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Indiana Department of Environmental Management


Chapter 6: Table of Contents

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Chapter 6 - Section VI: Permitting Areas - Air Permits

  Operating Permits Open Burning
Public Notice: Yes Notice of decision
Public Notice Method: Newspaper Letter Letters (under 15 affected)
Newspaper - over 15 affected
Public Comment Period: Yes No
Public Comment Length: 30 days Not applicable
Public Meeting: If requested No
Length of Process: Varies depending on complexity and need Varies

All permitting decisions regarding air quality in Indiana are made by the IDEM Office of Air Quality (OAQ). This decision-making process is based on state and federal law using rules adopted by the Indiana Air Pollution Control Board. For more detailed information about air permits, visit the On-line IDEM Permit Guide section on air permits.

What types of air permits are there?

Most sources must have IDEM approval before they may construct or operate any source of air pollutants. Only very small sources are exempt from air permitting requirements. Additionally, construction or operational changes at existing sources with the potential to increase emissions also require some level of "pre-construction approval.” The greater the expected emissions at a new or modified source, the higher the level of permit approval required.

The level of permitting is based upon a source’s "potential to emit," or PTE. Depending on its potential to emit (PTE), a source can be:

  • Exempt from any permitting requirements because the PTE is fairly low. The source is not required to obtain a permit or any other pre-approval prior to construction and operation.
  • Registered if the PTE is high enough to require registration with IDEM as a source of air pollution.
  • Permitted due to high levels of PTE, requiring the source obtain some level of permit prior to constructing either units generating air pollutants, or installing any pollution control equipment. The source will also be required to obtain an operating permit or a modification to the existing operating permit prior to operating the new equipment.

Applicants for new air permits at locations with no pre-existing permit must notify adjoining property owners and occupants within ten days of submitting an application to IDEM. For most permits, the applicant must also identify the county and local elected officials as part of the application.

Within ten days of submitting a permit application, the applicant must place a copy of the application in a county library where the facility will be located. Additional information - such as supplemental application information from the applicant, public notice announcements, proposed permits, technical support documents, calculations, and fact sheets – should be made public as it becomes available.

When may a public notice or comment period not be required?

Most low-level air approvals do not require a public notice or comment period. Examples include:

  • gaining approval to make minor changes to a source or permit; or,
  • agreeing to operate under one or more source specific operating agreements (SSOAs). However, some sources seeking to operate with a SSOA may be large enough to require a construction permit. Construction permits do require a public notice and comment period.

New sources large enough to require an individual permit must always undergo a public notice and a 30 day public comment period.

Once a draft permit and technical support document has been prepared by IDEM, a public notice is published in the largest nearby newspaper in the area. The public notice describes the activity and permit and identifies the applicant. It also announces a proposed draft permit, advises the reader of the on-line location and physical locations where the draft permit may be viewed and declares that the public may submit comments on the draft permit. The notice also identifies an IDEM contact person who can provide additional information.

If a public meeting or a public hearing was not included as part of the public comment period, then any member of the public may request one be held. However, IDEM may first make contact with those requesting the public meeting or hearing to see if their questions or concerns can be addressed directly. Hearings are sometimes automatically scheduled into the public notice process. For more information on public meetings and public hearings, please see Chapter 2: How to Get Involved.

Air Permitting Public Participation Process

  1. Draft permit completed by IDEM;
  2. The draft is placed on public notice including a 30 day public comment period. If a public meeting or hearing is planned the notice will likely include this information;
  3. A secondary public notice may be necessary if IDEM later agrees to hold a public meeting. The public comment period will be extended an additional 30 days for Title V Operating Permits;
  4. Public Meeting or Hearing (if held); and,
  5. Notice of Decision.

If IDEM agrees to a public hearing request for a Title V Operating Permit, a second public notice will be placed in the same newspaper providing the date, time, and location of the public hearing. The public comment period will also be extended by 30 days.

After the conclusion of the public comment period, IDEM reviews any public comments before issuing a permit decision. Certain draft permits may also be reviewed by the U.S. EPA. In these cases, the U.S. EPA will also review public comments received by IDEM. After all reviews have been completed, IDEM will issue a decision regarding the permit or approval for change to an existing permitted source.

At that time, a notice of decision will be sent to the applicant, local officials, and all interested parties on the mailing list. The notice of decision will describe the decision, provide responses to comments and include information on how to appeal the decision. If IDEM decides to issue the permit, a copy of the permit also will be provided along with a technical support document. The information will also be posted on the IDEM Web site.

Getting Involved

If you wish to monitor air permitting approvals in your neighborhood or county, there are a number of ways to do this. You can:

  • Track the receipt of permit applications and permit issuances on the Office of Air Quality Permit Status Search site;
  • Check regularly for new air permit applications on view at your local library; and,
  • Enroll at any time to be on any of the Office of Air Quality mailing lists. Once on a particular mailing list, parties will be notified by IDEM of permit activity including public notices and final decisions regarding either a specific source or any source within any county designates. Notification by U.S. mail service or by e-mail via the Internet is available. To be placed on an Air Permitting mailing list, please contact the Office of Air Quality Permits Administration and Support Section at (800) 451-6027.

Every final permit decision will include instructions on filing an appeal of the permit with the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication.

What is the "variance" process for open burning, and how can you participate in the decision making process?

  • What:
    • Grants a source a variance for open burning.
  • Public Comment Period:
    • None.
  • Public Meeting:
    • None.
  • Other Important Considerations:
    • Only specific activities are eligible for a variance.
    • Potentially affected parties are notified through letters or newspaper publication.
    • Variances may be appealed.

Open burning is not permitted in Indiana, with a few limited exceptions. No open burning may be carried out without IDEM approving the action as an authorized emergency burning or receiving a variance. The opportunity for public participation regarding an open burning variance comes after IDEM has issued a decision.

A variance is an approval permitting open burning that is otherwise not typically allowed. Most variances are issued for one year or less and must be for burning natural growth derived from a clearing operation, burning clean wood products, or the burning of natural growth for the purpose of land management. Additional activities that would qualify for a variance include fire training purposes and burning high explosives or other dangerous material when transportation of the material would be dangerous and no other disposal method exists. When a variance is issued, strict criteria must be followed regarding how, when, where and under what circumstances open burning is allowed.

Once a decision has been made, a letter will be sent to potentially affected parties, or a notice will be published in the local newspaper if more than 15 people will be affected. The notice will describe the proposal to open burn, state IDEM’s decision, provide information on how to appeal the decision, and advise readers they may view a copy of the decision letter at either the health department or the local library.

Potentially affected persons will then have 15 days from the date of the receipt of the notification to appeal the issuance of the variance to the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication.

Those with questions about open burning may refer to the IDEM Open Burning Web site or contact IDEM at (800) 451-6027 or (317) 233-5672. Hoosiers that believe illegal open burning is taking place in their neighborhood may also contact IDEM at (317) 233-5672 or submit a complaint to the IDEM Complaint Clearinghouse by calling (800) 451-6027 or visiting IDEM’s Web site.