Construction industry groups are concerned about the new general construction permit for stormwater discharges from construction sites, set to replace the current 2012 permit.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the changes in the permit are minor and set a short 45-day period for public input. The agency posted the draft permit language on April 11, and the public comment period ends on May 26. However, construction groups say the new permit includes a number of changes that will prove to be problematic for contractors. Several of these groups filed a request for an extension to the public comment period, but EPA denied their request.
Leah Pilconis, senior adviser for environmental policy at the Associated General Contractors of America, says, “A lot of the changes are significant … a lot that would make it more difficult and expensive for contractors to achieve compliance.”
The general construction permit, updated every five years, applies to only a handful of states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and several other U.S. territories. But many additional states use the national permit as a model for their own.
Some of the changes include more frequent site inspections and new restrictions on runoff from building washdowns. But most troublesome is the requirement that contractors electronically file permit applications and storm-compliance plans to a website that is accessible by the public, Pilconis says. This mandate not only raises concerns related to confidential contractor business and site information but also as regards the accuracy of the data.
Eva Birk, the National Association of Home Builders’ program manager for environmental policy, says, “As soon as you put it on the web, that data is stale because the [stormwater-compliance plan] is a living, breathing document that is meant to be updated daily.”
EPA contends that the electronic filing would create more transparency and save states millions of dollars annually.