NPDES Permitting for Environmental Results
The Permitting for Environmental Results (PER) initiative was a multi-year effort by EPA and the states to improve the overall integrity and performance of the NPDES program. Since most states are authorized to implement the NPDES program, the PER initiative was based on a strong partnership between the states and EPA. EPA worked closely with the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) to develop and implement elements of the PER strategy and to coordinate between state NPDES programs and EPA.
- Integrity - Ensuring that NPDES programs have tools and information they need to issue effective permits
- Program Efficiencies - Providing tools and sharing information to streamline the permitting process
- Environmental Results - Identifying environmentally significant permits, prioritizing and reissuing them to improve water quality
Integrity served as the cornerstone of the PER effort and the first major area of focus in implementing the PER strategy. EPA and the states worked through a detailed process to carefully assess each state NPDES program (or EPA regional office program for unauthorized states). This baseline assessment was designed to gauge the effectiveness of each program and to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. Out of this process emerged the Permit Quality Review (PQR) process.
- eNOI - EPA has created the Electronic Notice of Intent (eNOI) for construction sites, industrial facilities, vessel operators, and pesticide users to apply for coverage under EPA's Construction General Permit (CGP), Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), Vessel General Permit (VGP), and Pesticide General Permit (PGP). The eNOI system is a free online service. Electronic permit application systems can save vast amounts of state staff time and effort in processing paper applications. These systems also save valuable time and effort for the regulated community.
- Discharge Mapping Tool - The new Discharge Mapping Tool is designed to help determine the receiving waters to which a facility discharges, and to determine whether these waterbodies are considered "impaired" under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. The Discharge Mapping Tool uses the National Hydrologic Dataset Plus (NHDPlus) catchment datalayer and NHD waters indexed with Section 303(d) listing and TMDL information for analyzing whether a project is located with the catchment of an impaired water, and therefore discharges to that impaired water.
Adapting the NPDES permitting process to better meet the needs of watersheds can, in the long-run, save time and effort and improve water quality. EPA is working closely with states and communities to test watershed approaches to NPDES permitting. A number of resources on this topic are available:
- Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Implementation Guidance (PDF) (93 pp, 1.7MB, About PDF) (December 2003) outlines a general approach for watershed-based NPDES permitting.
- Watershed Permitting - Additional guidance, case studies, and reference materials on the subject of watershed permitting.
Every NPDES permit must be reissued every five years. This process allows each NPDES program to reassess the permit and the impact of the discharge on the river, lake, or coastal water. As we moved toward a watershed approach not only for NPDES permits, but for the Clean Water Act programs as a whole, we focused increased attention on those permits that can be reissued with new and strengthened limits that could lead to significant improvements in impaired or threatened waters. EPA and the states continue to explore ways to use environmental data and permit characteristics to identify the most environmentally significant permits.
Each NPDES program started working to identify priority permits for reissuance using a framework developed by EPA in 2004. The priority permit selection and commitment rules have changed over time in an attempt to better focus on the most environmentally significant permits. Currently, all individual permits expired greater than two years are considered candidates to be selected as priority for reissuance in the upcoming fiscal year. Permits are selected as priority for meeting one or more of several factors, such as discharge to an impaired water body, new ELGs related to the facility's discharge, and endangered species issues, For more information, please consult the Priority Permits Initiative page.
NPDES Permit Program Basics
Who Are You?
- Industrial and Commercial Facilities
- Interested Citizens
- Municipalities and Wastewater Treatment Plants
- States and Tribes
- Animal Feeding Operations
- Combined Sewer Overflows
- Sanitary Sewer Overflows and Peak Flows
- Vessel Discharges