How to Participate in MassDEP Air Quality Permitting Decisions

MassDEP seeks input from the public - including individuals, communities, and groups - before it issues certain types of air quality permits or approvals.

Either when a proponent applies for a permit or approval, or before MassDEP makes a final decision, the agency accepts public comment on the proposal for a specific period of time. In some cases, MassDEP also schedules a public hearing or meeting so it can provide additional project information and/or receive public feedback. Learn more:

Air Plan Approvals

Operating Permits

Emission Control Plans

Other Permits and Approvals

The information on this page is intended to help you understand how and when you can be part of the review and decision-making process. Also see: MassDEP Public Hearings & Comment Opportunities and Levels of MassDEP Oversight

Air Plan Approvals

Permit Categories & Explanation:

Comprehensive Plan Application: Fuel Utilization Facility
Comprehensive Plan Application: Process Emission Unit
Comprehensive Plan Application: Crematory

A MassDEP Comprehensive Plan Approval is required prior to constructing or modifying a facility that meets permitting criteria in 310 CMR 7.02(5). The Plan Approval is intended to ensure that construction or modification of a facility will not cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution and will incorporate best available air pollution control technology. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days Required by state and federal regulations.

Additional Resources for Air Plan Approvals

Operating Permits

Permit Categories & Explanation:

Initial Operating Permit
Operating Permit Significant Modification
Operating Permit Renewal

Title V of the federal Clean Air Act requires a facility to obtain an Operating Permit from MassDEP if it emits or has the potential to emit 100 tons or more per year of any pollutant; 50 tons or more per year of of nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs); 25 tons or more per year of a combination of hazardous air pollutants; or 10 tons or more per year of a single hazardous air pollutant. Operating Permits may also be required for specific types of facilities regardless of their emission levels. An Operating Permit compiles all of a facility’s air pollution control approvals, permits and regulatory requirements into one enforceable document. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
Between 30 & 60 days At MassDEP discretion; may be requested through Regional Office. Find Your Region

Additional Resources for Operating Permits

Emission Control Plans

Permit Category & Explanation:

Emission Control Plan: VOC/NOx RACT

Certain factories, industrial boilers, power plants and coating/painting facilities that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and/or nitrogen oxides (NOx) are required to submit an Emission Control Plan to MassDEP. An Emission Control Plan demonstrates how and when the facility will comply with Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) requirements, as defined in the regulations.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days Required for some facilities but not all, depending on conditions specified in regulations. See 7.18 & 7.19 of 310 CMR 7.00.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Emission Control Plan: Municipal Waste Combustor

Any municipal waste combustion facility that burns more than 250 tons of solid waste per day is required to submit an Emission Control Plan to MassDEP. An Emission Control Plan specifies the federal and state limits that apply to air pollutants and toxics emitted from the facility, and demonstrates how the facility will comply with those limits.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days At MassDEP discretion; may be requested through Regional Office. Find Your Region

Other Permits and Approvals

Permit Category & Explanation:

Restricted Emission Status

Any factory, industrial boiler, power plant or other facility that would otherwise need to obtain a MassDEP air permit or comply with a specific regulatory requirement may opt to voluntarily limit its emissions instead. Restricted Emission Status legally limits a facility’s potential emissions and its associated use of raw materials, hours of operation or production rate. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days None.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Creation of Emission Reduction Credits

Any facility that emits nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is eligible to participate in the Massachusetts Emission Banking and Trading Program. By voluntarily certifying eligible emissions reductions, a facility creates Emission Reduction Credits that can be used in emission banking and trading transactions.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days Required by Appendix B(6)(d)3 of 310 CMR 7.00.

Additional Resources for Other Permits and Approvals

Levels of MassDEP Oversight

MassDEP regulates facilities of varying sizes and complexity in different ways:

  • Large, complicated operations are required to obtain project- or site-specific permits or approvals before they can be built and/or begin operating.
  • Many smaller facilities and simpler processes are subject to general permits that contain specific performance standards established by regulation.
  • Other operations are required to periodically report data to MassDEP and/or certify to the agency that they are complying with the environmental requirements that apply to them.

While there are no public notice or comment periods associated with facilities subject to general permits or reporting/certification requirements, most of the documents they submit to MassDEP are available for public inspection at the agency's regional offices.

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