Storm Water Rules Battle Brews in Tennessee

Date: April 06, 2016

NFIB-supported legislation would block EPA’s backdoor attempt.

Storm Water Rules Battle Brews in Tennessee

NFIB/Tennessee is currently partnering with the Home Builders Association of Tennessee to block an attempt to expand state storm water regulations beyond minimum federal standards.

NFIB, along with others in the business community, urges TDEC not to promulgate rules that even the EPA has abandoned, not to impose rules that are more stringent than those of surrounding states and not to issue rules that are counterproductive and costly to the industry. NFIB also urges state lawmakers to vote YES on House Bill 1892.

HB1892, which at this writing is moving through committee, would clarify state law on this issue by requiring general permits issued under the Water Quality Control Act be no more restrictive than federal requirements for management of storm water after building construction. A similar bill in the Senate, SB1830, is also moving through committee.

The bills are important for a variety of reasons, which the Home Builders Association outlines:

  • They permit TDEC to continue to issue storm water permits to local governments with post-construction storm water requirements that meet, but do not exceed EPA minimum requirements under the Clean Water Act. Therefore, these bills do not eliminate the requirement to follow state and federal law regarding the control of storm water runoff, but they give local governments full discretion and flexibility to implement appropriate standards to meet minimum requirements.
  • TDEC’s proposed rules would also pass along costs to local governments to support the program, and by adopting standards that are stricter than minimum federal requirements, local governments would be faced with higher unfunded mandates. These bills would prevent that burden.
  • They will align Tennessee with six surrounding states (EPA Region IV) in terms of post-construction storm water regulation.
  • In 2013, the EPA already abandoned its national effort to develop specific national regulations for post-construction storm water because the costs and legal impediments would outweigh benefits. TDEC would face the same problem because this type of “one-size-fits-all” requirement is impossible to create for all of Tennessee.

Chris Todd, NFIB/Tennessee’s Leadership Council chairman and owner of environmental consulting business Envirogreen, also weighed in on the impact of the bill.

“One of the greatest burdens I see in the entire MS4 [local government] permitting program is funding,” Todd says. “The costs of mandates for government entities to be permitted to allow natural storm water to leave their boundaries is always passed down to the individual taxpayer, no matter what channels it goes through. It will come as higher local taxes, utility fees or state taxes. On top of that, those same individuals will pay more for their goods and services as developers are forced to take out valuable property to set apart for runoff infiltration and treatment. Costly devices will need to be installed in storm drain systems to remove pollutants; those devices must be maintained long-term; and staff/consultants will be hired to deal with the vast documentation, reporting, ordinance creation, sampling, monitoring, inspections and enforcement to comply with the permit.”

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