US Permits and Licenses

Hazardous Waste Permit

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) establishes EPA’s hazardous waste permitting program to ensure the safe management of hazardous wastes. Under this program, EPA establishes requirements regarding the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. Permits are issued by authorized states or EPA regional office.

What is a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Permit?

When RCRA was enacted, Congress recognized the risks posed by the treatment, storage, and disposal of large volumes of hazardous waste at treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs). Considering these risks, Congress felt that TSDF management activities needed to be closely regulated to prevent spills, accidents and mechanical failures.

As a result, TSDFs are required to obtain permission, in the form of an RCRA permit, which establishes the administrative and technical conditions under which waste at the facility must be managed.

A RCRA permit is a legally binding document that establishes the waste management activities a facility can conduct and the conditions under which it can conduct them. The permit includes applicable EPA regulations from 40 CFR parts 260 through 270, and also:

  • Outlines facility design and operation
  • Lays out safety standards
  • Describes facility performance activities (e.g., monitoring and reporting)

Permits typically require facilities to develop emergency plans, find insurance and financial backing and train employees to handle hazards. Permits can also include specific facility requirements, such as groundwater monitoring. The permitting agency (i.e., either the state or EPA) has the authority to issue or deny permits and is responsible for monitoring the facility. They ensure that the facility is in compliance with the conditions stated in the permit. According to RCRA and its regulations, a TSDF cannot operate without a permit, with a few exceptions. 

Who Needs a RCRA Permit?

All facilities that currently treat, store or dispose of hazardous wastes or plan to do so must obtain an RCRA permit.

  • TSDFs must receive a permit before they begin construction to demonstrate they can manage hazardous waste safely and responsibly. The permitting agency (i.e., the state or EPA) reviews the permit application and decides whether to grant or deny the facility an RCRA permit. Permits are typically granted for a period up to 10 years.
  • Permitted operating TSDFs must submit a new permit application six months before their existing permit expires.
  • TSDFs operating under interim status must also apply for a permit. Congress granted “interim status” to facilities that already existed when RCRA was enacted. Interim status allows existing facilities to continue operating while their permit applications are being reviewed.

Who Does not Need a RCRA Permit?

Some facilities are not required to obtain an RCRA permit when handling hazardous waste provided they meet certain conditions specified in the regulations. These exceptions include:

  • Businesses that generate hazardous waste and then store for short periods of time before transporting the waste off site.
  • Transporters of hazardous waste.
  • Entities performing containment activities during an immediate response to an emergency.


2. Operating Permits Issued under Title V of the Clean Air Act

Title V of the Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollutants, and certain other sources, to obtain and operate in compliance with an operating permit. Sources with these “title V permits” are required by the Act to certify compliance with the applicable requirements of their permits at least annually.

Who Has to Obtain a Title V Permit?

Any major source:

  • A major source has actual or potential emissions at or above the major source threshold for any “air pollutant.”
  • The major source threshold for any air pollutant is 100 tons/year (this is the “default value”).
  • Lower thresholds apply in non-attainment areas (but only for the pollutant that are in non-attainment). (See Table below).
  • Major source thresholds for “hazardous air pollutants” (HAP) are 10 tons/year for a single HAP or 25 tons/year for any combination of HAP.
  • The EPA generally has not required non-major sources to get permits (except as shown below).

Any Source with a Major Source Permit under the New Source Review Permitting Program


“Affected Sources” under Acid Rain Rules

Regardless of Size

Solid Waste Incineration Units under Section 129 

Regardless of Size

  • Municipal waste combustors (large and small)
  • Hospital/medical/infectious waste incinerators
  • Commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators
  • Other solid waste incinerators
  • Sewage sludge incinerators

Non-major Sources subject to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) (MACT or GACT Standards)

  • Hazardous waste combusters
  • Portland cement manufacturers
  • Mercury cell chlor-alkali plants
  • Secondary lead smelters
  • Carbon black production 
  • Chemical manufacturing: chromium compounds
  • Primary copper smelting
  • Secondary copper smelting
  • Nonferrous metals area sources: zinc, cadmium, & beryllium
  • Glass Manufacturing
  • Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) Steelmaking Facilities
  • Gold Mine Ore Processing and Production

[Note that if any newly promulgated NSPS or MACT standard regulates area sources, it must clarify whether the area sources are required to obtain title V permits.] 

Certain Synthetic Minor Sources subject to NESHAP Requirements

  • Chemical Manufacturing

Non-major Sources subject to NESHAP and New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Requirements

  • Municipal solid waste landfills (design capacity ≥ 2.5 million mega-grams and 2.5 million m3)

Any Source in a Source Category Designated by the EPA – None so far.

Table 1 – Lower Major Source Thresholds for Non-attainment Areas

Non-attainment Area DesignationVOC or NOxCOPM-10
Marginal100 tpy
Moderate100 tpy100 tpy100 tpy
Serious50 tpy50 tpy70 tpy
Ozone transport region
(other than severe or extreme)
50 tpy (VOC only)
Severe25 tpy
Extreme10 tpy

Note:  For the complete and current information on determining major source status or for a list of area sources required to obtain title V permits please consult the applicable regulations as published in 40 Code of Federal Regulations.


Hazardous Materials Safety Permit Program (HMSP)



In support of the mission of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve truck and bus safety on our nation’s highways, on January 1, 2005, the Agency initiated the Federal Hazardous Materials Safety Permit Program for intrastate, interstate, and foreign motor carriers transporting certain types and amounts of hazardous materials.

These carriers must maintain a certain level of safety in their operations and certify they have programs in place as required by the Hazardous Materials Regulations and the HM Permit regulations.