Proposal that will reduce red tape and cut costs for small businesses passes

Businesses that account for less than 1 percent of statewide emissions from factories and other industry will no longer need air quality permits under a proposal passed today by the Environmental Management Commission.
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality developed the plan to exempt about 1,200 very small facilities from permitting requirements. The plan does not remove or relax any existing emissions standards and still requires businesses to comply with all air quality rules and regulations. The businesses that qualify for the exemption will remain subject to inspections by state regulators.
“This is a common sense approach that eliminates costly red tape while improving environmental protection,” said Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality. “The plan relieves some small businesses from the costs and regulatory burden of having air permits and allows regulators to focus more attention on larger sources of air pollution. This change will actually improve air quality because it incentivizes small businesses to lower their emissions to meet the exemption status and diverts limited state resources to the regulation of impactful polluters.”
State regulators will continue to issue permits, inspect, and collect data on larger sources that account for more than 99 percent of air emissions from industrial facilities. The resources that are freed up by reducing paperwork can now be used for additional inspections of larger, more environmentally significant sources of emissions. All sources would have to keep and maintain any air pollution control equipment they already have in place and could be inspected at any time, whether they are exempt from permitting requirements or not.
North Carolinians are breathing cleaner air than at any time in the past 20 years due to fundamental changes in our energy sector, including converting coal-fired plans to natural gas to create cleaner and cheaper energy.  The rule is subject to review by the General Assembly and will likely take effect after the legislative session ends. More than 1,600 public comments were considered while the plan was being developed. The commission passed the proposal by a vote of 12 – 1.

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