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NAHB Efforts on EPA’s Final ELG Rule Save Builders an Average of $6,200 Per Home

Wednesday, March 05, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Home builders will save an average of $6,200 per home on stormwater control costs due to a recent settlement agreement between NAHB and the Wisconsin Home Builders Association and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In accordance with the settlement agreement, EPA has taken final action on rules governing how clean the water running off construction sites after a rainfall must be. The new rules will be published in the Federal Register by March 11.

The Effluent Limitation Guidelines rule replaces EPA's 2009 attempt to control erosion and sediment. That proposed rule prohibited certain kinds of discharges and limited the amount of dust and dirt allowed in any eventual runoff in what is called the turbidity limit. NAHB economists estimate that this last stipulation regarding runoff would have forced builders to apply additional, expensive controls or additives to the water. On average, these controls would have cost $6,200 per each new home constructed.

NAHB's litigation brought EPA to the settlement table where, after forceful negotiations, the agency backed away from this onerous and costly rule. NAHB successfully argued that there was no scientific basis for the limits, which in some cases could require runoff to be cleaner than the natural state of the rivers and other water bodies near the construction site.

The settlement agreement allowed EPA to enact a new rule that maintains the erosion control requirements, but drops the turbidity limit. The new rule also clarifies some requirements for the benefit of states updating their own stormwater permits, which must be at least as strict as EPA’s national model and must be renewed every five years.  

Among the changes builders will see:

  • Adding a definition of "infeasible."  EPA calls for the rule to be followed "unless infeasible," and defines infeasible as stormwater controls not technologically possible or economically practicable and achievable in light of best industry practices.
  • Removing the “within the site” requirement. The rule requires developers to control stormwater volume and velocity to minimize soil erosion and pollutant discharges. However, the practice is only necessary when the erosion and discharge leaves the site. Originally, the rule required builders and developers to control the movement of water and sediment even if it stayed on the jobsite.
  • Limiting control of stormwater discharges, including peak flow rates and total stormwater volume to the immediate vicinity of discharge points. Builders are responsible for erosion control in the immediate area where the discharge takes place, not for damages that may be caused by other sources upstream or downstream.

The rule also clarifies other confusing language that might lead to additional unnecessary requirements in stormwater permits.

“This has been a long struggle, but the results are well worth it,” said Environmental Issues Committee Chair Chuck Ellison. “EPA has listened to reason, and NAHB has helped to ensure that our waterways are protected without the kind of regulatory overreach that increases the cost of new homes without any appreciable environmental benefit.”

For more information, email Ty Asfaw at NAHB or call her at 800-368-5242 x8124. 

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