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Indiana Department of Environmental Management


Chapter 6: Table of Contents

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Chapter 6 - Section V: Categories of Permits

Each construction or operation permit falls into two categories: general or individual. A general permit is a single permit written to cover multiple entities with similar characteristics. Individual permits are issued on a case-by-case basis and tailored to the specific applicant. These individual permits contain specific criteria or conditions and requirements that are usually stricter then those found in the general permit. Because the requirements are written individually, an individual permit takes much longer to create.

General Permits

  • What:
    • Permits regulating a specific type of activity, allowing many entities to operate under the same rules.
  • Public-Notice Process:
    • General wastewater permits:
      • Applicant publishes a notice in a local paper.
    • General drinking water construction permits
      • Applicant publishes a notice in a local paper, and sends a photocopy to IDEM, along with a completed Notice of Intent.
    • General air emissions permits
      • No public notice or public comment period required.

What are general permits?

General permits are types of permits regulating a specific type of activity, allowing many entities that would use similar criteria to operate under the same set of rules. A general permit may also limit the amount of activity or production that may occur.

General permits are best suited for the regulation of numerous, very similar facilities or sources with low levels of emissions and discharges. Due to the nature of the permit, these entities are generally smaller facilities. For example, when it comes to permitting requirements, most auto body paint shops, sand and gravel pits, or coal handling facilities have similar operational needs. When permitting storm water run-off, each construction site needs to take the same basic precautions, regardless of what is being built. So long as the applicant agrees to conduct activities under pre-set limits established by the original "apply general rule," the facility will be able any permit which it is eligible. Facilities sources whose emissions discharges could have significant environmental impact are not eligible to operate under a permit, and must for an individual permit.

There are limited opportunities for participation in the decision-making process when a facility or source seeks to operate under a general permit. Any concerns about the environmental impact of a particular type of activity allowed under general permits were addressed during the rulemaking process that initially created the general permit. If Hoosiers do oppose the issuance of a general permit, an appeal may be filed.

IDEM is able to save a great deal of staff time and state resources by utilizing general permits. Instead of considering permit requests one at a time for common and widespread activities, IDEM's general permits ensure the environment is protected from unnecessary impacts of hundreds of construction sites, grain elevators, or other activities. General permits allow both IDEM and the public to focus their time and energy on facilities and sources with potentially higher environmental impacts.

What types of activities are regulated by general permits?

General Wastewater Permits

There are several types of general permits for wastewater discharges. These are also frequently referred to as a "permit-by-rule." For more detailed information, visit the IDEM On-line Permit Guide. General permits for wastewater include, but are not limited to:

  1. Storm water run-off caused by rain or melting snow and ice from construction sites;
  2. Storm water run-off from selected industrial facilities;
  3. Cooling water from boiler systems that has not mixed with sanitary wastewater or wastewater from industrial processes; and,
  4. Water from settling basins at sand and gravel pits or stone quarries.
General Drinking Water Construction Permits

Water main extensions for public water systems may be constructed using a general permit.

General Air Emissions Permits

There are several types of general permits for specific "low emissions" sources of air pollution. These general, or permit-by-rule, style air permits are called source specific operation agreements (SSOA). A SSOA may regulate the operation of grain elevators, sand and gravel operations, stone crushers, paint shops, woodworking shops, concrete batch plants, degreasing operations, and certain print operations. A source may have up to four different types of SSOAs at one location.

IDEM also allows some sources to operate under a "permit-by-rule." This type of general permit may be used by a facility demonstrating that its actual emissions never exceed 20 percent of the emissions of a major source. Sources operating under the "permit-by-rule" must be able to demonstrate for any 12-month period their actual emissions did not exceed "permit-by-rule" thresholds.

IDEM issues a general Federal Enforceable State Operating Permit (FESOP) for asphalt sources that are controlled by a baghouse. This permit has stricter emissions limitations and compliance monitoring than a case-by-case FESOP for an Asphalt plant. For more detailed information about general air permits, visit the IDEM On-line Permit Guide.

Individual Permits

  • What:
    • Permits issued on a facility specific, case-by-case basis.
  • Permitting Process:
    • Application
    • Public Participation
      • Public Notice
      • Public Comment Period
      • Public Meeting/Hearing
    • Notice of Decision
    • Appeals Process

What are individual permits?

Individual environmental permits are issued on a facility specific, case-by-case basis. Individual permits are usually used to regulate large or complex facilities and sources with a potential for significant environmental impact.

What is the overall process IDEM follows to issue an individual environmental permit?

Although the review process for each of the various types of air, water, and waste disposal permitting programs is slightly different, below is a general description of the process for individual permits:

Step 1 - The Application

The applicant submits a permit application form and a non-refundable fee.

  • The application contains basic information such as:
    • Who will own or assume legal responsibility for the facility,
    • Where the responsible party may be reached, and
    • Where the new facility or source is to be located.
  • The application also should include detailed technical information describing the facility and how it will be built and operated. The level of detail may differ, depending on the facility.

      IDEM only has a certain amount of time to review each environmental permit application, and to make a decision about whether to issue or deny a permit. The time limit varies with the type of permit being sought. When a permit application is received, a "time clock" begins to run. That time clock only stops running:

      • While IDEM waits for the applicant to provide more information needed to make a decision,
      • If the applicant agrees that the time clock may be stopped, or
      • When the final permitting decision is issued.

      IDEM requires the permit application be completed before IDEM will consider whether or not to issue the permit. If portions of the application are incomplete, or additional information is required prior to issuing the permit decision, a notice of deficiency (NOD) will be sent to the applicant. If a notice of deficiency is sent to the applicant, the permit time clock will be stopped, and no further work on the permitting request will be done until all the application is complete.

      If a public hearing is held regarding issuance of the permit, 30 to 45 additional days are added to the "time clock." If IDEM does not complete the application review and issue a final permitting decision within the deadline, the agency must refund the application fee.

      Most permit applications require the applicant to provide a list of interested parties, also known as stakeholders, who may be affected by the permit. IDEM will then notify all stakeholders at the time of decision on the permit request. In addition, IDEM must notify specific local officials identified by the applicant.

      Applicants generally are required to notify the adjoining property owners or occupants that an application for a permit for a new or expanding facility or source has been filed. This notification is not required for permit renewals.

      Step 2 - The Public Participation Process

      For solid waste disposal permits issued by IDEM, a public comment period is held as soon as all the information required to process the application has been received.

      For permits associated with air emissions or wastewater discharges, staff will first review the complete application and prepare a draft permit. Once the draft permit is prepared, it is available for public review during a public comment period.

      During the public comment period, the public may submit comments and concerns about the proposed permit to IDEM. Depending on the level of public interest, a public meeting or public hearing may also be held during the public comment period.

      After the conclusion of the public comment period, IDEM will consider all comments received and either prepare the final permit or deny the permit request. Written responses will be prepared for all comments received.

      Step 3 - The Permitting Decision

      A notice of decision describing the project, the type of permit requested and whether a permit was issued or denied will be sent to the applicant and various local officials. Anyone who submitted public comments or requested to be notified of the decision and any persons identified by the applicant as having an interest will also receive a notice of decision.

      If a permit is issued, the applicant will receive a copy of the permit. Interested parties may view a public copy of the permit, the location of which will be described in the notice of decision. Often, these documents are displayed at a library, a county health department, or in the IDEM file room. Some program areas post permits on the IDEM Web site. Additionally, a copy of the permit may be requested, although a copying fee may be charged. The notice of decision will also include IDEM's response to public comments. If the permit is denied, the notice of decision will also explain why IDEM denied the permit.

      Step 4 - Appeals

      Each notice of decision also will provide information about how any interested party may appeal IDEM's final decision to issue or deny a permit. Appeals must be filed with the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication (OEA)

      When should you be notified?

      State law says that certain permit applicants must notify all "adjoining property owners and occupants.” This means the owner must notify adjoining property owners, as well as anyone who may be renting businesses or homes on adjoining properties. This also includes residents of apartments, mobile homes, or mobile home lots. Adjoining property owners and occupants also include those located across the street or road from the facility seeking an environmental permit, or permits.

      This requirement applies to nearly all air, water, or waste disposal permits. If the applicant fails to meet the notification requirement, that failure can be grounds for an appeal of any permit issued.

      After submitting an environmental permit application, the applicant must provide notice to adjoining properties in writing within 10 working days. This time limit does not include Saturdays, Sundays or state holidays. Additionally, the written notice must include the date the permit application was submitted to IDEM and must briefly describe the proposed project and type of permit being sought.

      The requirement to notify adjoining property owners or occupants does not apply to the renewal of any existing permit, if no expansion is part of that permit renewal. It also does not apply to permits for the construction, installation or changes to:

      • sanitary sewers;
      • storm sewers;
      • public water supplies;
      • water main extensions; or,
      • 401 Water Quality Certifications.

      When or how are your local officials involved?

      State law requires IDEM notify county commissioners and the top official for a city or town within ten days of receiving an application for an environmental permit. Other local officials may also be notified. Some program areas also notify local officials of the final permitting decision. To fulfill this duty, IDEM will also accept a certification from the applicant that they notified local officials.