Pair of EPA Actions Show Long Road Ahead for Urban Water Quality, Climate Resilience

by Evan Isaacson | December 08, 2016

Over the last couple of months, a pair of actions taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrate the glacial pace of federal stormwater management policy under the Clean Water Act. In October, EPA rejected a series of petitions by a group of environmental organizations to expand regulatory protections for certain urban waterways. Then last month, EPA issued a new national rule clarifying existing urban water quality regulations, but only because it was forced to respond to a federal court decision now more than a dozen years old.

Let's start with the good news, however minor it may be. The new stormwater rule that EPA released in November is primarily procedural in nature. The issue at hand is when the public should be able to provide input to EPA and the states regarding the issuance of permits to their towns and cities that regulate polluted urban runoff. And while public participation is generally important to the Clean Water Act, public input is of particular importance to the proper functioning of stormwater regulation.

The new EPA stormwater rule was required as a response to an old federal appellate court decision that held that EPA and the states, as the permitting authorities, were failing to do their job as Clean Water Act regulators. The court's main concern was that the process by which EPA and the states issue stormwater permits to municipalities was not only cutting out effective public input but ...

Assessment Finds Wide Variety in Quality of County Stormwater Plans in Maryland

by Evan Isaacson | October 17, 2016
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is releasing an assessment of the plans and progress of Baltimore City and the nine largest counties in Maryland to comply with their federal stormwater permits, a key component of the ongoing effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore it to health. The analysis looks carefully at the jurisdictions' past efforts and future plans, revealing a wide range in the apparent commitment and level of restoration activity as they work to ...

Confusion, Frustration as Maryland High Court Hears Stormwater Permits Case

by Evan Isaacson | November 18, 2015
Last week the Maryland Court of Appeals heard several hours of oral argument in back to back (to back) cases regarding whether five different municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) complied with the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Although divided into separate cases due to their unique procedural histories, the three cases were consolidated into one marathon oral argument due to the substantial overlap of the issues involved. The ...

Montgomery County Should Appeal Stormwater Case

by Evan Isaacson | July 27, 2015
Last Wednesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge held that the Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge is invalid and that the plaintiff should not have been required to pay any stormwater fee to the county. The case could have significant ramifications across the state for jurisdictions that have, like Montgomery County, established a stormwater fee similar to the one invalidated in the case. First, some background.  In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB 987, which required any jurisdiction ...

Trading Up: A National Model for Stormwater Pollution Trading?

by Yee Huang | March 17, 2010
This week Water Policy Report (subs. required) reported on EPA’s exercise of residual designation authority (RDA) over stormwater discharges and a pilot stormwater-reduction trading program in Massachusetts. Together, these actions have the potential to significantly reduce stormwater discharges into local waterways. If successful, this pilot trading program could be a template for similar trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country. Stormwater discharges occur when impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots channel high volumes ...

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