Maryland’s Construction General Permit up for Renewal

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently announced the pending renewal of the General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity, otherwise known as the C-GP.  The C-GP is one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permits.  MDE has delegated authority from EPA to revise and reissue this general permit every 5 years.

The purpose of the federal NPDES Stormwater program is to control pollution generated from runoff associated from industrial activity, construction activity and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS-4’s).  The C-GP is required for all construction activity in Maryland with a planned total disturbance of 1 acre or more although projects that do not meet the criteria for general permit coverage may be required to obtain an individual permit.  The permit authorizes Stormwater discharges from covered construction sites during active construction and works in conjunction with Maryland Erosion and Sediment regulations to control and prevent sediment pollution.

MDE drafted revisions to the existing permit that were printed as a tentative determination to reissue the C-GP in August.  In addition, the Department held a regulatory hearing in August and has provided a written comment period through mid-October.  The Maryland State Builders Association (MSBA) participated in the hearing and will submit detailed comments requesting changes and clarifications to some of the proposed revisions.

Key changes in the proposed permit include:

 Shorter comment period for permit coverage applications---MDE intends to post all applications (known as an NOI) on their website immediately upon receipt.  By making the NOI applications available to the public immediately, they proposed a shorter comment period from 30 days to 14, before an NOI will be approved. 

Transition process---MDE will require all current permitees to obtain coverage under the new permit by January 2014.  In addition, unless an existing permit was obtained in 2013; all renewals will have to pay the fee again for coverage.  This transition proposal may be problematic for large projects that may no longer meet the criteria for general permit coverage.  MSBA is working with MDE to revise this provision.

Revised definition of construction activity---MDE is proposing an expansion of the definition of construction activity to include areas outside of the construction project area.  The new definition may be confusing and it is not clear what types of areas will be subject to compliance.  MSBA has requested that MDE rework the language in the definition to clarify exactly which areas in addition to the construction site will be subject to compliance.

The revised C-GP will be available for review later this fall and will go into effect in January 2014.   

Accounting for Growth Discussion Draft - July 12, 2012

Accounting for Growth Discussion Draft - July 12, 2012

MDE has released the following discussion draft on nutrient trading regs being developed.

According to page 1 of the document, "The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has ample statutory authority to enact an offset program. In particular, Environment Article, Title 9, Subtitle 3, Annotated Code of Maryland, directs MDE to carry out certain objectives, including “to improve, conserve, and manage the quality of the waters of this State.” § 9-302."

The paper goes on to say "Minimizing loads from new development is essential to the success of the strategy to offset growth.  It reduces the need for offsets and helps preserve offsets for physical and economic development that is vital to the State and local jurisdictions. Maryland’s Accounting for Growth strategy will encourage counties and municipalities to manage their growth and help make offsets available for the growth and development they want.  

This discussion draft explains the policies and proposed mechanism for managing the load from growth and development. After significant outreach and stakeholder involvement, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will propose regulations to implement the policies and mechanism."

Click here to read the full document

Barriers to development inside Maryland's Priority Funding Areas

Passed in 1997, Maryland’s Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative
took a novel approach to growth management, utilizing the power of the purse to
encourage sustainable development. The initiative seeks to discourage suburban sprawl
through a targeted spending approach, while also allowing local governments to retain
their land use decision-making authority. It required local governments to designate
Priority Funding Areas (PFAs) where state infrastructure funding would be focused.
Through this tool, the State aimed to promote development and revitalization within
Maryland’s urbanized areas, while limiting the urbanization of Maryland’s rural areas
and green spaces.

Data from the Maryland Department of Planning, however, suggests that PFAs are
having limited impacts. The percent of single-family acres developed outside of PFAs
has risen steadily over time. Development densities have declined in PFAs, with the
average parcel size inside PFAs increasing from 0.25 acres in 1990 to 0.28 acres in
2004. Despite their disappointing performance, PFAs are anticipated to play key roles
in future policies regarding development on septic systems and in PlanMaryland, the
state development plan.

Given their growing prominence but questionable efficacy, PFAs warrant further
examination. That is the purpose of this study, conducted by the Housing Strategies
Group of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the
University of Maryland (HSG), and funded by the Maryland State Builders Association
and the NAIOP Maryland chapters. The study relies upon responses to a telephone
survey of forty-seven representatives from three key stakeholder groups—planners,
policy advocates and consultants, and developers. HSG made every effort to obtain the
perspectives of a variety of sources but it is important to note that the survey
respondents could not be said to be randomly selected and the sample size is too small
for rigorous statistical analysis.

While not presenting new empirical analysis of the influence of PFAs on development
patterns across the State, the study does produce new information on how critical
stakeholders view the efficacy of PFAs and the barriers to development inside PFAs.

Click here to download the Executive Summary

Click here to download the full Study

Sage Economic Report on the cost of the Maryland WIP

Chesapeake Bay Cleanup to Cost Marylanders $9,750 per Household

BALTIMORE, April 14--A report released today by Sage Policy Group explains why Maryland's plan to comply with new federal regulations designed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay would shrink the state's economy by $10 billion, result in the loss of 65,000 jobs and cost the state, taxpayers and consumers more than $11 billion by 2017 -- making the overall cost to Marylanders $21 billion, or $9,750 per household.

The Sage Group study, "The Impact of the Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan on Key Maryland Industries" was commissioned by the Maryland State Builders Association, which represents the state's home builders, remodelers, suppliers and contractors.

"Clearly the findings of this report are cause for concern," said Steve Seawright, the builders association president.  "We believe the focus of Bay cleanup should center on the leading causes of pollution and the most economically beneficial reduction measures that can be put in place now with the limited resources available," he said.

At a time when our state and nation are struggling to emerge from a significant recession and resulting high unemployment, moving forward with such an expensive plan will be devastating, with $2.8 billion in lost wages and income - and worse yet, the plan does not focus on the worst polluters."

Above and beyond the efficacy of the current state plan, the new mandates go further than those of neighboring states, thus placing Maryland at a competitive disadvantage as it relates to economic growth, job creation and the overall financial impact on residents.

"From a public policy perspective, this suggests that Maryland's implementation program should strive to retain at least the current level of economic development competitiveness vis-à-vis Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states," the report said. "In other words, Maryland's contributions to Bay restoration should be commensurate with the contributions of other states, thereby allowing Maryland's industries to continue to effectively compete."

From a practical standpoint, it is unclear how the plan's $11 billion price tag will be paid for given the current budgetary limitations on the state and localities, which face substantial cuts and growing liabilities this year and forecast over the next two years.

While some costs will be passed onto consumers and industries, Maryland and its counties would incur dramatic increased costs for compliance over the plan's first five years.

"The Maryland State Builders Association certainly supports efforts to strengthen the health of the Bay, as every Marylander would. We, however, believe that those efforts should be undertaken within the confines of affordability and in way that keeps Maryland competitive economically," Seawright said.

Click Here to download the Sage Economic Report

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