EPA Responds to Groups’ Residual Designation Authority Petitions

In late March, American Rivers announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decisions on stormwater-related petitions filed in EPA Regions I, III and IX. Environmental groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Rivers, and the California Coastkeeper Alliance, filed the petitions relating to Residual Designation Authority (RDA). The petitions called for administrators in each of the three regions to determine that commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities not currently covered by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit are in fact contributing to water quality violations in certain impaired waters throughout the region. According to the petitioners, these facilities should, therefore, require NPDES permits pursuant to section 402(p) of the Clean Water Act. RDA, the basis of these petitions, gives EPA authority under the Clean Water Act and federal implementing regulations to require NPDES permit coverage for certain discharges not currently regulated by the program that are contributing to exceedances of water quality standards.

In Region I, EPA is not granting or denying the petition as currently framed. Instead, the agency will evaluate individual watersheds for impairments, focusing on those with known stormwater pollution, to determine if RDA should be exercised and to what extent.

EPA denied the petition in Region III, stating that a number of tools and programs already are in place to address stormwater pollution including the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. EPA also stated that the petitioners provided insufficient data to support categorical designations and subsequent permitting of additional sources.

In Region IX, EPA will continue to evaluate currently unregulated stormwater runoff sources for potential designation. However, it said that there is currently insufficient information to support a region-wide designation to the sites specified in the petition.

While the dismissal was only explicit in Region I, the same basic argument was made in all three responses. The argument held that the petitioners’ proposed use of RDA to blanket all sites within the cited land use categories was applied too broadly. The intent of RDA is to be used in a more focused fashion, in situations where specific sites could be linked to specific impairments.

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