|The goal of the Air Quality group is to maintain good air quality in Nebraska. By developing and enforcing air quality laws and regulations we have been able to keep air pollution at low levels.
The Nebraska air regulations are primarily based on regulations developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address the Clean Air Act requirements. The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to establish national ambient air quality standards, or NAAQS. Ambient air is the air humans have access to outdoors and doesn’t include air on private property.
These standards are based on each pollutant’s effects on our health and environment. The pollutants covered by NAAQS are termed criteria pollutants because their standards are based on criteria specific to each of them. There are NAAQS for particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and lead.
The EPA also has the authority to regulate toxic or hazardous air pollutants not covered by NAAQS. EPA has established national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants. These standards establish emission limits or control technology requirements for specific source categories or industries.
Before Nebraska can implement and enforce EPA’s laws, air quality regulations must be developed for the state. Our authority to develop regulations comes from the Clean Air Act and the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The state may develop and enforce rules that are more stringent than federal laws and regulations but cannot make rules that are less stringent. Nebraska air quality regulations are found in Title 129 of the Nebraska Administrative Code.
The Air Quality Division’s goal is to maintain the ambient air quality standards, to protect the quality of the air in areas of the state that have air cleaner than the standards, and to implement air quality rules and regulations. By fulfilling these objectives, the Department is confident that public health and the environment will be adequately protected.
The Air Quality Division fulfills these objectives through implementing various programs. We operate an extensive ambient air monitoring program to measure the ambient air quality and determine if we are achieving and maintaining the NAAQS.
The Program Planning and Development Unit develops and proposes new and revised regulations to the Environmental Quality Council. Title 129 is updated regularly to keep up with ever changing federal regulations.
Air quality permits are the primary tool we use to implement the air quality regulations. Before businesses construct a unit that emits regulated pollutants, they have to determine if the potential emissions from that unit will exceed the thresholds in the Nebraska air quality regulations. If they do, then they’ll need a construction permit.
We also issue operating permits based on a source’s level of emissions. An operating permit will incorporate all of a source’s requirements into one permit, including all construction permit limitations and federal regulations. Operating permits usually require additional monitoring, stack testing, reporting, and recordkeeping.
Other parts of our division ensure compliance with air permits and regulations by conducting inspections, providing assistance and outreach, responding to complaints, verifying stack test data, gathering actual emissions data annually, and, when necessary, carrying out enforcement actions.
NDEE is headquartered in Lincoln and has six regional field offices located throughout the state. Our field offices provide better public access to NDEE, reduce response time to citizen complaints, and allow the agency to have a better understanding of local issues. Our field office staff conduct compliance inspections, complaint investigations, sampling, monitoring, and outreach activities for almost all of our regulatory programs.
Three of the field office inspectors, located in Holdrege, Norfolk, & North Platte, have assignments to conduct work for the Air Quality Division. They participate in the same training, meetings, and other compliance program activities as the Lincoln-based Air Quality inspectors.
Three local agencies -- the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department, the Omaha Air Quality Control, and the Douglas County Health Department, have accepted through contract with the NDEE, responsibility for various facets of the program. These responsibilities include air quality monitoring, planning, permitting and enforcement within their areas of jurisdiction.
If you would like more information about the local
air programs, you can visit their websites or
contact them by phone. The Lancaster County Health
Department’s website is www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/health/environ/pollu/ and the phone number is (402) 441-8040. The City of
Omaha’s website is www.ci.omaha.ne.us and the air program’s number is
(402) 444-6015. For information about the Douglas
county ambient air monitoring, you can contact them
at (402) 444-6162.