Regulatory Developments, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Final Rule Issued on NPDES Electronic Reporting

On November 2, 2020, a final rule addressing the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule (eRule) was published by the EPA in the Federal Register.

Electronic recordkeeping

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“EPA published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule (‘NPDES eRule’) on October 22, 2015,” according to the EPA. “The 2015 rule required EPA and states to modernize Clean Water Act (CWA) reporting for municipalities, industries and other facilities. That rule replaced most paper-based NPDES reporting requirements with electronic reporting.”

The original deadline for making the switch to electronic reporting was set for December 21, 2020. “EPA notes that some states with authorized NPDES programs requested that the Phase 2 implementation date be moved back to provide … sufficient time to develop and implement the information technology solutions necessary for electronic reporting of the Phase 2 data,” according to an article by Walter Wright of Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., published on JD Supra.

The final rule extends the compliance deadline to December 21, 2025, and allows states the flexibility to request more time if necessary. “EPA estimates that, once the rule is fully implemented, the 46 states and the Virgin Islands Territory that are authorized to administer the NPDES program will collectively save approximately $22.6 million each year as a result of switching from paper to electronic reporting,” according to the EPA.

The final rule also clarifies changes, eliminates outdated reporting requirements, streamlines the permit renewal process, and enhances public transparency.

“EPA and states have made considerable progress in implementing Phase 1 of the NPDES eRule,” according to the EPA.

Reports required to be filed electronically include:

  1. Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs)
  2. General permit reports (e.g., Notices of Intent to discharge in compliance with a general permit)
  3. Other specified program reports

The final rule requires the EPA to make yearly assessments to assess each state’s progress in implementing the NPDES eRule. Two dashboards will be utilized to conduct the assessments:

The public will be able to view the electronically reported data via the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) system.

In implementing the NPDES eRule, reporting entities have the option to utilize the EPA’s tools or build their own systems. “EPA does not dictate the electronic reporting tools that a state may use. Rather, EPA sets performance requirements for states that wish to build their own electronic reporting tools,” the EPA says.

“This rulemaking is part of EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategy, as well as the E-Enterprise for the Environment strategy with states and tribes, to take advantage of new tools and innovative approaches to increase compliance and reduce pollution,” adds the Agency.

Visit the EPA’s NPDES eReporting website for more information.