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Friday, July 12, 2013

Stormwater Permits: Status of EPA’s Regulatory Program

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states are implementing a federally mandated program for controlling stormwater discharges from industrial facilities and municipalities. Large cities and most industry sources are subject to rules issued in 1990, and EPA issued permit rules to cover smaller cities and other industrial sources and construction sites in 1999. Because of the large number of affected sources and deadline changes that led to confusion, numerous questions have arisen about this program. Impacts and costs of the program’s requirements, especially on cities, are a continuing concern.

The 109
th Congress enacted omnibus energy legislation (P.L. 109-58, the Energy Policy Act of 2005) that included a provision giving the oil and gas industry regulatory relief from some stormwater control requirements. In May 2008, a federal court vacated an EPA rule implementing this provision. EPA intends to issue a revised rule that repeals the one that was vacated by the court and codifies the statutory exemption in P.L. 109-58, but the agency does not have a specific schedule for doing so. In the 111th Congress, the House passed a bill that included a provision that would repeal the exemption in P.L. 109-58 (H.R. 3534), but the Senate took no action.

Congress often looks to federal agencies to lead or test new policy approaches, a fact reflected in legislation enacted in the 110
th Congress. Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140, EISA) requires federal agencies to implement strict stormwater runoff requirements for development or redevelopment projects involving a federal facility in order to reduce stormwater runoff and associated pollutant loadings. EPA has issued technical guidance for federal agencies to use in meeting these requirements.

In 2009 the National Research Council issued a report calling for major changes to strengthen EPA’s stormwater regulatory program, which it criticized as being inconsistent nationally and failing to adequately control all sources of stormwater discharge that contribute to waterbody impairment. In response, EPA has begun efforts to expand regulations and strengthen the current program with a revised rule. The new rule is expected to focus on stormwater discharges from newly developed and redeveloped, or post-construction, sites, such as subdivisions, roadways, industrial facilities, and commercial buildings or shopping centers. 

Date of Report: July3, 2013
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: 97-290
Price: $29.95

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