November 14, 2011
Nation's Building News

The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB

NAHB Continues Work to Encourage EPA to Streamline Its Construction General Permit

In a Nov. 2 meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency, NAHB asked for the extension of the current 2008 Construction General Permit (CGP) until June 2013, which would give the agency more time to improve its proposed new permit by streamlining the permitting process for the discharge of stormwater from home building sites.

A draft of the new permit was proposed on April 25 under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

The current CGP has been extended by the EPA until Feb. 15, 2012 and the Office of Management and Budget will review the permit before it is finalized.

The CGP regulates the discharge of stormwater from construction sites that disturb one acre or more of land or from smaller sites that are part of a larger common development.

The permit requires those building on these sites to implement stormwater controls and develop Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs).

In reality, this means that nearly every single lot on which a home is built within a new subdivision must have permit coverage.

At the recent meeting, NAHB discussed in detail the concept of a single-lot permit that would allow builders building on single lots to comply with a streamlined permit.

This would improve overall compliance with the stormwater program, because it would tailor the requirements to builders and eliminate any unnecessary requirements that are applicable to larger sites.

The EPA is considering various approaches to simplify permit compliance for smaller sites, including an option to issue a guidance document for them.

Additionally, NAHB highlighted concerns over the inclusion of a Water Quality Based Effluent Limit (WQBEL) in the proposed Construction General Permit.

The WQBEL provision would require construction site discharges to be monitored in developments disturbing more than 10 acres of land.

EPA representatives at the meeting agreed that the provision would create problems, and they said that the draft CGP has been modified accordingly.  

At the meeting, NAHB also:

  • Urged the EPA to remove absolute terms from the permit — such as “eliminate,” “immediately” and “any” — which appear throughout the permit and make compliance difficult.

    NAHB suggested that many of its concerns can be addressed by adding language to allow for reasonable flexibility in taking site conditions into account in designing and implementing best management practices (BMPs).

  • Discussed at length problems with the EPA’s new requirement for buffers — or equivalent controls — extending 50 feet around “waters of the U.S.” and with the permit’s steep slope provisions.

    NAHB urged the EPA to provide an alternative approach to the measures required for steep slopes and buffers, which are highly prescriptive and limit flexibility in designing stormwater controls for such areas.

  • Recommended that the EPA retain the stabilization requirements of the current CGP because those in the draft permit are difficult to initiate and complete within the time specified.

NAHB reiterated at the meeting many of its July 11 comments in response to the EPA’s draft permit proposal.

The proposed new CGP includes a number of modifications, many of which are related to the implementation of the EPA’s new Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) and New Source Performance Standards for Construction and Development point sources published on Dec. 1, 2009.

Although the CGP applies only where the EPA is the permitting authority — Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, D.C., most U.S. territories and most Indian country lands — it also serves as a model for the permits issued in the delegated states, essentially shaping the future of their stormwater programs.

For more information, email Ty Asfaw at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8124.

 

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