In a piece of good news for regulated sources, on August 4, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued guidance clarifying the flexibility and reduced permitting burden available to sources operating under Plantwide Applicability Limit (PAL) permits.
Created by the 2002 New Source Review Reform rule, the PAL alternative to traditional air permitting allows sources to avoid the delays and costs of major source construction permits by establishing an air emission cap over a facility and allowing changes or modifications to occur, in most instances, without the need for any additional permitting. PAL facilities gain a competitive advantage by being able to quickly move from new product design to production without regulatory delays. While advantageous in theory, uncertainties such as permit renewals, the intersection with other air quality requirements, and whether PAL implementation required revisions to longstanding monitoring requirements have caused many sources to not take advantage of the program.
In the guidance, U.S. EPA squarely addressed these perceived concerns with PALs raised by business and made a strong case for flexibility and advantages of the PAL program. In particular: