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Clean Air Act Overview

1990 Clean Air Act Amendment Summary: Title V


The new law introduces an operating permits program modelled after a similar program under the Federal National Pollution Elimination Discharge System (NPDES) law. The purpose of the operating permits program is to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements of the Clean Air Act and to enhance EPA's ability to enforce the Act. Air pollution sources subject to the program must obtain an operating permit, states must develop and implement the program, and EPA must issue permit program regulations, review each state's proposed program, and oversee the state's efforts to implement any approved program. EPA must also develop and implement a federal permit program when a state fails to adopt and implement its own program.

This program--in many ways the most important procedural reform contained in the new law--will greatly strengthen enforcement of the Clean Air Act. It will enhance air quality control in a variety of ways. First, adding such a program updates the Clean Air Act, making it more consistent with other environmental statutes. The Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act all require permits. The 1977 Clean Air laws also requires a construction permit for certain pollution sources, and about 35 states have their own laws requiring operating permits.

The new program clarifies and makes more enforceable a source's pollution control requirements. Currently, a source's pollution control obligations may be scattered throughout numerous hard-to-find provisions of state and federal regulations, and in many cases, the source is not required under the applicable State Implementation Plan to submit periodic compliance reports to EPA or the states. The permit program will ensure that all of a source's obligations with respect to its pollutants will be contained in one permit document, and that the source will file periodic reports identifying the extent to which it has complied with those obligations. Both of these requirements will greatly enhance the ability of Federal and state agencies to evaluate its air quality situation.

In addition, the new program will provide a ready vehicle for states to assume administration, subject to federal oversight, of significant parts of the air toxics program and the acid rain program. And, through the permit fee provisions, discussed below, the program will greatly augment a state's resources to administer pollution control programs by requiring sources of pollution to pay their fair share of the costs of a state's air pollution program.

Under the new law, EPA must issue program regulations within one year of enactment. Within three years of enactment, each state must submit to EPA a permit program meeting these regulatory requirements. After receiving the state submittal, EPA has one year to accept or reject the program. EPA must levy sanctions against a state that does not submit or enforce a permit program.

Each permit issued to a facility will be for a fixed term of up to five years. The new law establishes a permit fee whereby the state collects a fee from the permitted facility to cover reasonable direct and indirect costs of the permitting program.

All sources subject to the permit program must submit a complete permit application within 12 months of the effective date of the program. The state permitting authority must determine whether or not to approve an application within 18 months of the date it receives the application.

EPA has 45 days to review each permit and to object to permits that violate the Clean Air Act. If EPA fails to object to a permit that violates the Act or the implementation plan, any person may petition EPA to object within 60 days following EPA's 45-day review period, and EPA must grant or deny the permit within 60 days. Judicial review of EPA's decision on a citizen's petition can occur in the Federal court of appeals.

Full text, Title V - Permits