EPA Proposes Municipal Stormwater General Permit Modifications for Massachusetts Communities
BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing targeted modifications to the 2016 Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) general permit for Massachusetts communities. The proposed modifications would provide municipalities with more tools and flexibilities for permit implementation while also ensuring that water quality is protected and the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are met.
Today's proposed modifications were developed through a multi-year mediation between EPA and the parties who challenged the underlying 2016 permit. The proposed modifications are identical to those attached to the litigation settlement agreement announced for public comment in December 2019 and executed in April 2020 between EPA and the permit litigants, which included municipalities, environmental groups, and other affected stakeholders. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed permit modifications for 45 days.
"EPA believes the modifications to the 2016 MS4 permit are a win-win; these changes balance the implementation needs of Massachusetts communities with the water quality protections required under the Clean Water Act. When fully implemented, the MS4 permit will continue to protect the environment and adhere to the law," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "Stormwater is the largest contributor of pollutants to impaired rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and other waters in Massachusetts. The MS4 permit is an important step to reduce the harmful impact of polluted stormwater on local waterbodies."
EPA's New England Regional Office issues CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. MS4 permits are NPDES permits that authorize certain discharges of municipal stormwater to surface waters. EPA issued the Massachusetts Small MS4 General Permit in 2016. After EPA finalized the 2016 MS4 Permit, various parties filed petitions for review, including the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, Inc. (HBRAMA), the Center for Regulatory Reasonableness (CRR), the Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship (MCWRS), the Town of Franklin, Massachusetts, (Franklin), the City of Lowell, Massachusetts (Lowell), the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA). These petitions were consolidated with a challenge to EPA's 2017 New Hampshire Small MS4 General Permit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit). Once consolidated, the cases were entered into the DC Circuit's mediation program; after more than two years of discussions, the parties negotiated a proposed settlement agreement which was announced December 27, 2019, issued for public comment, and executed by all parties on April 15, 2020. Under the terms of that settlement agreement, EPA committed to taking this action today to propose certain modifications to this Small MS4 General Permit.
EPA will accept public comments on the proposed permit modifications for 45 days.
The Federal Register notice, the proposed MS4 permit modifications, statements of basis that explain EPA’s rationale for the proposed permit modifications, and instructions on how to formally submit comments on the proposed permit modifications will be available on https://regulations.gov under the following docket number: EPA-R01-OW-2020-0216.
EPA will hold two informational webinars on the proposed permit modifications. The first information session will be held May 4th 2020, to register, and for more information, please see: https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/massachusetts-small-ms4-general-permit