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USEPA to Revise Stormwater Runoff Regulations by November 2016

storm drainA federal court has approved a settlement in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) will update its national regulations for stormwater runoff by November 2016. USEPA agreed to the deadline after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) filed a lawsuit to force the federal agency to act, albeit more than a decade after a federal court first ordered USEPA to do so. The court order requires USEPA to update its stormwater permitting requirements with a proposed rule by Dec. 17, 2015 and a final rule by Nov. 17, 2016.

In a 2003 case brought by NRDC and EDC, Environmental Defense Center v. EPA, a federal court ordered USEPA to correct and strengthen urban runoff rules for communities with populations under 100,000 residents. The 2003 ruling also ordered USEPA to make a science-based determination of whether polluted runoff from forest roads is so severe that national pollution control standards are necessary. In response to a lawsuit NRDC and EDC filed in December 2014 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, USEPA conceded that it had failed to implement the earlier court order and agreed to the strict deadlines. The NRDC says the settlement does not address specific regulations, but rather sets timelines for USEPA to take action on stormwater pollution caused by urban runoff and forest road runoff that pose a significant threat to public health, fish and wildlife, and recreation.

"Urban runoff” is the water that is generated from impervious areas, such as roads, parking lots, and other hard surfaces in cities and suburbs, after rainstorms and snowmelt. The water can carry toxic metals, pesticides, excess nutrients, and harmful bacteria into waters nationwide. The NRDC says improved USEPA regulations should drive greater use of green infrastructure solutions such as porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings, and rain gardens.

"Forest road runoff” is the sediment-laden runoff from forest roads that threatens drinking water supplies and kills fish and other aquatic life.  Road construction and road use are the main sources of this pollution on forested lands. The NRDC says USEPA has identified many effective pollution control measures to solve this problem, such as identifying special areas for protection including wetlands and streamside vegetation, limiting forestry activities to certain times of the year, and designing proper controls into roads, construction, and maintenance activities to reduce and control sediment in runoff. However, USEPA does not currently require that any of the pollution control measures be used. The court order requires USEPA to decide by May 2016 whether regulation of forest road runoff is necessary to protect water quality.  If the agency determines forest road runoff must be regulated, the Clean Water Act requires that USEPA proceed to develop appropriate pollution control rules.

If you have questions about stormwater runoff regulations, contact Jeff Hruby, AE2S Civil Practices Director, at Jeff.Hruby@ae2s.com or 701-221-0530.  


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