Controversial Tennessee stormwater bill becomes law without governor’s signature

A contentious stormwater bill (S.B. 1830/H.B. 1892) that restricts the ability of localities to establish post-construction control standards has become law in Tennessee without action by Governor Bill Haslam (R). The legislation states, “No general permit shall impose post construction storm water requirements that are more restrictive than the Federal Water Pollution Control Act…”.

The legislation was introduced in January 2016 and was approved by an overwhelming majority in both the state House and Senate, with final legislative action on April 12. Environmental organizations and several localities opposed the bill.

The measure took effect April 22, but without signature of Governor Haslam.

Tennessee law allow for bills take effect 10 days after they are sent to the governor if no action is taken on them. In a unique response, Haslam issued a letter to the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House explaining that he took no action due to concerns about the bill’s confusing language, potential negative effects to both localities and water quality, and the possibility of litigation.

The new law effectively changes the previously established regulation for MS4 Phase II Permits that mandated up to 1 in. of rainfall be absorbed within a new development property without any resulting runoff. As the law was passed, the TN Department of Environment & Conservation had issued its draft NPDES General Permit for Discharges from Small MS4s for public notice. Language in the permit has been modified to reflect a 1-in. Water Quality Treatment Volume (WQTV) as opposed to the original 1 in. runoff reduction standard.

The text of Governor Haslam’s letter to Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell is provided below.

Text of Governor Haslam Letter regarding

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey:

I am letting Senate Bill 1830/House Bill 1892 become law without my signature.

I have concerns about the potential impacts of this legislation and the limits it places on the State’s ability to protect our water resources adequately. In addition, the bill imposes on local governments a cumbersome procedural mechanism that will cause confusion for those communities as they seek to implement required storm water pollutant removal programs. I am concerned that some of the ambiguous and confusing language of the bill could lead to costly litigation. As Governor, I am a strong proponent of economic growth and development, but I am equally committed to ensuring that we protect Tennessee’s air, land and water resources for today and for future generations of Tennesseans.

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Controversial Tennessee stormwater bill becomes law without governor’s signature”

  1. Skip Ragsdale
    May 6, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    For the last few years, Republicans in several states have tried to pass regulations that limited state environmental laws to the Federal Government’s minimum requirements. In states including Wisconsin, and North Carolina (may be more states but I do not know them) the legislatures have recently proposed Bills that would force state-level EPA entities to reduce enforcement. A law that states environmental laws can be no tougher than the Federal minimum is the norm in Alabama. Alabama’s authorization law that set up the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (notice the word management and not enforcement) requires ADEM’s regulations can never surpass the Federal minimum. This wording has been responsible for many environmental problems in Alabama. Until the EPA threatened to take away ADEM’s ability to enforce environmental laws in the state, ADEM was useless. After that threat, bureaucrats in that agency tried to do better enforcement but those in power at the state government decided upon another method of controlling enforcement and ADEM. The 2015-2016 state budget for ADEM is a negative $1M. ADEM was forced to send the General Fund of the state $1M more than the state provided ADEM. That means ADEM must fund itself by increasing permit costs. The increased cost for home and commercial building permits has caused uproar. The powers-that-be would like to blame the increased costs on the Federal government requirements. They want our citizens to blame Washington and not Montgomery. Isn’t it always Washington’s fault when there are increased environmental regulations? Surely It could not be that these costs are because of state government inaction to fund a state agency. If the State of Alabama properly funded ADEM instead of requiring them to come up with $1M to fund themselves then the costs of permits would be lower and there would be fewer complaints about the cost of all those Federal requirements. However, lowering environmental costs would not server the purpose of those who would rather have no regulations. Bureaucrats in state government want the people to become so outraged with the costs of protecting our environment that they will reduce environmental regulations. Then the big dollar political campaign donors could go back to polluting as they wish. See, everything will work out as long as you blame Washington for all your problems!

Leave a Reply