EPA Administrator, Builders Talk Stormwater Enforcement

Filed in Codes and Regulations, Environmental by on October 24, 2017 0 Comments

NAHB members pose with Administrator Pruitt (center).

Builders and developers say that federal regulations designed to keep sediment out of local waterways have instead ended up in mountains of paperwork and confusion as to what constitutes a violation and what doesn’t.

NAHB members met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to relay this message and talk about solutions. In a meeting with top enforcement officials from EPA’s 10 regions, NAHB members suggested several ways EPA could improve the process.

Specifically, NAHB is looking for:

  • A simplified permit process for small lots. NAHB worked with EPA to develop a compliance template for single-family homes in large subdivisions that could also serve as a streamlined permit. Concise and easier to understand, it will foster higher rates of compliance among these low-risk sites NAHB said.
  • A “find it, fix it” approach. NAHB builders and HBA staff urged Pruitt to fundamentally reform EPA’s stormwater enforcement process, starting with missed opportunities to educate, rather than penalize, first-time violators during site visits. EPA inspectors should identify minor infractions to be corrected immediately or within a specific period of time without threat of further enforcement — provided, of course, that those violations don’t result in environmental harm. “We need an improved, two-step process that starts with education, and saves priority targeting for repeat bad actors,” said NAHB second vice chair Greg Ugalde, who helped facilitate the meeting.
  • Better coordination among regulators. Multiple visits from local, state and federal inspectors to the same site can result in very different observations and citations. As EPA seeks to restore the balance between compliance assistance and enforcement, NAHB believes states, not EPA, should play the lead role in targeting and initiating enforcement activities.
  • Continued participation in EPA’s “Smart Sectors” Program. Home builders were invited to participate this business community partnership to develop sensible regulations while protecting the environment and public health.

NAHB members were pleased at EPA’s response. “I am thankful for the opportunity EPA leadership and staff provided us today to start a dialogue – they really listened to our suggestions for how the agency could use enforcement visits as an opportunity to educate, rather than penalize those working to comply in good faith,” said Joseph Pietruszynski, vice president of land development for Hubbell Realty Co. in West Des Moines, Iowa.

“We heard from builders who never received word from EPA until four, six months after site visits on how to solve simple problems in the field. I think we really got the message across that there should be a better path for those of us willing to fix issues right away.”

For additional information, contact Eva Birk at 800-368-5242 x8124. For stormwater management resources, visit the NAHB Stormwater Toolkit.

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