Is MS4 specificity attainable?

Ideally, each MS4 would have a set of solutions tailored to its specific issues and metrics that prove the validity of each measure. Certainly, a small percentage does. But most lack the resources to do so, and are left trying to satisfy the regulations without being able to determine whether and how much their efforts will improve their community’s stormwater quality.

To overcome the lack of research and support, permittees have banded together via professional associations, conferences, magazines, enewsletters, and webinars to promote technology transfer.

Permittees within the same geographic area, under the same regulating agency, have pooled resources to help each other determine the best approaches and advocate for more practical approaches. Such coalitions have been very effective; turn to page 45 to learn how one state’s MS4s influenced nutrient requirements.

Institute for Policy Integrity letter

One of the more significant comments regarding the impending rulemaking was an April 27, 2012, Institute for Policy Integrity letter urging EPA to ensure the new regulations maximize net benefits. Specifically, the agency should:

1. Refine its cost-benefit analysis by considering additional benefits categories, incorporating nonuse values, and accounting for industry adaptation.

2. Analyze whether market-based regulatory approaches can increase the proposed rule’s cost-effectiveness.

3. Minimize economically inefficient grandfathering by adopting a time-limited transition relief scheme.

4. Design the rule to facilitate watershed-based permitting.

5. Structure the rule to maximize public involvement in permitting, monitoring, and enforcement.

The Institute’s summary is directed at EPA in the form of what should be included in the rule. While the agency can certainly deal with some of these issues, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have the states — which better understand their MS4s’ issues — incorporate the five points into their permits?

Because it’s addressed by both the National Science Council and Institute, watershed-based permitting may make it into the proposed rule. Forming multijurisdictional entitiesm however, presents significant political difficulties. It should instead be a measurable goal to explore such entities with groups of MS4s within the same watersheds.

The market-based approach has merit because funding issues need more attention and permittees can’t provide all the resources. It would allow the private sector to participate in creative, market-driven financing of required practices. And while public involvement has been a staple of the rule for Phase I and Phase II permittees, the process isn’t as robust as it needs to be.

EPA’s Information Collection Request Summary

EPA shared the preliminary results of its Information Collection Request — an effort to document what permittees are doing to improve stormwater quality — at the Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater Symposium in July 2012.

The request was sent to a random sample of about 608 of the nation’s 750 Phase 1 and 6,600 Phase II permittees; responses were received from a combined total of 471. The experience of Phase 1 permittees is particularly informative because they’ve been at this for more than 15 years and have been monitoring receiving waters.

EPA will consider all this information when developing the proposed regulation for publication in June.

Your input is critical. Most permittees simply can’t afford the research necessary to determine the best benefit-costs approaches, so cost-effective solutions must be top priority. Submit comments on the proposed rule on your own or in association with other MS4s in your city, county, or state. Remember: There’s strength in numbers.

Sorensen (jon.sorensen@amec.com) is senior stormwater utility associate in the Environment & Infrastructure group of consulting engineering firm AMEC (www.amec.com).