Q: I plan to buy a small manufacturing business in Ohio. Do I need an air permit?
A: If you will be using manufacturing equipment, your business must comply with certain environmental regulations. In particular, air pollution regulations are closely monitored and enforced, so you should understand these regulations and obtain any appropriate permits. Ohio EPA may be willing to guide you in this process, but if you aren’t sure about your permitting status, consult an attorney.
Q: When does Ohio require air permits?
A: Ohio usually requires a “permit to install and operate” (PTIO) before air pollution sources are installed. An air pollution “source” may be anything from an industrial furnace stack to a paint booth, or even a gravel roadway that creates dust.
Q: Are there any exceptions to air permitting requirements?
A: Yes. There is an exception for very small (“de minimis”) sources of air pollution that have the potential to emit no more than 10 pounds of any individual pollutant in a 24-hour period of continuous operation. This exception also applies to sources that would emit more than 10 pounds if operated continuously for 24 hours, but never do so in normal operations, but the operator must keep records showing that the 10-pound threshold is never exceeded.
Q: Our pollution sources are small, but may not qualify under the “de minimis” source requirements. Might any other exceptions apply to us?
A: Yes. If you don’t think you are a “de minimis” source, you still may be on Ohio EPA’s list of 45 types of sources that can receive “permanent exemptions” from air permitting. Some common sources that do not require permits include certain small boilers, tumblers, bakery ovens, laboratory equipment, small storage tanks and inkjet printers.
Also, Ohio EPA has created “permits by rule” that exempt other types of small sources from having to obtain a PTIO, so long as they follow some basic notification and recordkeeping requirements. Such sources include certain types of auto body shops, gas stations, boilers/heaters fired by natural gas, printing facilities, emergency generators, compressors and water pumps, resin compression/injection molding, crushing/screening operations and soil remediation activities. Rather than getting permits for these sources, your company must follow certain specific rules.
Ohio EPA also provides less complicated “general permit” PTIOs for other small sources. Your business must still need submit an application and obtain a permit, but the permit doesn’t take long to get, and is essentially already written. Sources requiring general air permits include certain aggregate processing, certain boilers, diesel engines, digester operations, drycleaning operations, mineral extraction, metal parts painting lines, ready-mix concrete batch plants, storage piles, and paved and unpaved roadways and parking areas.
Q: What if our business doesn’t fall into any of the “small source” categories?
A: If your facility has relatively minor sources of air pollution, but does not fall into one of the above categories, you must get a standard PTIO from Ohio EPA. You can get a form through the Ohio EPA’s website (www.epa.ohio.gov), and you can probably get assistance with your application from the Ohio EPA. If your company has larger sources of air pollution, you may need to get a federal permit under the New Source Review and Title V permitting programs. (Visit www.epa.gov/region05/air/permits/index.html for more information.)
Q: What should I do if an Ohio EPA inspector visits my facility?
A: You should prepare for unannounced inspections if you have environmental permits. To properly prepare, designate someone from your facility who understands the company’s operations and environmental issues to accompany the inspectors, explain the facility’s layout and operation, and to serve as the Ohio EPA contact person.
When the inspectors arrive, you should find out: 1) contact information and title for each inspector; 2) what prompted the investigation (whether a complaint, a specific event or a routine inspection); and 3) what procedures will be followed during the inspection (areas to be inspected, records to be reviewed, samples to be taken). If there is any indication that the inspection may be part of a criminal investigation, contact legal counsel immediately.
During the inspection, stay with the inspectors and take notes of the inspector actions and questions. If samples are taken, note the collection process and get split samples. If an inspector takes photos, do the same. Answer questions fully, but do not speculate or volunteer information.
After the inspection, ask for an exit interview. Try to learn if the inspector observed any deficiencies requiring follow up. Finally, document all inspection events and conversations in a written report, and identify all documents shared with the inspectors. Following these steps will minimize your risk of liability and help you respond to any further agency action.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Cincinnati attorney Thaddeus H. Driscoll of Frost Brown Todd LLC. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.