U.S. EPA issued a new Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Industrial Activities on June 4, 2015, replacing the 2008 general permit, which expired in September 2013 and had been administratively continued for covered facilities pending reissuance. Shortly after issuance, the new permit was challenged by several environmental groups, which filed separate petitions for review in three different U.S. Courts of Appeals.
EPA’s MSGP applies to approximately 30 industrial sectors in the few areas of the country where EPA (rather than the relevant state) remains the NPDES permitting authority, including in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Facilities covered under the 2008 MSGP must update their stormwater pollution prevention plans known as SWPPPs and submit new notices of intent (NOIs) by no later than September 2, 2015 to obtain authorization under the 2015 MSGP. The new permit remains in effect in spite of the pending appeals.
The requirements of the 2015 MSGP are largely similar to those of the 2008 MSGP, with some modifications and additions. Among other changes:
- Electronic reporting is now required. This includes electronic submission of NOIs, annual reports, and monitoring reports.
- Revised step-by-step procedures have been incorporated for making eligibility determinations for threatened and endangered species and critical habitat.
- Dischargers must provide public access to facility SWPPPs, either by posting the document to the internet and providing the web address on the NOI form or by including certain information on the NOI form.
- Streamlined inspection procedures no longer require annual comprehensive site inspections.
- For facilities that discharge to saline waters, new non-hardness dependent benchmarks for metals have been added.
- A more prescriptive set of corrective action requirements and deadlines have been included in response to certain events.
- Revised provisions have been incorporated for coverage of certain earth-disturbing activities associated with construction and exploration for the metal, coal, and mineral mining sectors.
The environmental groups that challenged the 2015 MSGP have not yet filed specific objections to the permit terms. Trade press speculation suggests that the groups will pursue some of the positions they advocated in comments filed on the draft permit in 2013, including seeking a national effluent limitation guidelines for stormwater discharges, setting specific numeric limits for discharges authorized by the permit, and seeking mandates for specific controls as best management practices required by the permit.