September 2015 Bar Bulletin
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September 2015 Bar Bulletin

EPA Issues New Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges

By Meline MacCurdy


The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a new multi-sector general permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) governing stormwater discharges from industrial facilities.1 The new permit is available to 29 sectors of industry in jurisdictions where EPA is the permitting authority.2

The permit has several key changes, including requiring disclosures in notices of intent (NOI) to obtain coverage in electronic format; increasing the amount of detail regarding stormwater outfalls and receiving waters that a discharger must include in an NOI to receive permit coverage; modifications to effluent limitation requirements; inspections; corrective actions; and other industry-specific requirements.

According to EPA, the changes are largely designed to streamline compliance, reduce burdens associated with duplicative obligations to some industry sectors, and increase transparency regarding discharges from specific facilities.


The CWA prohibits discharges of pollutants by any person from point sources into waters of the United States without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.3 NPDES permits limit the type and quantity of pollutants that may be discharged from a point source, and provide effluent limits that restrict the quantities, rates and concentrations of discharges of chemical, physical, biological or other constituents.4

Section 402(p) of the CWA directed EPA to develop a phased approach for regulating stormwater discharges under the NPDES program.5 Under the first phase, EPA promulgated regulations governing stormwater discharges "associated with industrial activity" in 1990.6

Since that time, most states have sought and received authority from EPA to implement the NPDES permitting program, but EPA retains authority to mandate technology-based performance criteria for point source categories (effluent limitations guidelines).7 States that have been delegated authority to implement the NPDES program have implemented their own industrial stormwater permits for a range of industrial sectors. These permits have obviated the need for individual permits for stormwater discharges in those jurisdictions.

Facilities operating in areas where EPA is the permitting authority, including Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Pacific Island territories, and some federal facilities and tribal areas, have been required to seek coverage under EPA's multi-sector general permit or, if necessary, an individual permit from EPA.8 The previous general permit was issued in 20089 and expired in September 2013. EPA administratively extended the previous permit to allow the agency time to develop the new permit.

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