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Operating Permit Program Fact Sheet (Air Quality)

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 included sweeping new revisions that required states to develop operating permits programs that met certain federal criteria. States, in turn, were to require sources of air pollution, or those facilities affected by the Act, to obtain permits that contained all of their Clean Air Act requirements.

The EPA promulgated 40 CFR Part 70 on July 21, 1992 to outline the specific minimum requirements of a state operating permit program. Utah’s program was submitted to EPA on April 15, 1994. EPA proposed approval (28 KB) of the program on March 22, 1995; and granted full approval (24 KB) on June 8, 1995 with an effective date of July 10, 1995.

The federal regulations required states to develop comprehensive programs that covered “major” sources of air pollution and certain non-major sources. Major sources include:

  1. Those that emit 100 tons per year or more of any air pollutant, or
  2. Those that emit 10 tons per year or more of any single hazardous air pollutant (specifically listed in the Clean Air Act), or
  3. Those that emit 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants.

The non-major sources that are covered are those that are subject to a standard under the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) program or the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) program.

The primary purpose of the operating permits program is to improve enforcement by issuing each source a permit that consolidates all of the Clean Air Act requirements into a federally-enforceable document.

Several groups, including environmental groups, industry, and states challenged the July 1992 rule, primarily on the provisions for revising permits. This litigation (and EPA efforts to overcome objections) is ongoing, thus forcing state officials to track and monitor developments and leaving open the possibility that state rules may change to comply with possible federal rule changes.


Utah’s Operating Permit Program (OPP) became effective on July 10, 1995. Based on state rules, all major sources of air pollution should have submitted an application for an operating permit no later than October 10, 1995.

The non-major sources of pollution that also are subject to the OPP are deferred from the obligation to submit an application until 12 months after EPA completes a rulemaking to determine how the program should be structured for area sources and the appropriateness of any permanent exemptions, unless a NSPS or MACT regulation requires an application. See R307-415-4(2) for full information on this topic.

Major sources, as mentioned, must submit applications on or before October 10, 1995. By statute, state officials then have three years to issue the initial permits. Subsequently, officials must issue a permit within 18 months of receiving an application. Sources beginning operation after July 10, 1995, have one year to submit an application for a permit.

A key element of this new program is the requirement placed on a source of air pollution to identify all of the applicable Clean Air Act requirements to which they are subject and to certify to the compliance status of these requirements. This certification is required as part of the application, but also is required to be submitted annually in the future, thus placing much of the compliance focus on the source!

Another key aspect of the new program is the imposition of criminal penalties for knowingly violating the provisions of the Act.

Status of Other Programs

The OPP does not replace any other Clean Air Act program. Rather, it consolidates into one document all of the applicable Clean Air Act requirements a source is required to comply with. Existing programs, such as the New Source Review (NSR) program, the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program and the State Implementation Plan (SIP), remain. Sources must still comply with the requirements of these programs as necessary. The only possible difference may be a streamlined approach as these programs and the OPP are integrated, though no provision of any of the programs can be circumvented.


Call the Operating Permit Section (801) 536-4000.

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