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Technology Transfer Network - OAR Policy and Guidance





  • On December 9, 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule to permanently exempt small facilities in five industries from the requirement to obtain federal operating permits. The facilities that would be exempted are known as "area sources" of toxic air pollution.
  • Air toxics, also known as hazardous air pollutants, are known or suspected to cause cancer and other health problems. An "area source" emits less than 10 tons per year of a single toxic air pollutant or fewer than 25 tons of a combination of such pollutants. By contrast a large or "major" source emits more than 10 or 25 tons of toxic air pollutants.
  • The final rule exempts the following "area sources" from the need to obtain permits: dry cleaners, halogenated solvent degreasers, chromium electroplaters, ethylene oxide sterilizers, and secondary aluminum smelters. Only facilities that are "area sources" would receive the exemption, and permits are still required for larger (major) sources of air toxics in these industry categories.
  • Today's final rule also:
    • Prohibits states from issuing federal operating permits to these sources once the Agency has exempted them from the national permitting program. States may continue to issue other types of air permits for such sources, such as state operating permits.
    • Does not exempt small sources that are secondary lead smelters from the requirement to obtain a federal operating permit.
  • In order to exempt a category of “area sources” from operating permitting requirements, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to determine that complying with the requirements is “impracticable, infeasible, or unnecessarily burdensome” for the area source. Based on a review of the costs and burdens associated with requiring federal operating permits and an examination of whether requiring the permits would actually improve compliance, EPA has determined that all of these area sources, except for secondary lead area sources, should be exempted.
  • This action does not change any requirements governing the control of emissions of toxic air pollutants that apply to these facilities - they are still required to limit their emissions of air toxics. In addition, the air toxics standards governing these businesses already require a detailed accounting of compliance.
    • These facilities are required to monitor emissions and complete sworn statements whether they are in compliance. Most facilities are required to submit this information to the state or to EPA periodically (for example, every six months to a year depending on the individual rule). All facilities are required make this information available to the public upon request.

  • The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments require that all states develop operating permit programs. Under the operating permit programs, called Title V permit programs, every industrial facility that is a major source of toxic air pollution must apply for an operating permit. Smaller “area sources” of pollution also must obtain operating permits unless EPA specifically exempts them from permit requirement through federal rules.
  • An operating permit is a federally enforceable document issued by state and local permitting authorities, or EPA, after a facility has begun to operate. The purpose of an operating permit is to reduce violations of air pollution laws and to improve enforcement of those laws.
  • An operating permit outlines all air pollution requirements that apply to a specific facility, requires the facility to make regular reports on how it is tracking and controlling emissions, and requires the facility to certify each year whether it has met its air pollution requirements. The permit also may include monitoring, testing or recordkeeping requirements, if needed, to assure that a facility complies with its emission limits or other pollution control requirements.

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