applicants for a deepwater port license should contact EPA Region 4 for information on applicable CAA requirements for these facilities.