California’s new stormwater permit to be more transparent

July 2, 2014


California is adopting a new Industrial Stormwater Permit on July 1, 2015, marking the first time the permit has been changed since 1967.

Adam Harper, director of policy analysis with the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA), says the two most significant changes to the permit will be a definition of legal constraints and a move to an electronic version.

Katharine Wagner, a partner at Downey Brand LLP who volunteered with CalCIMA regarding the permit, says a major legal difference between the previous permit and the new permit is a system that uses what is known as “action levels.”

Action levels are based on a similar benchmark used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wagner says. These action levels replace the traditional permit violations, requiring the operation to respond in a certain way to each level.

“If your concentrations in your sample exceed those levels, then you have to follow a process that’s outlined in the permit for evaluating whether you need to do more and then responding,” Wagner says. “It’s quite rigorous.”

But Wagner notes that the action levels are used differently in California’s permit than in the EPA’s.

“While EPA uses them as a trigger for writing reports, the reports you have to do under the California permit go further by requiring that you certify certain conclusions in your report as to a more stringent standard,” Wagner says.

Wagner adds that the California permit allows operations to conclude that they have done enough to meet the standards outlined for a particular level. However, the operation would have to prove that the standards have been met.

“If you want to find that you really have done enough, [the permit] lays out what statements you must certify to support that,” Wagner says.

“It’s really a very big departure,” Harper notes.

That’s why managers should start planning now.

“If you wait until April [of next year to start planning] you’re going to be too late,” Harper says.

CalCIMA is hosting several seminars to help managers prepare for the new permit. Harper says the seminars are intended to serve as a high-level management overview. “We’ll get them focused on what questions they need to get answered,” he says.

He adds that the seminars will also help with “advanced planning.”

Harper points out that the seminars are not designed as training sessions for the 210-page permit. “This is not designed to be the nuts-and-bolts [guide],” Harper says. “We’re not going to train you. This is very high-level.”

For more information about CalCIMA’s seminars on the newly adopted Industrial Stormwater Permit, visit

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