Ecology invites comments on changes to rule that requires permits for air pollution sources

An  Air Operating Permit is different from an EIS. Ecology doesn’t say what the new industries that will need these permits are.

OLYMPIA – The public can comment on the Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) proposed changes to the state’s rule for permits for sources of air pollution, including greenhouse gases.

Chapter 173-401 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) requires air operating permits for large facilities that emit pollutants regulated under the federal Clean Air Act. Examples of these regulated pollutants include particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. An air operating permit contains all the emitter’s requirements for limiting air pollution emissions.

Ecology’s proposed changes will align the state rule with new requirements issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can review the proposed changes online.

Right now, EPA requires permits for air pollution sources that emit more than 100 or 250 tons of air pollution per year. (The amount of pollution requiring a permit depends on what type of pollution is emitted.)

Beginning in January 2011, EPA will regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the first time.

Emissions of greenhouse gases from all activities, including industrial facilities, are much higher than emissions of other air pollutants. If the permit thresholds for other air pollutants (100 or 250 tons) were used for greenhouse gases, the number of facilities needing permits would be overwhelming.

Instead, EPA set levels that exempt smaller sources of greenhouse gases. Examples include farms, restaurants and schools. This is called the “tailoring rule,” since it “tailors” permitting programs to limit the number of facilities that must get permits.

Sources must get new permits if they emit, or have the potential to emit, 100,000 tons or more of greenhouse gases each year.

A few emitters that haven’t previously needed permits will have to get an air operating permit because of their greenhouse gas emissions. However, Ecology expects that changing state rules to match the EPA “tailoring rule” will keep most small businesses from needing permits.

Power plants, refineries, wood product industries and other large industrial plants still need permits for emissions of greenhouse gases.

The comment period is open and continues through Nov. 17, 2010. Ecology will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the agency’s headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey.

Here’s how to submit written comments:

  • E-mail to
  • Fax to (360) 407-7534.
  • Mail to Elena Guilfoil, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.

Ecology will review and respond to all comments. The agency must adopt the revised rule by January 2011.

One Response

  1. What is almost miraculously ironic in this situation is that some of the state’s LARGEST GHG producers – the biomass incinerator power generation facilities, are specifically exempted from carbon accounting. And that this discussion can even be taking place at all.

    The carbon released in 5 minutes of combustion takes 50 years or more to sequester in biomass.

    Hundred-year old stumps that remain in the wake of past logging efforts demonstrate that it takes centuries to decompose and release the sequestered
    carbon through biological processes; most of which involve sequestration by direct conversion of carbon contained in the cellulose, etc. contained in the
    woody material into the bodies of other life forms.

    Replanting the cut over forests will not reverse the carbon releases from the cutting and burning for upwards of 40 years or more.

Comments are closed.