EPA issued national guidance responding to questions posed by the Semiconductor Industry Association, the trade association for this industry, related to recent greenhouse gas permitting requirements issued by the Agency. In responding to these questions, EPA agreed that several plants in this industry will be subject for the first time to permitting under the Clean Air Act permitting programs (i.e., Title V, prevention of significant deterioration (PSD), and new source review (NSR) programs), as a result of new requirements to include greenhouse gases in the PSD/NSR programs.

PSD or NSR permits are required whenever a new facility is going to be constructed that will emit more than specified amounts of criteria pollutants. Similarly, if an existing facility is modified in such a way as to increase emissions of criteria pollutants above certain thresholds, a preconstruction permit must first be obtained for the modification. The process for obtaining a PSD permit is lengthy and complex, and permits are often subject to challenges by citizens’ groups or other parties. Further, if a source must obtain a PSD or NSR permit, it becomes subject to the Title V permitting program as well. As such, understanding the process and all available opportunities to avoid triggering PSD permitting is critical to ensuring new projects or modifications to existing facilities are not delayed or otherwise affected.

In its guidance, EPA addressed unique situations that might arise as a result of subjecting the semiconductor industry to PSD/NSR permitting, including:
• Consideration of a ‘fab’ as an emissions unit.
• Permitting several projects separately that should otherwise be aggregated as a single project.
• Using the option to keep a project under the PSD permitting threshold based on future actual emissions.

The Agency’s August letter highlights the complex nature of PSD/NSR permitting. Since many semiconductor facilities are only now becoming subject to PSD or NSR as a result of the GHG permitting rule, this may be their first exposure to these complex rules. Knowledge of EPA’s approaches to aggregation, project netting, and project emissions calculations is critical to proper permitting, and avoiding a later enforcement action by a State or EPA.

 


1August 26, 2011 letter from Stephen Page, Director, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, EPA, to David Isaacs, Vice President of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

2Whether a source must obtain a PSD or NSR permit depends on the ambient air quality of the area in which the source is located.

3Criteria pollutants are pollutants for which EPA is required to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act. They include ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. As a result of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that GHG also are subject to regulation under the statute, and subsequent legal and regulatory developments, emissions of these pollutants also must be considered under the PSD/NSR permitting programs.

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