Learn what the PCP97 & PCP96 air permit compliance advisory from the NJDEP really means.
If you’ve received a notice from the NJDEP recently about your air permit, you’re not alone. Facilities across the State of New Jersey are receiving somewhat confusing compliance advisory notices regarding their PCP97 and/or PCP96 air permits. Understanding what this notice from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection means for your operation and your current, existing air permits, is easier said than done. So, let’s check out this notice and what it means to you and your business here in New Jersey.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get into this compliance advisory from the NJDEP.
What is an NJDEP air permit compliance advisory?
An NJDEP compliance advisory for air permits is a scheduled notice that the NJDEP sends out to facilities across New Jersey that are registered on the NJDEP’s air quality mailing list. If you received a notice, you are on the list. And you’re very likely on the list because you either currently have, or used to have, the PCP97 air permit or the PCP96 air permit.
The notice often will alert a facility to upcoming rule changes in the department or outline upcoming enforcement policies regarding air permits and permit holders. The compliance advisory for PCP97 and PCP96 is both an enforcement alert and a call to action, effectively instructing facilities to update their out-of-date permits before enforcement comes out for an inspection and forces them to.
Consider this a friendly warning/reminder from the NJDEP to make sure that your permit(s) are current, up-to-date, and adequately cover your entire operation.
If you aren’t sure what this compliance advisory about air permits looks like or can’t get your hands on a copy, here’s that notice.
What are PCP96 and PCP97 air permits?
If you’re new to environmental compliance, your business, or the world of air permitting in New Jersey, you might be wondering what these terms mean. Let’s break them down.
In New Jersey, PCP stands for Pre-Construction Permit. Pre-Construction Permits are a type of air permit available to certain types of facilities only within the State of New Jersey.
Additionally, the numbers following the letters PCP indicate the year the permit was issued. So, in New Jersey, PCP96 indicates it’s a Pre-Construction Permit from 1996, indicating this air permit was issued back in the 1990s.
Why did the NJDEP issue an air permit compliance advisory for old air permits?
The NJDEP issued this air permit compliance advisory as part of an initiative to bring all past and current air permits up to speed with current air quality regulations here in New Jersey. The reason for this is because many facilities may be unknowingly out of compliance with both the State of New Jersey and Federal air permitting regulations.
If you’re out of compliance, you may be subject to enforcement. This notice is a friendly heads up to make sure you’re in compliance and properly permitted. To put it in a simpler manner, this is akin to a police officer letting you go with a written warning.
Even though you are technically in compliance with your old permit, you are not in compliance with current standards.
This means that the NJDEP can (and will) come out to your facility and issue a violation for complying with your air quality permit. Doesn’t make sense, but it’s how these things work.
The logic in this is that since the PCP96 and PCP97 air permits were originally released by the NJDEP, things have changed in terms of regulatory requirements. As such, the permits need to be updated with those new compliance changes. Again, this compliance bulletin is a friendly heads up to get into compliance before the NJDEP shows up and forces you to get into compliance.
Why didn’t NJDEP update my permits several years ago?
Good question! A lot of environmental permits here in New Jersey are out of date at the time of writing this. There are stormwater permits that are pushing a decade behind in terms of reinsurance. We don’t know why things are so behind, but they are. Air permits in New Jersey are no different. The NJDEP categorizes preconstruction permits (PCP96 and PCP97) as pre-NJEMs (New Jersey Environmental Management System) permits, meaning they were created before the DEP went fully online for air permit applications.
The NJDEP has steadily been updating these air permits over many years, as just a few years ago the number of PCP96 and PCP97 air permits was over 20,000, and now it is almost under 2,500. One can tell that this is a strong department initiative, and it no longer is a question of is the DEP is coming out, but when, and if you have a PCP96 or PCP97, it is soon.
Facilities in New Jersey should note that the onus is on them to update their air quality permits. However, a common way permits are updated is the NJDEP performing an inspection and indicating that the facility needs a permit modification because they have unpermitted equipment. If you are inspected and out of compliance, even though you’re in compliance with your old permit, you can still be issued a violation. This could be a friendly “get into compliance” warning (which again, is what this notice is) or it could be a monetary fine for being out of compliance.
Again, the NJDEP is treating this notice as your warning. When they show up, and you’re out of compliance with current requirements, we’re betting they’re going to be issuing fines and forcing you to get covered under the new air permit.
Why shouldn’t I just wait for the NJDEP to update my air permit?
Facilities certainly can do this, but there are several reasons to opt for updating your permit NOW.
Out of Compliance with Your Air Permit = Trouble
Again, if you are in compliance with your OLD permit (the PCP 96 or PCP97 air permits) you are out of compliance with current requirements. Being out of compliance can be anything, from inspectors issuing fines and penalties to harming the relationship with your inspector. Either way, this means a heightened risk of increased scrutiny now and in the future, because you’re out of compliance today.
Taking the appropriate steps NOW can avoid costly violations when the NJDEP shows up to your business and performs their inspection. Common examples of items they will be inspecting are gasoline storage tanks, emergency generators, and boilers.
New air permits can SAVE you money!
Facilities may be able to qualify for a general air permit instead of a costlier preconstruction permit. That’s right, by switching to a general air permit, instead of hanging onto your old PCP96 or PCP97 air permit, you can actually save your business money.
General permits cost $885 initially and the same price to renew, while preconstruction permits begin at $1375 and add $365 per additional piece of equipment. Common sources that can opt for a general air permit include boilers, emergency generators, and gasoline storage tanks.
Additionally, if you’re correctly permitted, there’s no chance of being issued a fine for non-compliance, also saving your business money!
Proactive, Not Reactive
Chances are there have been some changes to your facility in the last 25(ish) years. Even things you may think are no big deal like replacing equipment or adding storage tanks, could have large impacts on your air permit compliance levels here in New Jersey.
The takeaway is this - if you are a facility in New Jersey with the PCP96 or PCP97 air permit, you are on the NJDEP’s radar. They are going around, forcing operations to switch to a new, modern permit, and issuing fines for non-compliance.
As stated in the enforcement letter, inspections facilities with PCP96 and PCP97 are a high priority for enforcement.
It is better to be proactive, ensure you are correctly permitted, and rest easy knowing that you are in compliance with the new regulations (which are NOT in your PCP96 or PCP97 air permit) than to have it told to you by an NJDEP inspector.
How do I know if I have a PCP96 or PCP97 air permit at my business in New Jersey?
The NJDEP has been clear that having the old air permits, either the PCP96 or PCP97 does not excuse a facility from compliance with current regulations, which are above and beyond what the old permit includes. That means check your permit status ASAP. How do you do that?
A quick way for facilities in New Jersey to determine if they are subject to this advisory is to determine if they have any air permits beginning with PCP96 or PCP97. If a facility has any permits that begin with this, they are subject to the advisory and should expect to receive an inspection from the NJDEP soon. We’re not talking years down the road; we’re talking weeks to months.
What should I do if I have an old air permit in New Jersey?
Our advice would be to take action now. What this means depends on your operation, your permit(s), and other various factors. To overly generalize it, here’s what we recommend.
Review your air permits. What do you have? Are you impacted by this compliance advisory from the NJDEP? If you have an air permit (or more than one) that starts with PCP96 or PCP97 then you will need to take action, either voluntarily or involuntarily, depending on when the NJDEP comes out to enforce the new regulations.
Update your air permits ASAP. You might terminate your old pre-construction air permit and get covered under a new, cheaper general air permit. You might modify your existing permit to update compliance requirements and/or accurate equipment listings. It all depends on your operation.
Get into compliance with your air permit – and stay there! Regardless of whether you need a new permit or can modify an existing one, you’ll need to get into compliance and then adhere to the new regulations. That’s easier said than done, but the fact is these requirements are not negotiable and must be adhered to. Otherwise, you could be facing enforcement actions which could end up costing you time and money.
Need help with air permits at your operation in New Jersey?
If you're dealing with air permits and finding yourself overwhelmed, you're not alone. Here at RMA, we’ve been actively involved in assisting organizations to get and stay in compliance with environmental regulations since we opened our doors back in 1992. We know the ins and outs of the environmental challenges commercial and industrial facilities can face here in New Jersey. If you’re struggling, we can help you get into compliance with environmental laws and regulations at your operation here in New Jersey (or anywhere in the United States), ensuring your company stays in compliance and out of trouble.
Our staff has been on-site at thousands of operations across the country, so when we say we've seen it all, we mean it. We've helped all types of facilities and organizations, from multinationals to small "mom & pop" businesses. No matter your size, industry, or location, we'd love to learn if and how we can assist you and your business.
If you're having any type of problem at your operation, whether it’s air permits, SPCC Plans, stormwater permits, or more, and need the help of an environmental consulting firm with a proven track record, reach out! Even if we can't help your business, we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction or recommend someone who can.
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