RAPID/Roadmap/15 (1)

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Bulk Transmission Air Quality Assessment Overview (15)

The Clean Air Act is the law that defines EPA's responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. The last major change in the law, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, was enacted by Congress in 1990. Legislation passed since then has made several minor changes.

The Clean Air Act requires state and local air pollution control agencies to adopt federally approved control strategies to minimize air pollution. The resulting body of regulations is known as a State Implementation Plan (SIP). SIPs generally establish limits or work practice standards to minimize emissions of the criteria air pollutants or their precursors. Pollutants of concern include sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, lead, carbon monoxide, and ozone. EPA has established national ambient air quality standards for these pollutants. SIPs include preconstruction permit requirements for projects that may result in emission increases.

One of the major initiatives Congress added to the Clean Air Act in 1990 is an operating permit program for larger industrial and commercial sources that release pollutants into the air. Operating permits include information on which pollutants are being released, how much may be released, and what kinds of steps the source’s owner or operator is required to take to reduce the pollution. Permits must include plans to measure and report the air pollution emitted. The EPA has, for most states, authorized the state to administer the Clean Air Act for facilities within each states' boundaries. In such cases the state will issue permits under the Clean Air Act. States and tribes issue operating permits. If those governments do not do a satisfactory job of carrying out the Clean Air Act permitting requirements, EPA can take over issuing permits.

Operating permits are especially useful for businesses covered by more than one part of the Clean Air Act and additional state or local requirements, since information about all of a source’s air pollution is in one place. The permit program simplifies and clarifies businesses’ obligations for cleaning up air pollution and can reduce paperwork. For instance, an electric power plant may be covered by the acid rain, toxic air pollutant, and smog (ground-level ozone) sections of the Clean Air Act. The detailed information required by those separate sections is consolidated into one place in an operating permit. Businesses seeking permits pay a permit fee to the state or local agency overseeing the permit process. These fees pay for the air pollution control activities related to operating permits.

The 1990 amendments also strengthen EPA's power to enforce the Clean Air Act, increasing the range of civil and criminal sanctions available. In general, when EPA finds that a violation has occurred, the agency can issue an order requiring the violator to comply, issue an administrative penalty order (use EPA administrative authority to force payment of a penalty), or bring a civil action (sue the violator in court).

See EPA's EPA Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act for more information.

Air Quality Assessment Overview Process

15.1 - Are There Potential Impacts to Air Quality?

If there are potential impacts to air quality, then the developer will be required to obtain a permit.

15.2 - Initiate Air Quality Assessment Process

If the proposed project will impact air quality, then the developer must consult the applicable state air quality permitting process before continuing with the activity.

Currently, the RAPID Toolkit does not have specific content regarding state air quality permitting processes for transmission development.

15.3 - No Permit Needed; Continue with Project

If the project will not impact air quality, then no CAA permit is required.

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