A Big Win for Small Builders: EPA’s Streamlined Stormwater Compliance Guide

dirtFor years, NAHB members have raised concerns about the complicated process of getting a stormwater permit – that is, if they realize that they even need one. Many smaller home builders figure that the developer took care of any paperwork requirements before they graded the lots and don’t know they may need to comply as well.

In turn, NAHB has often discussed the issue with Environmental Protection Agency officials and offered suggestions to help streamline the process.

Today, there’s an answer, at least for some builders: In direct response to NAHB’s request, EPA is announcing the release of a voluntary Construction General Permit (CGP) compliance template for residential lots disturbing one acre or less. The template and a fact sheet explaining how it works are on EPA’s website.

“We have repeatedly argued that EPA’s CGP is too complex for many of our members, who typically build about five homes a year,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods. “The permitting process is more suited to large land developers, rather than smaller companies that are building homes on individual lots within a subdivision,” he said.

The new compliance template can be used immediately in the states and territories where EPA is the direct permitting authority, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Idaho and Washington, D.C. And if all goes according to plan, home builders in other states will eventually be able to use the streamlined template too by modifying it to fit any extra state-specific requirements.

Who Needs It?

It’s helpful to remember that all builders must seek CGP coverage for any construction activity disturbing over one acre, or activity disturbing less that one acre when that jobsite is within a larger subdivision or development. Builders often draft a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan or SWPPP, using EPA’s current template, which can be onerous – sometimes even 100 pages long – and costly to produce.

EPA’s streamlined SWPPP template – which is less than 20 pages – provides a simplified list of compliance options for typical small residential construction sites, including a check-list menu of Best Management Practices – such as silt fences – from which to choose. Although the new template will not change any requirements in EPA’s CGP, it will make the SWPPP writing process far less complicated, saving small builders time and money.

In states where EPA is the permitting authority, NAHB is working with state EOs and other interested parties to make sure that home builders are aware of this new option.

If you’re a builder in a state where EPA is not the permitting authority and have interest in using this tool, contact our office to get started with the process of adopting the template for use in your state.

Questions? Contact NAHB’s Eva Birk, Environmental Policy Program Manager, at 800-368-5242 x8124. Or take a look at this helpful infographic for a big-picture look.

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