AGC Submits Second Round Comments on NPDES Electronic Reporting and Transparency Rule
AGC submitted a second round of comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed nationwide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule that would require contractors to electronically file their stormwater permits and related documentation forms (rather than using paper-based submissions).
AGC’s letter raises concerns with the practical implementation of switching the entire nation to a unified system of electronic reporting – including the need for dependable mechanisms/procedures to promptly correct errors, protect confidential business and other sensitive information, clarify or provide proper context for e-submissions, obtain valid electronic signatures and address inevitable system malfunctions.
AGC also recommended that EPA allow states permitting authorities to integrate electronic reporting into their NPDES permits as they are reissued – following the traditional five-year NPDES permit cycle – to ensure that delegated states (responsible for issuing permits) remain the initial recipient of permit data and to avoid the need to “double-report” to both EPA and state regulatory agencies.
More Construction Site Data Going to Washington
AGC’s letter expresses concern that EPA’s proposal would increase the amount and nature of the site-specific information that federal EPA collects and disseminates pertaining to active construction sites. EPA’s Supplemental Notice acknowledges that: “The proposed rule, in conjunction with EPA’s current public data access tools, would provide a more complete and easily accessible set of facility permit, compliance and enforcement data to the public” [emphasis added]. 79 Fed. Reg. 71067 (Dec. 1, 2014). For example, the proposed rule would—
- Create a new EPA-generated NPDES Noncompliance Report that would track noncompliance for both “major” and “nonmajors” NPDES facilities (e.g., construction sites) and disclose “single-event violations,” among other things. (Currently, states enter inspection-related information into EPA’s data system for major facilities only. Information on nonmajors is manually submitted to EPA or interested stakeholders upon request; it is not easily accessible.)
- Require electronic submission of Discharge Monitoring Reports from both major and nonmajor dischargers.
It appears that the above-referenced information would remain on EPA’s website long after a construction project is complete and the contractor has terminated his permit coverage (and any associated Clean Water Act responsibility associated with the site.) AGC reiterated its previously communicated concerns regarding the general public’s unrestricted access to all electronically submitted data and the potential for such data to be misinterpreted or misconstrued.
AGC’s letter emphasizes the transient nature of construction operations, pointing out the significant change in permitted sites from year-to-year as projects are complete. In questioning the value of collecting site-specific information from hundreds of thousands of temporary operations each year, AGC also urged EPA to limit the universe of construction facilities for which electronic reporting is required by: (1) providing a waiver for sites that lack broadband capability or high-speed internet access and (2) exempting from the rule seldom reported documents (e.g., No-Exposure Certifications) and simple but very frequently received documents (e.g., Notices of Intent (NOIs) and Termination (NOTs) for construction stormwater general permits) — which equate to hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper each year.
EPA staff has done extensive outreach with AGC (via webinars, emails and face-to-face meetings) on the impacts this rulemaking to construction site operators. AGC will continue to communicate with EPA and advocate for a workable final rule. Click here for additional background on AGC’s efforts.
For more information, please contact AGC’s Leah Pilconis (Senior Environmental Advisor) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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