EPA proposes to postpone until March 10, 2005, the permit authorization deadline for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water permits for oil and gas construction activity that disturbs one to five acres of land. On December 8, 1999 (64 FR 68722), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule expanding the then-existing NPDES permitting program to require permit coverage by March 10, 2003 for, among other things, construction sites that disturb one to five acres. As part of that rulemaking, EPA assumed that few, if any, oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities would be affected by the rule. Since rule promulgation, information has become available indicating that close to 30,000 oil and gas sites per year may be affected by the December 8, 1999, storm water regulations.
EPA is proposing a two-year postponement of the deadline from March 10, 2003, to March 10, 2005, in order to allow time for EPA to analyze and better evaluate the impact of the permit requirements on the oil and gas industry, the appropriate best management practices for preventing contamination of storm water runoff resulting from construction associated with oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities, and the scope and effect of 33 U.S.C. 1342 (l)(2) and other storm water provisions of the Clean Water Act. In evaluating the impact, the Agency will work with states, industry, and other entities to gather and evaluate data on the development and use of appropriate best management practices for the oil and gas industry. As part of today’s rulemaking, EPA is seeking additional information on size, location and other site characteristics to better evaluate compliance costs, as well as technical and cost data to evaluate best management practices appropriate to controlling storm water runoff from oil and gas starts. EPA will also evaluate the applicability of the exemption at 33 U.S.C. 1342(l)(2) to construction activity at oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities. EPA will use the additional data and analyses produced during the two-year period to determine the appropriate NPDES requirements, if any, for construction of oil and gas exploration and production facilities of one to five acres.
Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before January 29, 2003 (Docket ID No. OW-2002-0068).