Changes to Discharge Permits Enable Counties to Better Control Erosion, Pollution

On February 22, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of HB 607 – Water Pollution Control – Discharge Permits – Stormwater Associated With Construction Activity.

The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, SB 471, on February 23.

HB 607 prohibits the State Department of the Environment from authorizing the discharge of stormwater associated with construction activity under a general discharge permit, and obligates the Department to instead require applications for an individual discharge permit under qualifying circumstances. The bill also holds permit holders liable for failing to adequately control the runoff of soil or pollutants from construction sites, in effect granting counties an additional tool to prevent excess soil erosion and pollution in their communities. Anne Arundel County already has a similar policy in place, and it has served the County well in ensuring that construction projects become less damaging to the environment.

From the MACo Testimony:

Counties play an outsized role in development and environmental protection. Local jurisdictions set regulations for construction, approving and holding accountable nearly all construction projects. One of the biggest challenges in construction is managing soil run-off. Naturally, when building a structure, soil is disturbed. If not properly mitigated, this soil ends up flowing into our streams and wreaking havoc. In many circumstances, developers comply with plans to mitigate excess soil runoff, but these plans are minimal. As long as developers are complying with plans to mitigate soil runoff, regardless of if those plans are effective, the developer is not held accountable for any necessary stream restoration. This system has largely shifted the burden of eventual stream restoration projects onto counties and thus taxpayers.

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