EPA Administrator Orders Overhaul of Clean Water Act Enforcement Program – More Reporting, More Inspections, More Public Oversight!
AGC Invited To Help Shape New Action Plan Aimed at Improving Water Permit Compliance
The U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has directed the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) to examine its Clean Water Act enforcement program and report back to her in early October with an action plan to strengthen and improve the Agency’s enforcement efforts. This new initiative comes in light of information showing that water quality goals are not being met, there are too many violations in too many places, and the level of EPA enforcement is unacceptably low, according to Administrator Jackson’s memo to key Agency officials.
AGC meet with OECA last week to discuss the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit program and how it is enforced on construction jobsites. AGC suggested positive incentives and expressed concerns about any potentially punitive measure; AGC plans to provide EPA staff with more detailed, written recommendations later this week. In addition, AGC Chapters and members can help shape the future direction of EPA’s national water enforcement program (and comment on EPA’s current enforcement efforts) by participating in an online EPA discussion forum by August 28.
The NPDES program under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates mostly stormwater discharges associated with municipal sewer systems, industrial activities and construction activities. (All facilities that discharge pollutants through a point source into waters of the United States are regulated by EPA and states under the NPDES program.) If your construction activity disturbs one or more acres of land, you most likely need a permit to discharge stormwater runoff from your construction site, available from EPA’s NPDES program or the state NPDES permitting authority. Additional information on the federal stormwater requirements is online at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater. You also can obtain information about state and local stormwater requirements through the Storm Water Resource Locator.
To clean up our nation’s waters, Administrator Jackson’s memo directs EPA OECA staff to devise a new action plan to achieve the following:
(1) Make clean water enforcement information more transparent. Administrator Jackson wants to “improve and enhance information that is available through the EPA Web site on compliance with the Clean Water Act and the level of enforcement activity in each state… [including] performance of individual businesses as well as state and national performance.”
(2) Raise the bar for clean water enforcement performance. The Administrator wants to bring strong, consistent and effective enforcement actions against those who violate the Clean Water Act. She has asked EPA staff to “boost [their] enforcement presence.”
(3) Launch a major shift of EPA’s clean water information systems. The Administrator wants data on facilities’ discharges and their compliance status to be available to “federal and state regulators and the public, over the web, [and] on a real-time basis.” For example, the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) Web site displays inspection and enforcement information for various permitted dischargers under the Clean Water Act. But it only reflects compliance and enforcement records that local, state and federal entities have entered into the federal database.
More information on the development of the clean water enforcement action plan is online at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/cwa/cwaenfplan.html or contact EPA’s Deb Berlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 564-4914.
Measuring Environmental Performance
Currently, U.S. EPA has little data to measure environmental trends in the construction industry. In 2007, EPA’s Sector Strategies Program led a year-long project, involving all EPA offices, to compile data and recommend metrics. It released Measuring Construction Industry Environmental Performance, which compiles the best available data on construction industry contributions to green building, C&D debris recycling, clean diesel, stormwater compliance, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. These trends were also presented in the 2008 Sector Strategies Performance Report.
In summary, these reports indicate that compliance with the requirement to obtain stormwater permits is improving. A nationally representative sample of state data reveals that the percentage of construction projects submitting an application for permit coverage (or “Notice of Intent” (NOI) form) increased by 63% from 2003 to 2006. The percentage of total construction projects in compliance, however, is unknown, because EPA has no national data on the number of projects that actually require an NOI.
AGC serves as the industry’s leader on the environmental front and was chosen for a one-of-a-kind “Sector Strategies” partnership with EPA, back in 2003. Since then, the two groups have been jointly focused on improving environmental regulations, expanding the use of environmental management systems and exploring ways to assess environmental progress. Through its exclusive Environmental Network, AGC helps its members keep pace with the latest environmental developments and participate in the Association’s policymaking on environmental matters such as diesel emission reduction strategies, stormwater permit compliance, construction and demolition debris management and green construction practices.
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