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Air Quality Program

Air Operating Permits

The federal Clean Air Act requires all states to have statewide operating permit programs for businesses and industries that are the largest sources of air pollution. An air operating permit contains all the requirements that apply to an air pollution source. Ecology, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), and any of seven local air quality agencies have received United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval to administer Washington’s air operating permit program.

This web site is intended for air pollution sources and regulators. For more general information about air operating permits, see Ecology’s Focus Sheet on Washington’s Air Operating Permit Program.


About the Operating Permit Program

Title V of the federal Clean Air Act requires states to develop and implement an operating permit program in accordance with 40 CFR Part 70 for facilities that are the largest sources of air pollution. These Operating Permits are often referred to as Air Operating Permits (AOPs), Title V Permits, or Part 70 Permits. They combine into one document all operational and procedural requirements, applicable regulations, emission standards, and monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. The purpose of the Operating Permit is to make it easier to comply with and enforce air pollution laws.

Washington’s Operating Permit Regulation is in Chapter 173-401 Washington Administrative Code. It requires a facility to have an Operating Permit if it has the potential to emit any of the following:

  • More than 100 tons per year of any pollutant, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM). Lower thresholds may apply in nonattainment areas;
  • More than 10 tons per year of any hazardous air pollutant (HAP), as listed in subsection 112(b) of the federal Clean Air Act; or
  • More than 25 tons per year of a combination of any HAPs.

A facility may also be required to have an Operating Permit if it is subject to certain federal air quality requirements, including:

  • Title IV Acid Rain Program;
  • New Source Performance Standards (NSPS); or
  • National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).

For more information about Washington’s AOP Program, please use the following links:

Washington Operating Permit Sources and Permitting Agencies

Agencies with authority to issue permits in Washington are:

  • Ecology, including:
    o three regional offices,
    o the Industrial Section which works statewide with pulp and paper mills and aluminum smelters, and
    o the Nuclear Waste Program at Hanford;
  • any of seven local air agencies;
  • the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC); and
  • EPA.

The table below provides links to Operating Permits issued by each agency of jurisdiction.

Regulatory Agency Jurisdiction (counties) Location/Phone
Department of Ecology: Central Regional Office Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Klickitat, and Okanogan Yakima, WA (509) 575-2490
Department of Ecology: Eastern Regional Office Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Spokane, WA
(509) 329-3400
Department of Ecology Industrial Section Statewide Pulp and Paper mills and Aluminum Smelters Olympia, WA
(360) 407-6916
Department of Ecology Nuclear Waste Program Hanford Reservation Richland, WA
(509) 372-7950
Benton Clean Air Authority Benton Kennewick, WA
(509) 783-1304
Northwest Clean Air Agency Island, Skagit, and Whatcom Mt. Vernon, WA (360) 428-1617
Olympic Region Clean Air Agency Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Olympia, WA  (360) 586-1044
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish Seattle, WA  (206) 343-8800
Southwest Clean Air Agency Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum Vancouver, WA (360) 574-3058
Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency Spokane Spokane, WA (509) 477-4727
Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency Yakima Yakima, WA (509) 834-2050
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA/Region 10 Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska Tribal Lands Seattle, WA  (206) 553-8087
State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council Statewide Major Energy Facilities Olympia, WA (360) 956-2121 
Department of Ecology, Northwest Regional Office San Juan County Bellevue, WA (425) 649-7000


Operating Permit Application Materials

Ecology, EFSEC, and local air agencies process Air Operating Permit applications for facilities in their jurisdictions. Facilities must submit an application within 12 months of becoming subject to the permit program. Permits are issued for a term of five years. An application to renew a permit is due six to 18 months before the permit expires.

For an operating permit application for facilities in Ecology’s jurisdiction, use the links below.

Operating Permit Budget

EPA requires Ecology, EFSEC, and local air agencies to fund their operating permit programs by collecting fees from facilities subject to the program. The fees collected must be sufficient to cover the costs of developing and administering the program. Ecology, EFSEC, and local air agencies each have operating permit fee schedules in their respective rules.

Ecology determines its operating permit fees based on a workload analysis and budget prepared each biennium. The analysis identifies permit administration activities needed to issue and oversee operating permits at facilities under Ecology’s jurisdiction. It also identifies activities associated with development and oversight of the statewide operating permit program for the biennium.

From this workload analysis, Ecology prepares a budget projection for the biennium. This projection covers the entire cost of the program activities identified in the analysis. Ecology publishes a notice that the draft biennial workload analysis and budget is available for public comment in the Operating Permit Register. Comments on the draft can be submitted for up to 60 days following the publishing date. Following the public comment period, Ecology finalizes the workload analysis and budget.

Following the end of the fiscal year, a report summarizing the Air Operating Permit program is prepared.

Operating Permit Fees

Permit Administration - Ecology calculates operating permit administration fees for facilities in its jurisdiction using a three-tiered structure that accounts for:

  • number of facilities with operating permits in Ecology’s jurisdiction,
  • complexity of the operating permit facility, and
  • actual air emissions from the facility.

Program Development and Oversight - Operating permit program development and oversight fees are apportioned out to each permitting agency based on the number of operating permit sources in their jurisdiction. Ecology collects this fee from operating permit sources in its jurisdiction as part of the three-tiered structure described above. Local air agencies collect the development and oversight fee from facilities in their jurisdictions, and pass it on to Ecology.

Ecology publishes the current fiscal year’s fee schedule by October 31st in the Operating Permit Register.

For the most recent fee schedule, contact: Crystal Alford, (509) 329-3595

Operating Permit Register

Washington maintains an Operating Permit Register, which is updated on the 10th and 25th of each month (or on the nearest business day). This register publishes notices of permit actions or program changes and allows a mechanism for public involvement.

Permit actions include:

  • completion of a draft or final permit,
  • scheduled hearings and public meetings, and
  • permit changes.

Program changes include:

  • draft workload analysis,
  • draft budget, and
  • fee schedule.

For more information on the action published in the permit register, contact Ecology, EFSEC, or the local air agency with jurisdiction.

Operating permit register

Agency contact: Crystal Alford, (509) 329-3595

Operating Permit Program Accountability

Washington’s operating permit program undergoes frequent fiscal and performance audits. The State Auditor’s Office conducts fiscal audits of Ecology and each local air agency operating permit program every two years. These audits focus on:

  • computation of fees and revenue collected,
  • timeliness of invoicing, billing and collection,
  • accounting practices for fee revenues and expenditures, and
  • use of collected fees.

See Ecology's FY10 AOP Fiscal Report.

Performance audits of Ecology’s and each local air agency’s operating permit program are conducted yearly.  They include:

  • Routine performance audits
  • Random individual permit reviews

A Performance Audit Report is compiled with specific information from the reviews of Ecology’s and each local air agency’s programs.  Use the links below for recent audit reports.

In addition, EPA periodically reviews Ecology’s, EFSEC’s, and local clean air agencies’ air operating permit programs. These reviews allow EPA to identify recommendations for improvement and ensure fair and consistent enforcement and compliance programs across the state.

Results of EPA’s most recent evaluation of the permit writing portion of the air operating permit program (Program Review) can be found here.

posted_ 8/22/13 Another Program Review is currently being conducted by EPA of select agencies within the state. Final results of this review will be posted once they are available.

Results of EPA’s evaluation of the compliance and enforcement portion of the air operating permit program (State Review Framework) can be found here

posted_ 8/22/13 The second State Review Framework has been completed by EPA and the final report and recommendations will be posted this fall at the link posted above. In addition, planning for a third State Review Framework in Washington is already underway.

NOTE: PDF forms and other type documents may require one of these free readers.

For more information

Contact the appropriate air quality agency for your area.

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