WASHINGTON-A Clean Water Act reauthorization bill before the House will vastly change regulations surrounding storm water runoff if Congress approves it. H.R. 961, passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee April 6, shifts the authority for setting and enforcing storm water regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the states. The states already are responsible for issuing storm water permits, but ultimate authority now lies with the EPA.
Tire dealers and retreaders strongly support the bill, since its passage will prevent implementation of an EPA final rule requiring them to obtain storm water permits. Rubber manufacturers said a state-by-state permitting system will be difficult for multistate companies, but probably not more difficult than the current system.
The agency first promulgated a requirement for storm water permitting in November 1990, for industrial and larger municipal sources. On April 7, it issued a final rule on permitting for the so-called ``Phase II'' storm water sources-namely smaller businesses and municipalities.
This rule has a two-tier phase-in. Phase II sources identifed as ``significant polluters'' must apply for a permit by early October; others have until 2001 to apply.
Permit applications involve giving the EPA and the states a detailed, accurate summation of all pollutants in a firm's storm water runoff, and in what amounts. Testing to obtain this data costs thousands of dollars, and failure to comply can lead to severe penalties.
Passage of the House bill will cancel the EPA final rule, according to Roy E. Littlefield III, government relations director of the American Retreaders' Association.
``We've got a real mess cooking here,'' Mr. Littlefield said, because small auto aftermarket shops simply aren't prepared for the regulatory burden storm water permitting would cause.
The full House began debate on H.R. 961 May 10, and a vote was expected within a few days.