News Feature | November 1, 2013

EPA Updates Stormwater Permit Regulations

By Sara Jerome


The EPA is proposing changes to its stormwater permitting rules.

In general, the EPA does not dole out many stormwater permits because most states regulate the issue themselves. They apply to the EPA for this authority. 

But Massachusetts, Idaho, New Hampshire and New Mexico do not have their own stormwater permitting programs, meaning stormwater dischargers have to apply directly to the EPA for their permits, according to an analysis by Stephen Richmond, an environmental lawyer at Beveridge & Diamond. 

The EPA's proposed changes are currently up for public comment, and will be released in spring 2014 or later, the analysis said. They are significant not just for the four states who will comply with them but also for states with their own permitting programs who will likely look to the EPA model when they update their own rules. 

So, how does the EPA want to update the rules? 

Under existing regulations, dischargers to impaired waters (as in, waters of the U.S. that do not meet an applicable water quality standard), "must monitor for all pollutants for which the waters are impaired," the analysis said. Under the new rules, "the EPA proposes to clarify that one is considered a discharger to an impaired water if the discharge flows directly to the water, including if the discharge enters a stormwater collection system that discharges to an impaired water."

Under the new regulations, the EPA would require each permit holder to "make a copy of its Stormwater Pollution Prevent Plan publicly available," the analysis said. 

The new rules would "substantially tighten up language associated with the conduct of corrective actions."

It also would establish stronger reporting requirements. Permit holders would need to submit "a summary of the routine inspections and assessments conducted at the facility throughout the previous year," the analysis said. 

This isn’t the first time stormwater regulations have made headlines. Many cities run into controversy struggling to manage the issue.

The so-called "rain tax" in Maryland is a prime example. This divisive policy mandates that businesses with large surface areas pay fees for stormwater runoff. The money is devoted to reducing runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

"Stated another way, the law penalizes businesses and consumers for having a roof, driveway or a parking lot and takes their money and gives it to local government," a Baltimore Sun editorial said

The EPA lays out its approach to stormwater here

Image credit: "Stormwater discharge," © 2007 eutrophication&hypoxia, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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