Maryland Court Upholds MS4 Stormwater Permits, Rejects Environmentalist Challenge

A Capital Gazette article (2016-03-12) reported the Maryland Court of Appeals has rejected arguments in a series of consolidated cases that the Phase 1 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) were not vague and contained sufficient information to meet federal requirements. The decision caps off a long-running legal battle between environmental groups who challenged the permits, the State, counties, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The decision supported the permits issued for Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties. The permits are required under the federal Clean Water Act. From the article:

“Citizens want to know the state and county are reducing this pollution,” said Tom Zolper, a spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of the lawsuit complainants. “We wanted tougher permits to make sure that happens. The court has denied these tougher permits. That’s disappointing.” …

But MDE said the current system is effective. Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles called the ruling a “big win” for the bay and the watershed.

“The ruling supports our approach of combining accountability with flexibility to help local governments find practical solutions to reducing polluted stormwater runoff,” he said. …

Erik Michelsen, the administrator of the county’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, said the system upheld by the court combined with “total maximum daily load” pollution limits keep the county’s feet to the fire.

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Consolidated Court of Appeals Case

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