Generally, when do you need such a permit?


Feb 19, 2024
I've learned a ton since joining this site, but environmental permits are the ones that I understand the least. Do you have any general guidelines for when you'd need an environmental permit?
United States
Some things to consider are whether your activity will impact human health, the well-being of the surrounding community, or the environment. It's often something that businesses need to worry about more than the average citizen.
Agreed with @StrictlyUrban. Generally speaking, you'll only need to be concerned about environmental permitting if you're conducting some kind of development, agricultural, or industrial activity. For example, state water quality authorities may require erosion/sediment control best management practices for development activities along a stream. Or you may need a Clean Air Act permit or National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit if you're discharging pollutants into the air or water, respectively. For farmers, regulated pesticide use and water quality issues associated with animal waste runoff come to mind.

For typical homeowners, I'd say permitting for septic system installations is probably the type of environmental permitting that most often applies. Regulation of septic systems is considered environmental permitting because septic systems can potentially contaminate nearby waterbodies if they're not sited or configured properly.
To add to Eric's point, you might also need an environmental permit if you're building a home near a protected habitat or species. They can be pretty tricky to get, too.