For those of you who thought that the sky was about to fall in EPA as part of the budget battle, I’m able to report that EPA survived sufficiently intact to continue to issue new rules. Today, EPA proposed a draft revised construction general permit, or CGP, for stormwater discharges from construction sites disturbing at least one acre (or less, if the project is part of a common development plan that is greater than one acre). The revised CGP would replace the current CGP which is set to expire on June 30. EPA has proposed to extend the current CGP through January 31, 2012, in order to give it time to promulgate the new CGP in final form.

The revised CGP does make some changes. The most notable changes, summarized in EPA's Q&A on the proposal, are intended to incorporate into the CGP the provisions of EPA’s February 2010 effluent limitations guidelines rule, known as the C&D rule. These changes include new requirements concerning:

Sediment and erosion controls

Soil stabilization

Pollution prevention

Inspections

Stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs)

Buffer zones

The buffer zone requirement was included in the C&D rule, but EPA is now proposing to add significant flesh to the bones. Specifically, the rule would require a minimum fifty-foot buffer between the construction site and any waters of the United States which are located either on or immediately adjacent to the site. The rule would provide flexibility to allow the permittee to substitute additional sediment and erosion controls for some or all of the buffer, so long as the controls “achieve the equivalent sediment load reduction as an undisturbed naturally vegetated, 50-foot buffer.”

For my Massachusetts readers, the 50-foot buffer will seem very similar to the buffer zone already required under the MA Wetlands Protection Act regulations. The jurisdictional scope of the CGP will not be identical to Wetlands Act jurisdiction, but they should be fairly similar.

Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days following Federal Register publication.