DEEP Moves to Streamline Permitting Process for Businesses under the Clean Air Act

In a 12 to 0 vote on Tuesday, the Legislative Regulation Review Committee approved a set of permanent regulations that will replace temporary permits used by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to limit emissions from facilities regulated under the federal Clean Air Act.

The state has required facilities with emissions regulated under the Clean Air Act to renew permits every five years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had told DEEP it would not renew the state general permit.

Chief of the DEEP Bureau of Air Management Tracy Babbidge explained that EPA preferred that Connecticut implement a “permit by rule” instead of permits with a set time limit.

“It’s a regulation on the books, and once a regulation is on the books, it’s always enforceable,” Babbidge said. “The permit has a set time frame, it has to be renewed every five years. So, EPA looked at that as less favorable than the permit by rule construct.”

According to Babbidge, the same requirements and enforcement would apply, but that replacing temporary permits with permanent regulation would be more efficient for both the agency and regulated businesses.

“[The regulations] were constructed by federal programs,” Babbidge said. “We establish regular inspection time frames for these facilities, and that will continue to happen. Facilities may have individual reporting requirements for specific emissions, all of that will still apply.”

The agency expects the 186 permitted facilities to save $430,000 in administrative fees to have their permits renewed another five years. That revenue only comes to DEEP every fifth year as the permit cycle repeats.

For DEEP, eliminating this permit will allow staff to spend more time on other permit applications with the goal of reducing wait times, according to a letter to the Regulation Review Committee from DEEP Commissioner Katherine Dykes.

“Given past reductions in DEEP’s workforce and more likely for the foreseeable future, it is essential for the agency to effectively focus its resources on core programs and services,” Dykes wrote.

According to a fiscal analysis prepared by DEEP, the efficiency created by the regulation will offset the loss in revenue for the agency. The report also indicated that DEEP will look at other ways to offset the revenue loss, including drawing fees from other programs “to ensure that adoption of this regulation will be revenue neutral or net positive.”

Given that EPA would not renew the state’s general permit, if these new regulations aren’t approved, each business would need to apply for a permit directly from EPA.

That process would be “unbearable” for many businesses, according to DEEP, and would require the services of an environmental consulting firm and possibly additional staff for added monitoring, record keeping and reporting requirements.

“For small businesses, these additional expenses may become onerous and ultimately lead to their closure or relocation outside the state,”according to the agency analysis.

The federal initiative to a permit by rule aligns with the Lamont administration’s “20 by 20” initiative, introduced to 2019, to increase “predictability, efficiency, and transparency” in the agency’s regulatory process, said Babbidge. One of the goals is replacing some permits with permits by rule.