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Air pollution permit

Air pollution permits set the kinds of pollutants and the amounts of them that a company has a right to emit into the ambient air.

If stationary pollution sources are located on different manufacturing territories, the owner must apply for a separate (special) pollution permit for each territory. If however, the pollution sources are located on the same manufacturing territory, the owner can apply for a single permit that covers all sources.

The Environmental Board office in the region in which the pollution source is located is responsible for issuing the owner of the stationary pollution source a pollution permit.

The pollution permit can be for a fixed or indefinite term, depending on the special conditions of the pollution permit. (Atmospheric Air Protection Act § 90).

Provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act and General Part of the Environmental Code Act regulating open proceedings are applied to the application process for a pollution permit or special pollution permit and to proceedings on the issuing and changing of a permit.

Photo: Marit Kivisild
Photo: Marit Kivisild

When is a pollution permit required?

The threshold capacity of equipment and pollutant emission levels beyond which a company must apply for an ambient air pollution permit have been established since 1 January 2017 by regulation of the Minister of the Environment no 67, 14 December 2016, “The capacities of utilized equipment and pollutant emission levels beyond which an ambient air pollution permit is required”. 

In the determination of the obligation to hold a permit, two lines of logic may be applied together or separately.

1. Based on the plant’s capacity
The annual capacity of certain activities is considered, and this is compared with the figures provided in regulation no 67 § 3. According to § 3 (6) of the given regulation: The threshold capacities laid down in § 2 of the given regulation are not applicable to activities named in sections 1-5 of the given paragraph. This provision means in essence that if the activity involves loading specific liquid products, cattle breeding, pig breeding, or poultry farming, combustion plant, only § 3 can be applied, i.e., activity based threshold capacities are applicable

2. Total annual emissions based
Total annual emissions for the entire plant by pollutant or group of pollutants is looked at and compared with the figures in regulation no 67 § 2. If the threshold capacity of at least one pollutant or group of pollutants is being exceeded, a pollution permit is required.

In the case of certain combustion plants, an combined approach is taken – i.e., both of the abovementioned lines of logic are applied. 

It should also be borne in mind that the threshold capacities given in regulation no 67 have been established for specific pollutants or groups of pollutants. For example, all particulate fractions are added together, while heavy metals and their compounds are looked at separately.

For further information, see the relevant Environmental Board instructions.

Application for a pollution permit

Application forms for the pollution permit, as well as requirements related to the content of the permit application have been established by regulation of the Minister of the Environment no 74, 27 December 2016 „Requirements regarding the application forms for the air pollution permit and the content of a draft for the emission allowances, permit application and permit forms“.

When completing an application for an air pollution permit, it should be noted that an inseparable part of the application is a plan for the permitted level of emissions of pollutants being discharged into the ambient air from pollution sources (hereinafter, LHK plan). The LHK plan consists of 12 different parts and is drawn up according to the plant’s activities and technology and the polluting of the ambient air by the plant. The LHK plan and permit issued on the basis of it do not have to contain the data in the tables given in annex 2 of the regulation if they are not relevant in the case of the given plant. If necessary, the parts of the LHK plan containing trade secrets may be indicated. These parts can be submitted separately.

According to regulation no 74, the applicant for the permit must submit to the Environmental Board office in the region in which the source of pollution is located, if possible, an electronically and digitally signed:
1) standard application,
2) a draft for the emission allowances (LHK plan).

Instructions for completing the forms can be found under instructional materials.

NB: While the possession of a pollution permit is obligatory due to at least one pollutant, all pollutants being emitted by the plant must be indicated in the application for the pollution permit and on the pollution permit, regardless of the magnitude of these emissions. Atmospheric Air Protection Act § 91 provides that all pollutants whose emissions are 1 kg or more must be indicated in the application for the pollution permit.

Pollution permits issued on forms valid before 1 January 2017 remain valid, and they are updated if the permit needs to be changed. Until all these pollution permits have been updated, it is possible to view them in the public access view of the e-Environmental Board attached to the old form and interactively on the new form.

Amendment and revocation of air pollution permit

Amendment and revocation of air pollution permit

The changing and the revocation of a permit are regulated by Atmospheric Air Protection Act § 99 and General Part of the Environmental Code Act § 59 and § 62.

A pollution permit is changed if:  
 1) the air quality limit values or target values established for pollutants on which the air pollution permit was issued have changed;
 2) the emission limit values for pollutants released from the emission source based on which the air pollution permit was issued have changed;
 3) the method for measurement or calculation of emissions of pollutants established has changed;
 4) the total maximum emission amounts of pollutants have changed.

 5) the holder of the environmental permit requests that the data of the holder be amended, including in the event of the transfer of a building used or an installation operated on the basis of the environmental permit;
 6) as a result of monitoring or otherwise it becomes evident that the activity permitted under the environmental permit results in an environmental threat or a significant environmental nuisance and the interest in not amending the environmental permit is not an overriding one;
 7) the issuer of the environmental permit would have had the right not to grant the permit due to a subsequent change of the circumstances, including due to the development of the best possible technology, provided that the use thereof is prescribed by law, or due to a change of the extent of an environmental risk or due to a subsequent amendment of a provision of law, and the amendment of the environmental permit is justified by the need for more extensive protection of the environment or another interest that overrides the person’s expectation that the environmental permit will remain in force.

 Air pollution permit is revoked if:
 1) it is the request of the permit holder;
 2) the permit holder dies and the activity permitted under the permit is related to the person of the permit holder or the passive legal capacity of the permit holder terminates without legal succession;
 3) if the activity permitted under the permit is not commenced within two years as of the granting of the permit;
 4) if it becomes evident that the permit holder has knowingly given false information in the application for the permit or submitted a forged document.

Air pollution permit may be revoked if: 
 1) the public interest or the interest of a third party cannot effectively be protected by amending the permit;
 2) if the permit holder does not fulfil the requirements provided by the permit or law and the revocation of the permit is demanded by an overriding public interest or the permit holder has been penalised for such offence.

What the holder of the permit should keep in mind

What the holder of the permit should keep in mind

Directly applicable requirements related to the protection of ambient air arising from legal acts will be applied to the owner of an air pollution permit or integrated environmental permit. This is regardless of whether or not these requirements appear on the permit. To simplify the everyday work of a pollution source operator, the Environmental Board has made up a list by topic of more essential requirements that are directly applicable.

1) General requirements related to ambient air protection
The holder of a permit should act in a way, which is environmentally sustainable, for example by implementing measures to reduce the emission of pollutants and ensure that ambient air quality remains at a good level. Above all else, the operator must adhere to the emission levels allowed on the permit, other required conditions, and legally prescribed limits. This presumes the keeping of records, self-assessment, and regular reporting. The holder of an environmental protection permit must also pay an environmental fee quarterly for use of the environment. Changes in activities, including a change of permit ownership, must be reported to the Environmental Board, and if necessary, a change in the permit will follow.

2) Ambient air protection requirements for a user of organic solvents
Building and vehicle coatings used must comply with established limits on the content of organic compounds. Companies, which use organic solvents and to which can be applied chapter 5 of the Industrial Emissions Act must replace substances or mixtures classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic to reproduction as quickly as possible and on as large a scale as possible with less harmful ones. To avoid the discharge of particular hazardous volatile organic compounds into the environment, conditions that can be assessed should be established in as great a number as possible. At the request of the Environmental Board, the operator must submit a solvent use plan or plan for reducing the emission of volatile organic compounds.

3) Ambient air protection requirements for filling stations
When gasoline is handled at a filling station, environmental protection requirements related to fueling transactions, containers, and car tanks must be complied with, in accordance with established regulations.

4) Requirements related to air measurements
Conditions are also set on measurements connected with ambient air. Measurements must be carried out by an accredited laboratory and in accordance with the requirements of established regulations. The determination of the maximum momentary emission level of a pollutant is guaranteed by technical and abatement equipment under full load and in good working order with the combustion plant under nominal load. If there is any doubt, before ordering measurements, it is recommended to request the opinion of the Environmental Board, to clarify requirements and conditions.

NB: The lists of obligations above are informative in nature and reflect the general, more essential requirements related to the environment and are liable to change. Accordingly, the Environmental Board asks that you keep yourself regularly informed of any changes in the law. If some obligation directly applicable to the operator arising from the Atmospheric Air Protection Act or some other legal act does not appear in the lists above, the operator is not relieved of the duty to fulfil it.

For further information: Atmospheric Air Protection Act, Industrial Emissions Act, General Part of the Environmental Code Act.

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