By Jeryl L. Olson and Rebecca A. Davis

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has joined several other states (including e.g., Illinois, Minnesota, and South Carolina) in implementing an expedited air permit process where applicants can, for a fee, enjoy accelerated air permit review, and issuance of air permits, in Georgia.

The expedited permitting program is optional for permit applicants. See Standard Operating Procedures for Expedited Permitting Program, and EPD Permit Application Procedures, Georgia Rules Chapter 391-3-1. As such, there is no guarantee that a particular application permit will be accepted, and EPD can still reject applications for a variety of reasons.

Expedited Permitting Program – Eligibility

To participate in the expediting permitting process, an applicant must meet several eligibility criteria. First, only certain types of permits will be reviewed under the program: the process cannot be used for Title V initial permit applications, Title V renewal applications, minor modifications without construction, administrative amendment requests, or for simple changes such as a change in ownership or name. Second, EPD has stressed that, as part of the eligibility, applicants who submit “high quality applications” are more likely to be accepted into the expedited review program.

As part of the eligibility process, applicants requesting entry into the expedited permitting program must participate in a pre-application meeting with EPD. For PSD permit applications, the pre-application meeting must take place with EPD at least 30 days prior to submission of the PSD permit application and, for all other types of permits allowed under the program, the pre-application meeting must take place at least 14 days prior to submittal of the application by the applicant.

Certain applications are ineligible for the program. EPD reserves the right to reject an application determined to be “highly unusual,” “unusually complex,” “very controversial,” or “large in scope.” As suggested earlier, applications determined to be of “poor overall quality” will be ineligible for the program.

Expedited Permitting Program – Fees

The fees collected by EPD under the expedited permitting program will be used to offset the cost of expediting the permit applications. Expedited permit fees vary depending on the type of permit. Minor source, synthetic minor, PSD permits, and NESHAPs permits have varying time periods for review and range somewhat based on the type of industry. For example, the fee for a concrete batch plant, minor source will cost $1,000, while the fee for the expedited review of a non-attainment new source review permit will cost $40,000. (Fees for expedited review of PSD permits are in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.)

Expedited Permitting Program – Timing

EPD has established a schedule that predicts the number of days for review under the expedited permitting program and like the fee schedule varies depending on the type of permit (generic permits, minor source permits, synthetic minor permits, major source permits subject to PSD, major source permits not subject to PSD, etc.) and the type of industry (asphalt plants, concrete batch plants, etc.).  A specific application form has been developed by EPD and must be used for entry into the program. Once the applicant is notified of their selection for expedited review, they must verbally accept or reject the program within five days of acceptance into the program and must pay the expedited permit review fee within ten business days of the acceptance. It should be noted that where public hearings are requested on a permit, at least 60 days will be added to the expedited review deadline.

Much like other states experimenting with an expedited review process, Georgia EPD will reassess the program after a period of time to determine its success. EPD insists that this program will not result in a delay of processing permit applications not involved in the expedited permit program.