The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a draft Multisector General Permit (MSGP) under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program for stormwater discharges related to industrial activity. In Alaska, EPA has jurisdiction over NPDES permitting on federal property within Denali National Park, in federal waters (three miles or more offshore), and on certain Indian Country lands. In California, EPA has jurisdiction over NPDES permitting under the MSGP on Indian Country lands.
EPA’s draft MSGP proposes several notable changes for oil and gas extraction permittees, referred to as “Sector I” permittees in the MSGP. The most notable is that oil and gas extraction permittees must now sample their discharges for pH, total suspended solids (TSS), chemical oxygen demand (COD), ammonia, nickel, total recoverable lead, nitrate-nitrogen, total recoverable zinc, and hardness. The samples must then be compared to benchmark values. For facilities that exceed a benchmark value, the permittee will be required to follow a set of “additional implementation measures,” which are progressive improvements that include, potentially, stormwater treatment. While benchmark exceedances are not permit violations, failing to follow an additional implementation measure would be a permit violation subject to EPA enforcement and citizen suits. Adding benchmark sampling to the MSGP substantially increases the regulatory burden and cost for oil and gas extraction permittees and creates new risk for permit violations. The draft MSGP also proposes other changes, including posting a sign regarding permit coverage, allowing composite sampling, and addressing major storm events and extreme flooding. Comments on the draft MSGP are due to EPA by May 1, 2020.