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Air Quality

Complying with environmental regulations can often be burdensome for Pennsylvania small businesses especially when it comes to issues related to air quality.  Complex regulatory language, long permitting forms and applications, and the need to quantify air emissions from stationary sources, equipment, or operations often confuse small businesses. 

While small business typically do not emit as much air pollution as a large business normally does, small businesses may still be regulated and subject to air quality permitting or other regulations. 

What are common air pollutants and how are they regulated?

The most common air pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate matter (PM10), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Operations that emit one or more of these pollutants may be subject to permitting regulations. This depends not only on actual pollution emitted, but also on the potential to emit.

Does the size of my business matter?

Air permitting regulations are based on the amount of air pollutants that a business can or does emit, not on business size.

How do I determine the total emissions from my facility?

Look at all sources at your facility that emit pollutants. A “source” is any piece of equipment with potential to emit pollutants. Each individual source is subject to regulations.

Do all air emission sources require permits?

No! The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has exempted some types of air pollutant sources from permit requirements because their emissions are of minor significance. Businesses that meet exemption requirements do not need to apply for an air quality permit.

How do I understand the “alphabet soup” of acronyms in the air quality field?

There are a lot of acronyms used in air quality.  This can be confusing and hard to navigate, especially for someone new to the field of air quality.  Lucky for you, there is a cheat sheet of air quality acronyms and common abbreviations to make things a little easier for your small business.

Where I can learn more?

The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act provides a relatively simple summary of the 1990 Clean Air Act that may help you understand what is in law and how it may affect your small business.

Who is subject to Air Regulations?

The resources below will help you learn about local, state and federal air pollution control regulations and how they apply to your business.

In Pennsylvania, Allegheny and Philadelphia counties have air pollution control regulations separate from the rest of the state.  If your business is in one of those counties, refer to the links below.  Federal air pollution regulations apply to all facilities in the U.S.

Is my Small Business “Grandfathered” from Air Quality Regulations?

Environmental air quality regulations and permits cover equipment no matter when it was built or installed.  Sure, there might be more lenient emission limits for some older equipment, but that does not stop them from needing a permit.

Facilities and equipment can be exempt. That’s different. If the DEP considers the emissions or equipment to be insignificant then they do not need a permit.  That has nothing to do with how long the business has been in the same place.

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Speak to a consultant about your environmental compliance questions.
Jeremy Hancher is the EMAP Program Manager located at the Widener University SBDC.  He holds over 15 years of experience in environmental compliance, environmental policy, and program management.  He is proud to be the team lead of the award-winning EMAP program which provides free and confidential environmental assistance to the Pennsylvania small business community in fulfillment of the requirements of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act and Section 507 of the federal Clean Air Act.
In 2015, Jeremy was part of the team effort when EMAP was recognized by US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Outstanding Accomplishments by a State Small Business Environmental Assistance Provider in Providing Technical Environmental Assistance to the Small Business Community. Jeremy holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a certificate from the Wharton School.