Demystifying the Construction General Permit
Of all permits needed prior to construction, the construction general permit is arguably the one that inspires the greatest anxiety and sense of foreboding. Centered on storm water discharges related to construction activities, the permit is under purview of the EPA—an agency that doesn’t mess around with its enforcement and penalties.
Storm water discharges originating from construction—resulting from grading, excavation, stockpiling, and the like—that disturb the environment on one or more acres that are part of a larger common plan of development or sale, are regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water program. Before discharging, construction operators must first obtain coverage under an NPDES permit.
Some in the construction industry view a construction general permit as a draconian measure, but it is an important safeguard to protect the environment. The main compliance issue inherent to a construction general permit centers on effluent limits and related permit requirements. Contractors seeking coverage under the EPA’s construction general permit requirements must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) that certifies they have not only met the permit’s eligibility conditions but intend to adhere to established effluent limits and other requirements. In seeking a permit, operators are required to use the EPA’s electronic NOI system.
In March, the EPA hosted two webinars designed to provide members of the public an overview of the revamped construction general permit updated for 2012 that included a Q&A session to ask questions of EPA officials. If you missed it, it’s available for download at the EPA website.
Not to add to the pressure, but there are also a series of deadlines associated for submitting a NOI and dates of permit coverage. For a new project, for example, the deadline to submit is at least 14 days prior to the beginning of construction. The accompanying date of permit coverage is 14 calendar days after the EPA has acknowledged receipt of a NOI. This assumes, however, that the EPA has not notified that an authorization has been delayed or denied. The same deadline timelines exist for a new operator of a new or existing project. For an existing project (defined as one that began before Feb. 16, 2012), the deadline to submit is no later than May 16. There’s also a deadline related to emergency-related projects, required no later than 30 days after construction start. For such projects, permit coverage is offered provisionally on an immediate basis.
In seeking information related to a construction general permit, a visit to the EPA website is highly advisable. Contractors can reach the site at www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/cgpnoisearch.
A plethora of information on the construction general permit can be found at the website, including information on states, Indian country, and territories where such requirements apply. Also, you can find a primer on the type of operator that would need such coverage. Storm water pollution prevention plans and other helpful resources are also available, as well as a review on the Endangered Species Act. There’s even a nifty portion designed to help find a construction site’s latitude and longitude coordinates.
To be sure, dealing with federal agencies can be somewhat anxiety-inducing. However, at Burnham Nationwide, a seasoned array of professionals are well accustomed to dealing with regulators at the highest levels and are happy to help you navigate these regulatory waters. Our professionals are not only conversant in the nomenclature of the federal government, but are familiar to regulators given their many encounters on behalf of our clients. We would be happy to lend that expertise toward the end of achieving a comfort level in obtaining a construction general permit for your next project. Burnham can be reached toll-free at 800-407-7990. For those of you engaged in social media, we can be reached via Facebook as well. Once you find our page, we’re hopeful you’ll hit the “like” button.