EPA Issues 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Stormwater Discharges

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Seyfarth Synopsis: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit (“MSGP”) for industrial stormwater discharges on January 15, 2021. The 2021 MSGP became effective on March 1, 2021 and replaces the 2015 MSGP for facilities in states with EPA-managed NPDES Programs. 

The 2021 MSGP replaces the 2015 MSGP, which expired and was administratively continued on June 4, 2020. Beginning March 1, 2021, operators in affected jurisdictions  must submit a new Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to obtain authorization to discharge in accordance with the deadlines set forth in Part 1.3.3. of the 2021 MSGP. Table 1-2 of the 2021 MSGP lists NOI deadlines. For example, facilities with existing coverage under the 2015 MSGP must submit their NOI by May 30, 2021. Affected jurisdictions include:

  • New Hampshire, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.;
  • Idaho, until July 1, 2021, when NPDES permit management will transition to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality;
  • S. territories except the Virgin Islands;
  • Federally operated facilities in Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Washington;
  • Most Indian country lands; and
  • Other designated activities in specific states (e.g., oil and gas activities in Texas and Oklahoma).

While limited to the referenced affected jurisdictions for now, the changes incorporated in the 2021 MSGP will affect all state programs eventually, when states renew their industrial stormwater permits; several states will upgrade to the new MSGP before the end of 2021.

The 2021 MSGP requires industrial facilities in 29 different industrial sectors to implement control measures and develop and make available to the public site-specific Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (“SWPPP”) to comply with NPDES requirements specific for each sector.  New provisions in the 2021 MSGP include the following substantive technical, quasi-technical and administrative changes which include the following and eventually will impact all permittees:

  1. The 2021 MSGP includes new or updated technical provisions:
  • changes in frequency and reporting obligations for both indicator monitoring and benchmark monitoring;
  • adds monitoring of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for certain facilities;
  • requires monitoring in the fourth year of the permit, even where benchmark monitoring has been allowed to be discontinued;
  • requires increased monitoring for discharges to impaired waters;
  • requires corrective actions in accordance with certain steps (“tiering”), first evaluating and implementing controls based on the SWPPP, then escalating to include additional control measures, and finally imposing permanent structural controls, and even treatment controls; and
  • requires enhanced stormwater control measures in areas known to be impacted by weather conditions including flooding, hurricanes, storm surges, in advance of weather events. Measures might include reducing inventory of materials stored outside, or elevation of outside storage of materials.
  1. There are also new quasi-administrative changes to the MSGP including:
  • filing of and public disclosure of the facility SWPPP (it must now be uploaded with the NOI);
  • site signage to alert the public that the site is subject to the 2021 MSGP and to alert the public of the existence of the SWPPP; and
  • public disclosure of additional implantation measures (AIM), as may be required by an AIM triggering event, such as an exceedance of a benchmark threshold for four consecutive quarters.
  1. Finally, there are administrative changes to the MSGP:
  • the process, and the terms and conditions of the general permit, have been made more “user friendly”;
  • the directions and permit have been updated to use “plain language” so that the requirements of the permit are clear to users, enforcement authorities, and the pubic;
  • EPA has reportedly improved the security of the NPDES e-Reporting Tool (“NeT”) to “ensure organizations only have access to their permit forms and information.” NeT users will now “own,” or have access to specific NPDES identification information (“ID”), to prepare or submit: Changes to NOIs, Notices of Terminations, or Annual Reports associated with that NPDES ID.

Because of the new monitoring and control requirements, signage requirements, requirements to upload SWPPPs with the NOI,and requirements to make SWPPPs public, it is important that our clients be aware of these changes as they are implemented in their state.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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