Electronic Reporting Requirements Foster Greater Citizen Participation in Permit Review, Enforcement Processes
On June 4, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reissued its Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA) for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity, replacing the 2008 MSGP. The new MSGP is effective immediately and serves as a national model. EPA will hold a webinar on July 8 to provide training on the new electronic reporting requirements in the 2015 MSGP. Enhanced transparency and public accessibility of permit documentation are top agency priorities.
EPA’s MSGP applies in areas of the country where EPA is responsible for issuing NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits (click here). It sets the standard for general permits issued by states that administer their own NPDES programs. Therefore, what EPA does with its MSGP has a significant impact on how construction companies need to manage their stormwater runoff from “industrial activities.” Construction companies that perform activities associated with cement or concrete manufacturing, asphalt paving, minerals mining, or landfill operations will all likely be impacted by changes to EPA’s MSGP.
AGC commented on the draft MSGP in late 2013, after receiving input from AGC members.
Below are some of the most significant changes that EPA has highlighted in its fact sheet. Note the online/electronic reporting and documentation requirements (including site-specific data) – with public access to all information.
- Revised threatened and endangered species eligibility procedures.
- Additional specificity for several of the technology-based effluent limits (i.e., control measures) for clarity.
- A requirement that facilities discharging to a small number of federal Superfund sites notify their EPA regional office prior to filing their Notice of Intent (NOI).
- Streamlining of Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) documentation (i.e., facilities do not have to expound on their compliance with certain effluent limits).
- Public accessibility to SWPPP information, either by posting on the Internet or by incorporating salient information into the NOI.
- Electronic submission for the NOI, Notice of Termination (NOT), annual report, and monitoring.
- Reduced requirements for inspections (i.e., facilities no longer have to conduct a separate comprehensive site inspection).
- Specific deadlines for taking corrective actions.
- Inclusion of saltwater benchmark values for metals.
- Inclusion of the Airport Deicing Effluent Limitation Guideline for the air transportation sector.
The bolded provisions above appear to be consistent with a separate EPA proposal – on which AGC also provided significant comment – to require across-the-board, nationwide electronic reporting under the NPDES program. Electronic reporting increases the likelihood of enforcement, given the increased availability of data and ease of data analysis.
Electronic Reporting Training
EPA’s MSGP proposal would require significant quantities of site-specific data to be submitted electronically, including SWPPPs or SWPPP summaries. As stated above, the final permit also requires operators to electronically submit NOIs, NOTs, annual reports, all discharge monitoring results or DMRs ((benchmark, effluent limits, impaired waters, and numeric effluent limits) and no exposure certifications unless the EPA Regional Office has granted the operator an electronic reporting waiver, in which case the operator may mail the paper forms provided in the 2015 MSGP.
EPA will hold a webinar on July 8 from 1:30 to 4:00 pm Eastern Time to provide training on the new electronic reporting requirements in EPA’s 2015 MSGP. There will be a demonstration of how to submit MSGP forms using the NPDES eReporting Tool (NeT). Webinar participants will also have an opportunity to ask questions. Register for the webinar here.
The 2015 MSGP requires permittees to provide on the NOI form either a URL for their SWPPP or selected information from the SWPPP. The purpose of this is to provide greater SWPPP access to the public, EPA, and the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Services (the Services). The selected information from the SWPPP that must be included in the NOI form includes: onsite industrial activities that are exposed to stormwater and the pollutants associated with each activity; control measures employed to comply with the technology- and water-quality based effluent limits; a schedule for housekeeping, maintenance and all inspections required under the permit.
Permittees must post an updated SWPPP at least once a year no later than 45 days after conducting the final routine facility inspection for the year. After an NOI is submitted, the URL would be accessible via EPA’s Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS) and Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) System (click here for a related AGC article on ECHO). Operators who object to making SWPPP information publicly available may instead apply for an individual NPDES permit.
Notably, EPA’s Final 2015 MSGP Fact Sheet (which includes a detailed summary of and factual basis for permit provisions) states that “enhanced transparency and public accessibility of required NPDES documentation are Agency priorities” and necessary to allow “citizens and groups to protect their local resources [and] … state and federal agencies to provide program oversight.” The fact sheet also states: “Timely, complete, and accurate information regarding potential pollutant sources, the types and concentration of receiving water pollution, stormwater control measures implemented, etc., are vital for protecting water quality and can provide a powerful incentive to improve compliance and performance.”