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In a major victory for affordable housing, sound science and more sensible regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has had to withdraw a key portion of new storm water management regulations for builders and developers so that it can devise new ones based on better research.
The move stemmed from a lawsuit filed by NAHB and the Wisconsin Builders Association and by administrative petitions from both NAHB and the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy asking the agency to recalculate the discharge limit for sediment allowed under its new Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) for the construction industry.
“In these new regulations, the EPA set a numeric limit on the amount of sediment allowed in the runoff from a job site, which both our builders and SBA claimed was arbitrary and based on flawed analysis,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones.
Published in December, the ELGs set a limit of 280 “turbidity units” on storm water discharges from construction sites disturbing 10 or more acres of land at one time.
“In addition, NAHB was able to show that trying to achieve these limits would have cost as much as $10 billion annually — more than 10 times the agency’s estimate of $953 million,” Jones said. “This would have hurt small businesses and housing affordability, while providing little additional environmental benefit.”
Jones cited estimates from the EPA that the ELGs would have controlled just 0.25% of all sediment runoff from construction sites.
“By forcing the EPA to take a hard look at the facts and admit its error, we scored a major victory for home builders and home buyers nationwide,” he said.
After reading NAHB’s brief, the agency admitted that there were several flaws in the final rule and that it had improperly interpreted the data.
As a result, the Justice Department asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the numeric limit and place a hold on the litigation until February 2012, giving the EPA time to go back and develop a numeric limit with which builders can actually comply.
It was also noted that the agency had “failed to consider certain comments submitted during the rulemaking process.”
In the meantime, the other ELG requirements remain in place and the EPA is expected to issue interim storm water management guidance for construction site operators as it works on refine the rule.
“NAHB supports responsible development and the goals of the Clean Water Act. The association will continue to work with state and federal regulators to keep our waterways clean,” Jones said.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.
“Storm Water Permitting: A Guide for Builders and Developers,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides a starting point for builders and developers to use in locating and understanding storm water permitting requirements.
The publication has been prepared to help builders comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater requirements, and includes information on state permitting programs and more than 50 of the most commonly used Best Management Practices.
Also included are tips on compliance, including how to handle visits from inspectors.
To view or purchase this guide online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.