The APCD Permit Process

Why Does the APCD Issue Permits?

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board and have established health-based clean air standards and given the District primary responsibility for controlling air pollution from local stationary sources to help us attain these standards.

Air pollution is caused by large and small businesses, motor vehicles, consumer products, and natural sources. In order to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve clean air, the District needs to know how much pollution is created by each source, and must ensure that every business is operated to minimize the air pollution they cause.

To fulfill this responsibility, we adopt rules in accordance with state and federal laws and issue permits requiring compliance with these rules. Permits allow us to specify conditions of construction and operation that are consistent with our county-wide clean air strategy, and to quantify and track emissions that have been permitted to occur.

In summary, permits are required:

  1. To provide information to the District on the type and amount of air pollution caused by businesses. This information is essential for planning a county-wide clean air strategy.
  2. To ensure that businesses are designed, constructed, and operated to minimize air pollution.

Who Needs a Permit?

Stationary sources (e.g., businesses, utilities, government agencies, and universities) need a District permit before constructing, changing, replacing, or operating any equipment or process which may cause air pollution. This includes equipment designed to reduce air pollution. Permits are also required if an existing business that causes air pollution transfers ownership, relocates, or otherwise changes their operations.

Examples of operations that need APCD permits are offshore oil and gas platforms, onshore oil and gas facilities, gas stations, dry cleaners, cement batch plants, auto body shops, wood refinishing operations, and operators of internal combustion engines rated ≥ 50 bhp. A more detailed list is provided below.

You may also need land use clearance from either the county or a city planning department. In these cases, those planning departments are the lead agency under CEQA and you’ll need their approval first before the District can issue our permit. As such, it is important that you check with the building department and the Distrit early in the permit process to determine what is required.

The following activities may require an APCD permit:

  • Agricultural Milling
  • Asphalt Batch Plants
  • Boilers
  • Bulk Material Transfer & Storage Equipment
  • Chrome Plating
  • Circuit Board Manufacturing
  • Cogeneration Facilities
  • Concrete Batch Plants 
  • Contaminated Soil/Water Cleanup Systems
  • Cooling Towers Crematories Curing & Burnoff Ovens
  • Diesel Emergency Standby Generators (≥ 50 bhp)
  • Degreasing Operations
  • Dredges
  • Dryers
  • Emission Control Equipment
  • Ethylene Oxide Sterilizers
  • Fiberglass Fabrication Operations
  • Flares/Thermal Oxidizers
  • Fumigation Chambers
  • Furnaces Furniture Stripping Operations
  • Fume Hoods
  • Gasoline Dispensing Equipment
  • Gasoline Storage Equipment
  • Graphic Arts Printing
  • Incinerators
  • Internal Combustion Engines – All Fuels (≥ 50 bhp)
  • Kilns
  • Laboratory Hoods
  • Oil/Gas Production & Process Equipment
  • Oil Water Separators
  • Organic Liquid Storage Tanks
  • Paint Manufacturing
  • Paint Spray Booths Paint Spray Equipment (>40 gal/yr)
  • Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing
  • Product Dryers (e.g. aggregate)
  • Rock Crushing & Screening Equipment
  • Sand & Gravel Operations
  • Surface Coating Equipment
  • Waste Water Treatment Plants
  • Wet Scrubbers
  • Wineries
  • Wood Chippers/Tub Grinders

This list is not exhaustive. If you have any questions or concerns about whether you need an APCD permit, e-mail our Engineering Division or call (805) 979-8050 or email Business Assistance.

The Permit Process: The Basic Steps

The Permitting Process Typically Has Four Phases:

1.  Authority to Construct (ATC) Permit. 

The ATC permit allows for the construction of a new facility or installation as well as modification of equipment at an existing facility. The ATC ensures that the equipment is designed, constructed, and operated to meet local, state, and federal air quality requirements. The requirements of Regulation VIII, New Source Review, are applied to ATC permit applications.

2.  Source Compliance Demonstration Period (SCDP). 

After construction, installation, or modification that is done under an ATC, the SCDP allows for temporary operation for testing, calibration, and demonstration of compliance with the ATC’s requirements.

3.  Permit to Operate (PTO). 

The PTO allows for ongoing operation of the facility in accordance with all permit conditions and local, state, and federal air quality requirements.  Operating permits are renewed annually upon payment of annual fees.

4.  Reevaluation (Reeval).  The PTO is “reevaluated” every three years at which time it is updated as necessary to ensure compliance and to reflect any changes to local, state, or federal requirements. Gasoline service stations with Phase II vapor recovery are only renewed on an annual basis.

How to Apply for a Permit

There are two permits required: first the Authority to Construct (ATC), and after construction and demonstration of compliance, the Permit to Operate (PTO).  The ATC is required before construction begins, so you should submit the application well in advance of your planned start date.

To get an ATC or PTO application use the Permits and Engineering Download Documents feature of this web site. The completed application must include a detailed description of your equipment and information on materials and operations.

Within 30 days of when you submit your application, our permitting staff will either find the application “complete,” which means it contains all the necessary information, or will request additional information.

Once the application is determined to be complete, our permitting staff review the calculations, if any; evaluate the consistency of the project with local, state, and federal air pollution control requirements; and prepare a draft ATC or PTO which describes how the equipment must be operated to minimize air pollution. You may be provided a draft of the permit to review. Your review of the draft permit is very important. You can ensure the permit is accurate and that you understand and agree with the conditions under which you will be required to operate.

Permit Fees

Why do we charge fees?

We charge permit fees to cover our costs for reviewing applications, issuing permits, and ensuring compliance. Different fees apply to different types of permits and equipment.

Our agency’s mission is to provide clean air for the residents of our community. To do this costs money. Federal and State law requires us to implement our air pollution regulatory program and allows us to charge fees to recover our costs. The agency gets no money from property or general taxes collected by Santa Barbara County. Instead, the money to accomplish our mission and mandates comes primarily from fees we charge to businesses and other sources of air pollution.

When are fees due?

Fees are due to the APCD within 30 days of receiving an invoice from the APCD.

How are the fees used?

With the exception of DMV fees, all fees paid to the District stay within the District to fund specific air pollution program activities. A portion of the DMV fees are “passed through” to other agencies to implement pollution reduction programs. Permit filing fees cover the cost of determining whether a permit application is complete and for related administrative paperwork activities. Permit evaluation fees cover the cost of performing an permit evaluation, issuing the permit, compliance monitoring, and three years of inspections. Annual emission fees are used to fund District programs such as air monitoring, air quality planning, emission inventory, business assistance, public education, emergency response, and special projects.  Reevaluation fees pay for three years of facility inspections and for the permit reevaluation processing. Air Toxics “Hot Spots” fees are used to fund the Air Toxics “Hot Spots” program (Assembly Bill 2588).  Annual air toxics emission fees are used for regulating air toxics.

What permit fees should I expect?

1. Application Filing Fee

This is a flat fee which covers the initial review of your ATC or PTO application to determine if all required information has been included as well as related administrative paperwork activities. Payment must accompany each submitted application. The current application filing fee is listed in our Rule 210 fee schedule in Schedule F.

2. Evaluation Fee

This fee is based on the number and type of equipment proposed, and covers the technical processing and compliance inspections related to the ATC or PTO permit to determine if the project meets all local, state, and federal requirements. The invoice for this fee is sent with the final permit when it is issued.  Schedule A in Rule 210 lists the application fee rates per equipment type. Large projects may be charged on a cost reimbursement (time and materials) basis.

3. Reevaluation Fee

For most permitted businesses, the permit is reviewed (reevaluated) every three years and updated as necessary. A reevaluation fee is charged according to Schedule A of Rule 210 based on the number and type of equipment. This reevaluation fee renews the operating permit for three more years and covers the costs of updating and evaluating the permit and three years of inspections and compliance monitoring. The fee is due within 30 days after the final re-evaluation is issued. These fees are calculated in the same manner as the permit evaluation fees, except that there is a minimum flat fee.

What other permit-related fees should I expect?

1. Source Test Fee

Sources permitted under the fee schedule of Rule 210 that require a compliance source test are assessed a fee for APCD staff to review source test plans and subsequent reports as well as to witness the test at the facility. An invoice is sent to the source prior to actual plan submittals.

2. Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Program Fee

This fee partially supports the APCD’s Air Toxics Hot Spots Program which is required by H&SC 44300 et. seq. These fees were approved by the Air Resources Board and are fixed. The fees are based on actual annual emissions of total organic gases (TOG), particulate matter (PM), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and oxides of sulfur (SOx), and the classification of the facility. If the facility emissions are less than 25 tons per year for each of these pollutants (as is the case for dry cleaners), then it will be assessed a flat fee. Outer Continental Shelf sources are not subject to the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program.

3. Annual Emission Fee

This fee is based on a facility’s actual emissions in the preceding year. For permitted businesses that emit less than 10 tons of criteria pollutants in a year, a flat fee is assessed. Facilities that emit more than 10 tons per year (TPY) are assessed a fee in accordance with Schedule B-3. The emissions from a business are calculated based on data from the throughput reports that the facility is required to submit. The annual emission fee is typically sent out between January to June, every year, depending on the facility’s emissions.

4. Air Quality Attainment Plan Fee

This fee helps fund the preparation of mandated air quality plans necessary for the attainment and maintenance of ambient air quality standards. This fee only applies to large permitted sources, those with permitted or actual emissions greater than 10 tons per year. Fees are assessed according to Fee Schedule B-1, and the fee is typically sent out in January, every year.

Are fees adjusted for inflation?

Rule 210 fees are typically adjusted annually on July 1st to account for inflation. The California Consumers Price Index is used for assessing these adjustments.

The APCD Fee Schedule

Download a copy of the APCD Fee Schedule.

Who can I contact if I have questions?

General Questions

Send e-mail via the Internet to [email protected]

Need Application Forms

Application forms may be downloaded from our Download page.

For more information or assistance, call the District at (805) 979-8050 or e-mail us at  [email protected].

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