For those who are involved with stormwater management and have been awaiting developments with EPA’s national stormwater rulemaking, there is finally some news of sorts. Since the June 2013 deadline for the new rule came and went, EPA has been largely silent on the issue—until last month. In March the agency indicated a change of direction, saying it’s no longer pursuing a national rule at all but is taking other actions instead to work toward some of the same goals it apparently hoped the rule would achieve.
EPA’s own web page on the rulemaking summarizes the change: “EPA is updating its stormwater strategy to focus now on pursuing a suite of immediate actions to help support communities in addressing their stormwater challenges and deferring action on rulemaking to reduce stormwater discharges from newly developed and redeveloped sites or other regulatory changes to its stormwater program,” the site states. “EPA will provide incentives, technical assistance, and tools to communities to encourage them to implement strong stormwater programs; leverage existing requirements to strengthen municipal stormwater permits; and continue to promote green infrastructure as an integral part of stormwater management. EPA believes this approach will achieve significant, measurable, and timely results in reducing stormwater pollution and provide significant climate resiliency benefits to communities.”
Based on this statement, it sounds as though EPA will be relying on voluntary efforts by local jurisdictions, rather than on the strong enforcement authority a new rule might have provided. However, much of the emphasis is the same. At StormCon 2011, for example, an EPA spokesman said that integrating green infrastructure into project designs would be a major element of the rule, and this recent statement indicates green infrastructure is still an important priority. In fact, the 2015 federal budget request includes $5 million plus additional staff to support green infrastructure programs.
How do you view EPA’s change of direction? Will it spur local programs to take action on their own, or ultimately weaken them?