Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District

Permits and Engineering
The APCD Permit Process

Why Does the APCD Issues Permits?

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board and have established health-based clean air standards and given the APCD primary responsibility for controlling air pollution from local stationary sources to help us attain these standards.

Air pollution is caused by large and small businesses, motor vehicles, consumer products, and natural sources. In order to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve clean air, the APCD needs to know how much pollution is created by each source, and must ensure that every business is operated to minimize the air pollution they cause.

To fulfill this responsibility, we adopt rules in accordance with state and federal laws and issue permits requiring compliance with these rules. Permits allow us to specify conditions of construction and operation that are consistent with our county-wide clean air strategy, and to quantify and track emissions that have been permitted to occur.

In summary, permits are required:

  1. To provide information to the APCD on the type and amount of air pollution caused by businesses. This information is essential for planning a county-wide clean air strategy.

  2. To ensure that businesses are designed, constructed, and operated to minimize air pollution.

Who Needs a Permit?

Stationary sources (e.g., businesses, utilities, government agencies, and universities) need an APCD permit before constructing, changing, replacing, or operating any equipment or process which may cause air pollution. This includes equipment designed to reduce air pollution. Permits are also required if an existing business that causes air pollution transfers ownership, relocates, or otherwise changes their operations.

Examples of businesses that need APCD permits are oil and gas facilities, gas stations, dry cleaners, auto body shops, refinishing operations, printers, and operators of certain gas or oil powered engines. A more detailed list is provided below.

If you also need a permit from either the county or a city building department, you may be required to have your APCD permit before the final building permit can be issued. It is important that you check with the building department and the APCD early in the permit process to determine what is required.

The following activities may require an APCD permit:

Agricultural Milling
Asphalt Batch Plants
Bulk Material Transfer & Storage Equipment
Chrome Plating
Circuit Board Manufacturing
Cogeneration Facilities
Concrete Batch Plants
Contaminated Soil/Water Cleanup Systems
Cooling Towers
Curing & Burnoff Ovens
Diesel Emergency Standby Generators (> 50 bhp)
Degreasing Operations
Emission Control Equipment
Ethylene Oxide Sterilizers
Fiberglass Fabrication Operations
Fumigation Chambers
Furniture Stripping Operations
Fume Hoods
Gasoline Dispensing Equipment
Gasoline Storage Equipment
Graphic Arts Printing
Internal Combustion Engines - Diesel Type Fuels (>50 bhp)
Internal Combustion Engines - Other Fuels (>100 bhp)
Laboratory Hoods
Oil/Gas Production & Process Equipment
Oil Water Separators
Organic Liquid Storage Tanks
Paint Manufacturing
Paint Spray Booths
Paint Spray Equipment (>40 gal/yr)
Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing
Product Dryers (e.g. aggregate)
Rock Crushing & Screening Equipment
Sand & Gravel Operations
Surface Coating Equipment
Waste Water Treatment Plants
Wet Scrubbers
Wood Chippers/Tub Grinders

This list is not exhaustive. If you have any questions or concerns about whether you need an APCD permit, e-mail our Engineering & Compliance Division or call (805) 961-8800 or email Business Assistance or call the Business Assistance Line at (805) 961-8868. We will be happy to answer your questions.

The Permit Process: The Basic Steps

The Permitting Process Typically Has Four Phases:

  1. Authority to Construct (ATC) Permit
    The ATC permit allows for the construction of a new facility or installation as well as modification of equipment at an existing facility. The ATC ensures that the equipment is designed, constructed, and operated to meet local, state, and federal air quality requirements.

  3. Source Compliance Demonstration Period (SCDP)
    After construction, installation or modification that is done under an ATC, the SCDP allows for temporary operation for testing, calibration, and demonstration of compliance with the ATC's requirements.

  5. Permit to Operate (PTO)
    The PTO allows for ongoing operation of the facility in accordance with all permit conditions and local, state, and federal air quality requirements.

  7. Reevaluation (Reeval)
    The PTO is reevaluated every three years at which time it is updated as necessary to ensure compliance and to reflect any changes to local, state, or federal requirements. Gasoline service stations are renewed on an annual basis.


How to Apply for a Permit

There are two permits required: first the Authority to Construct (ATC), and after construction and demonstration of compliance, the Permit to Operate (PTO). The ATC is required before construction begins, so you should submit the application well in advance of your planned start date.  In certain cases the APCD can issue a combined ATC/PTO permit.

To get an ATC or PTO application use the Permits and Engineering Download Documents feature of this web site.  The completed application must include a detailed description of your equipment and information on materials and operations.

Within 30 days of when you submit your application, our permitting staff will either find the application "complete", which means it contains all the necessary information, or will request additional information.

Once the application is determined to be complete, our permitting staff review the calculations, if any; evaluate the consistency of the project with local, state, and federal air pollution control requirements; and prepare a draft ATC or PTO which describes how the equipment must be operated to minimize air pollution. Your review of the draft permit is very important. You can ensure the permit is accurate and that you understand and agree with the conditions under which you will be required to operate. Please take advantage of the draft permit review to provide us your comments and input.

Permit Fees

Why do we charge fees?

We charge permit fees to cover our costs for reviewing applications, issuing permits, and ensuring compliance. Different fees apply to different types of permits and equipment.

Our agency's mission is to provide clean air for the residents of our community. To do this costs money. Federal and State law requires us to implement our air pollution regulatory program and allows us to charge fees to recover our costs. The agency gets no money from property or general taxes collected by Santa Barbara County. Instead, the money to accomplish our mission and mandates comes almost completely from fees we charge to businesses and other sources of air pollution.

When are fees due?

Fees are due to the APCD within 30 days of receiving an invoice from the APCD.

How are the fees used?

With the exception of DMV fees, all fees paid to the APCD stay within the APCD to fund specific air pollution program activities. A portion of the DMV fees are "passed thru" to other agencies to implement pollution reduction programs. Permit filing fees cover the cost of determining whether a permit application is complete and for related administrative paperwork activities. Permit evaluation fees cover the cost of performing an permit evaluation, issuing the permit, compliance monitoring, and three years of inspections. Annual emission fees are used to fund APCD programs such as air monitoring, air quality planning (the Clean Air Plan), business assistance, public education, emergency response, and special projects. Reevaluation fees pay for three years of facility inspections and for the permit reevaluation processing. Air Toxics "Hot Spots" fees are used to fund the Air Toxics "Hot Spots" program (Assembly Bill 2588). Annual air toxics emission fees are used for regulating air toxics.

What Permit Fees Should I Expect?

1. Application Filing Fee

This is a flat fee which covers the initial review of your ATC or PTO application to determine if all required information has been included as well as related administrative paperwork activities. Payment should accompany each submitted application. The current application filing fee is listed in our fee schedule in Schedule F. 

2. Evaluation Fee

This fee is based on the number and type of equipment proposed, and covers the technical processing and compliance inspections related to the ATC or PTO permit to determine if the project meets all local, state, and federal requirements. The invoice for this fee is sent with the final permit when it is issued. Schedule A in Rule 210 lists the application fee rates per equipment type. Large projects may be charged on a cost reimbursement (time and materials) basis. 

3. Source Test Fee

Sources permitted under the fee schedule of Rule 210 that require a compliance source test are assessed a fee for APCD staff to review source test plans and subsequent reports as well as to witness the test at the facility. An invoice is sent to the source prior to actual plan submittals.

4. Reevaluation Fee

For most permitted businesses, the permit is reviewed (reevaluated) every three years and updated as necessary. A reevaluation fee is charged according to Schedule A of Rule 210 based on the number and type of equipment. This reevaluation fee renews the operating permit for three more years and covers the costs of updating and evaluating the permit and three years of inspections and compliance monitoring. The source is notified of the calculated fee amount when the draft re-evaluation permit is mailed. The fee is due within 30 days after the final re-evaluation is issued. These fees are calculated in the same manner as the permit evaluation fees, except that there is a minimum flat fee.

What Other, Non-Permit, Fees Should I Expect?

1. Annual Emission Fee

This fee is based on a facility's actual emissions if those annual emissions exceed 10 tons per year (TPY). For permitted businesses that emit less than 10 tons in a year, a flat fee is assessed. See Schedule B.3. Dry cleaners, for example, usually fall into this category. The fees are calculated from a businesses' actual emissions in the previous calendar year and are billed out by June or earlier of the current year. The bill may be as early as January if the facility emits less than 10 tons per year. 

2. Air Toxics "Hot Spots" Program Fee

This fee partially supports the APCD's Air Toxics Hot Spots Program which is required by H&SC 44300 et. seq. These fees were approved by the Air Resources Board and are fixed. The fees are based on actual annual emissions of total organic gases (TOG), particulate matter (PM), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and oxides of sulfur (SOx), and the classification of the facility. If the facility emissions are less than 25 tons per year for each of these pollutants (as is the case for dry cleaners), then it will be assessed a flat fee. Outer Continental Shelf sources are not subject to the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program.

3. Air Quality Plans Fee

This fee helps fund the preparation of mandated air quality plans necessary for the attainment and maintenance of ambient air quality standards. This fee only applies to sources with actual emissions greater than 10 tons per year. Fees are assessed according to Fee Schedule B-1.

Are Fees Adjusted for Inflation?

On occasion, the fees in Rule 210 are adjusted to account for inflation. The California Consumers Price Index is used for assessing these adjustments. The APCD Board of Directors formally approves these requests, however Rule 210 itself is not physically modified. In its place, the APCD issues a revised fee schedule to all permit holders.

The APCD Fee Schedule 

Download a copy of the APCD Fee Schedule in Adobe PDF format.

Who Can I Contact if I Have Questions?

General Questions

There are two good ways to get answers to your questions regarding our permitting rules.

  1. Call Kaitlin McNally, at (805) 961-8855 for minor sources or the Ben Ellenberger, at (805) 961- 8879 for major sources.
  2. Send e-mail via the Internet to

Need Application Forms

Application forms may be downloaded from our Download page.

What Permit Streamlining Efforts has the APCD Implemented?

For more information or assistance, call the APCD at (805) 961-8800
or e-mail us at

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