About the Air Permitting Forum

This informal group provides input to MassDEP on air permitting regulations, policy and guidance, and serves as a forum for keeping participants up to date on federal air regulations that affect Massachusetts facilities and other issues related to stationary facility permitting.  Participants include facility owners, consultants, environmental advocates, EPA, and MassDEP.  Forum meetings are held on an “as needed” basis.  

Air Permitting Forum Agenda and Meeting Materials

A meeting of the Air Permitting Forum was held December 16, 2015, in Boston, to discuss the materials below. MassDEP accepted comments and questions on these documents until January 15, 2016, and is now developing revised versions for formal proposal and public hearing. Questions? Contact Marc Wolman at 617-292-5515 or marc.wolman@state.ma.us.

Background Materials


Air Permit Streamlining Initiative & Study

MassDEP has implemented many regulatory reforms over the last several years to accelerate its review of air quality permit applications and simplify the process for applicants.  Yet, industry representatives and consultants continued to identify air permitting as one of the more time- and resource-intensive aspects of obtaining the state approvals needed to move forward with economic development and expansion projects.

Their concerns centered on both overall permitting timelines and the costs associated with analyzing and implementing the Best Available Control Technology (BACT), which projects needing Plan Approvals are required to employ.  

The BACT process benefits the environment by ensuring that a project includes the most advanced air pollution control technology available at the time MassDEP reviews the proponent's air plan application.  At the same time, implementing BACT can add significantly to the cost of installing, modifying or replacing equipment or an industrial process, so this aspect of air permitting can sometimes be contentious.

The Study

In 2007, with advice and input from an external advisory group, the Air Permitting Forum, MassDEP began a review of all limited and non-major comprehensive plan applications that had been approved, denied or withdrawn over the previous two years to determine the factors that influenced review and decision timelines.  

We also examined the business and environmental costs and benefits of "Non-Major Comprehensive Plan Approval" BACT determinations and considered how sector-wide performance standards could replace individual permits in some cases.  

In undertaking this study, we sought to:

Reduce review timelines so we could issue Plan Approvals for new or modified emission sources closer to "the speed of business."

Evaluate how we review and approve emission limits that constitute BACT.

Consider how we can make our Plan Approval process more efficient for renewable energy projects.

Improve how we communicate about the permitting process.

This process helped us identify:

  • The benefits of, and potential alternatives to, BACT review for certain types of projects.
  • Ways to streamline the BACT analysis and determination process.
  • Opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state air quality permitting for applicants, MassDEP and the public.

Details of the study's findings are provided in a background document that MassDEP prepared when it proposed regulatory changes to implement the Air Permit Streamlining Initiative.

Regulatory Amendments

As a concrete result of the Air Permit Streamlining Initiative, MassDEP revised its regulations at 310 CMR 7.02 in July 2009 by:

  • Moving the dividing line between facilities or projects needing a Limited Plan Application (LPA) and those requiring a Comprehensive Plan Application (CPA) from 5 tons to 10 tons per year of non-combustion emissions.  
  • Streamlining the BACT process (and committing to provide better guidelines) for applicants.
  • Providing for consolidation of, and amendments to, existing LPAs or CPAs.
  • Adding a Permit-by-Rule process for the replacement of rock crushing equipment.

New Application Forms & Guidance

The Air Permitting Forum continued to provide us with helpful input as we developed a variety of new tools to implement the Air Permit Streamlining Initiative:

  • General guidance on the air permitting process.
  • New application forms and instructions.
  • Specific guidance on BACT analysis and air quality modeling.
  • A compilation of "Top-Case" BACT Guidelines for specific industries and types of equipment that new applicants can use for similar projects without needing to perform their own BACT analyses.  This "library" of BACT determinations will be expanded over time.

MassDEP will continue to rely on the Air Permitting Forum for feedback as we implement the Air Permit Streamlining Initiative and work toward additional improvements. 

Past Meeting Archives