EPA Proposes National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule


Source: SOCMA
Related Topics: US Environmental Protection Agency

Yesterday, July 30, EPA published a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) electronic reporting proposed rule in the Federal Register.  The rule “would require electronic reporting for current paper-based NPDES reports.”  Comments are due on October 28.  The Agency hopes to issue a final rule by June 2014.

EPA contends that this will save “time and resources” for permittees and other stakeholders, and will also “enhance transparency and public accountability by providing regulatory agencies and the public with more timely, complete, accurate, and nationally-consistent sets of data about the NPDES program and potential sources of water pollution.”  EPA adds that the proposal should also allow “NPDES-authorized programs in states, tribes, and territories to shift precious resources from data management activities to those more targeted to solving water quality and noncompliance issues,” which could result in “increased compliance, improved water quality, and a level playing field for the regulated community.”

EPA notes that, “Most facilities subject to reporting requirements will be required to start submitting data electronically one year following the effective date of the final rule. Facilities with limited access to the Internet will have the option of one additional year to come into compliance with the new rule.”

Acknowledging the large scope of this proposed rule, EPA also is committing “to offer an additional opportunity for transparency and engagement by publishing a supplemental notice should we receive comments on the proposed rule that require significant changes.” [emphasis added] States, tribes, territories, permittees, and other stakeholders would be able to comment on the supplemental notice; the notice would be published  within 180 days after the public comment period for the proposed rule closed. 

EPA notes that entities potentially impacted by the proposal include:  Entities potentially affected by this proposal include “all NPDES-permitted facilities, whether covered by an individually-issued permit or by a general permit” and “industrial users located in cities without approved local pretreatment programs.”

This proposed rule is part of an Agency-wide initiative – E-Enterprise – which seeks to encourage greater electronic data collection and monitoring.  The proposal also derives from EPA’s 2009 Clean Water Act Action Plan, which stated that the Agency lacks nationally consistent compliance information for NPDES permits. 

Information covered by the proposal includes, among other categories:
  • Discharge monitoring reports;
  • Reports required for initial permit coverage, coverage termination, or potential permit exclusion; and
  • Reports from facilities with local pretreatment programs;

The Agency states that the proposal “does not expand the reportable data from NPDES-regulated facilities or other regulated facilities beyond what is required by existing regulations.”  EPA also notes that it will develop “national tools” to allow regulated facilities to report electronic permit data to states, although states are not required to use those programs.

While the Agency estimates some initial implementation costs, including $17.6 million for regulated entities in the first-year, EPA ultimately projects that the rule will result in annual cost savings (mostly for the states) of approximately $29 million.

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