DEP Challenges EPA's Approach To Chesapeake Bay Stormwater Regulation

June 3, 2011

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency May 26, the Department of Environmental Protection expressed concerns about EPA's approach to requiring stormwater controls in the Chesapeake Bay watershed saying the $5.3 billion estimated cost is "extraordinary" given stormwater's contribution of only 6 percent of the nutrient load to the Bay. "The urban stormwater sector is identified as contributing only approximately 6 percent of the problematic load. EPA contractors have estimated that it will cost municipalities $5.3 billion to address the problem," said DEP Secretary Michael Krancer. "This extraordinary cost is simply not reasonable, not cost effective and not likely to result in significant needed environmental gains and comes at a time when local governments are in significant economic distress." DEP said the problem is based, in part, on assumptions made by EPA in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed TMDL. "Put simply, we do not think the application of the model to Pennsylvania MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems) permits is scientifically or technically appropriate," said Secretary Krancer. "The model projects loads based upon very gross inputs. The model does not reflect conditions at the local level for purposes of predicting specific local load reductions to be included in individual permits, and was not developed for such a use." DEP further explained the model inputs can have as much as a 15 percent error rate and includes mining impacts in the urban stormwater section of the model. "DEP is in the process of collecting the information we believe to be critical to making the model results more reflective of on-the-ground construction, post construction and MS4 BMP (best management practice) implementation in Pennsylvania, and is also working with the National Association of Conservation Districts, other states and NRCS to determine how to better capture the full spectrum of agriculture BMPs for credit in the model," said Secretary Krancer. DEP also expressed a concern that EPA is using counties as a basis for calculating runoff volumes and loads in the model, rather than Pennsylvania's traditional local governments-- townships and boroughs-- unnecessarily bringing a broader area under regulation. "DEP and our municipality stakeholders have been frustrated with EPA's continued failure to acknowledge the challenge of Pennsylvania's unique municipal structure-- which results in Pennsylvania having more regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) than any other state and one sixth of the nation's total with nearly 1,000 as of the 2000 Census," explained Secretary Krancer.

"An important consideration we believe EPA needs to recognize is Pennsylvania's recently finalized stormwater regulations which require post construction stormwater best management practices be implemented and maintained when a land development project disturbs one or more acres of land-- regardless of whether the project is located in a regulated MS4 area," said Secretary Krancer. "Implementation of these regulations on average results in significantly less pollutants being discharged to Pennsylvania's waters and ultimately the Bay than is contemplated int he Chesapeake Bay model.

"Pennsylvania has articulated these reservations to EPA for quite some time, and has been frustrated with the lack of collaborative dialogue on these issues," said Secretary Krancer. "DEP has also been further disheartened and frustrated by the lack of support and acknowledgement by EPA of Pennsylvania's strong stormwater management program. "We will continue to lead, as we have, not only to restore and reclaim the Chesapeake By, but to protect and maintain Pennsylvania's water resources which are among the most significant assets of the Commonwealth." A copy of the letter is available online.