Final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule

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On September 24, 2015, Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule for publication in the Federal Register.  The publication of this rule is the latest step in an extensive multi-year outreach effort with EPA’s state, tribal and territorial partners.  This rule will replace most paper-based Clean Water Act (CWA) NPDES permitting and compliance monitoring reporting requirements with electronic reporting.

This action will save time and resources for permittees, states, tribes, territories, and the U.S. Government while increasing data accuracy, improving compliance, and supporting EPA’s goal of providing better protection of the nation’s waters. This regulation will help provide greater clarity on who is and who is not in compliance and enhances transparency by providing a timelier, complete, more accurate, and nationally-consistent set of data about the NPDES program. This final rule will likely be published in the Federal Register sometime in October. 

This final rule requires that NPDES regulated entities electronically submit the following permit and compliance monitoring information instead of using paper reports:
  • Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs);
  • Notices of Intent to discharge in compliance with a general permit; and
  • Program reports.

Authorized NPDES programs will also electronically submit NPDES program data to EPA to ensure that there is consistent and complete reporting nationwide, and to expedite the collection and processing of the data, thereby making it more accurate and timely.  Importantly, while the rule changes the method by which information is provided (i.e., electronic rather than paper-based), it does not increase the amount of information required from NPDES regulated entities facilities under existing regulations.

EPA offered many opportunities for authorized state programs to provide comments and input during the development of this final rule. EPA will continue to work in partnership with these states to help make an orderly and measured transition from paper to electronic reporting. In particular, EPA will work closely with states to provide technical and financial support, as available, to develop or enhance state electronic reporting capabilities.

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Final Rule Documents

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Benefits of Electronic Reporting

The Final NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule moves EPA and states into the 21st Century by taking advantage of advances in information technology, expands EPA efforts to provide meaningful data to the public, and supports the EPA-wide effort to move from paper to electronic reporting. It will provide EPA and states the ability to strategically address the most serious water pollution problems while using limited resources efficiently.   States will realize a significant reduction in reporting burden and cost savings due to electronic reporting from facilities rather than having to manually enter paper reporting into data systems.

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Electronic Reporting Tools

EPA is working with states, tribes, territories, and third-party software vendors to develop and have in place all of the electronic reporting tools and National Environmental Information Exchange Network protocols required to implement this regulation prior to the effective date of the final rule. EPA is not proposing that NPDES-regulated facilities must use an EPA-developed electronic reporting tool. Rather, EPA is providing the flexibility for facilities to have a range of options including:

  • an EPA electronic reporting tool,
  • a tool developed by a state authorized to implement the NPDES program, or
  • tools developed by third-party vendors, if such tools meet the requirements of this proposed rule.

EPA is proposing this flexibility because it recognizes that many states, tribes, and territories have their own electronic data systems and reporting tools for managing NPDES data. Information on EPA’s electronic reporting tools is provided below:

  • NetDMR: A nationally-available electronic reporting tool, initially designed by states and later adapted for national use by EPA, which can be used by NPDES-regulated facilities to submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) electronically to EPA through a secure Internet application over the National Environmental Information Exchange Network.
  • NPDES Electronic Reporting Tool (NeT): NeT is a tool suite developed by EPA to facilitate electronic submittal of data by the regulated community directly to EPA and its partners. It uses commercial "off-the-shelf" software and can support diverse form and data submission formats.

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EPA will phase in the requirements of the rule over a five year period following the effective date of the final rule. The transition from paper to electronic reporting will require close coordination and cooperation between EPA and authorized NPDES programs and will occur in two phases. In accordance with the Final Rule [40 CFR 127.26(h)], authorized NPDES programs must submit an Implementation Plan (IP) to EPA by December 21, 2016, for EPA’s review. The content of these plans must provide enough detail (e.g., key tasks and end dates) to ensure successful implementation of electronic reporting for Phase 2 data.

Phase 1 – One year after effective date of final rule

In Phase 1, EPA will begin to electronically receive information from states, tribes, and territories regarding inspections, violation determinations, and enforcement actions.  EPA, states, tribes, and territories will electronically receive Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) information from NPDES permittees – the largest volume of data for the NPDES program.  Also included in Phase 1 are the Sewage Sludge/Biosolids Annual Program Reports for the 42 states where EPA implements the Federal Biosolids Program.

Additionally, one year after the effective date of the final rule, authorized NPDES programs will submit an implementation plan for meeting the Phase 2 data requirements for EPA to review.

Phase 2—Five years after effective date of final rule

For Phase 2, EPA and authorized state NPDES programs have five years to begin electronically collecting, managing, and sharing the remaining set of NPDES program information. This information includes: general permit reports (e.g. Notice of Intent to be covered (NOI); Notice of Termination (NOT); No Exposure Certification (NOE); Low Erosivity Waiver and Other Waivers from Stormwater Controls (LEW)); Sewage Sludge/Biosolids Annual Program Report (where the state is the authorized NPDES biosolids program); and all other remaining NPDES program reports. These program reports include: 
  • Sewage Sludge/Biosolids Annual Program Reports [40 CFR 503] (for the 8 states that implement the Federal Biosolids Program)
  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Annual Program Reports [40 CFR 122.42(e)(4)]
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program Reports [40 CFR 122.34(g)(3) and 122.42(c)]
  • Pretreatment Program Reports [40 CFR 403.12(i)]
  • Significant Industrial User Compliance Reports in Municipalities Without Approved Pretreatment Programs [40 CFR 403.12(e) and (h)]
  • Sewer Overflow/Bypass Event Reports [40 CFR 122.41(l)(4), (l)(6) and (7), (m)(3)]
  • CWA Section 316(b) Annual Reports [40 CFR 125 Subpart J]

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For More Information

Find public comments and supporting documents related to this rulemaking at within Docket Number EPA-HQ-OECA-2009-0274.  EPA will update this docket when the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

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