EPA’s Green Infrastructure Statement of Intent

28 12 2009

Structured Rain Garden at
Tennessee Association of Realtors, Nashville, TN

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Statement of Intent that recognized the viability of green infrastructure as a legitimate and effective tool that can be used to protect our water sources from non-point source pollutants. The statement was signed by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Natural Resources Defense Council, Low Impact Development Center, and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators. The objectives of the statement included the following (direct excerpt from Statement of Intent):

  • Affirm the belief by the signatory organizations in the value of green infrastructure as both a cost effective and an environmentally preferable approach to reduce stormwater and other excess flows entering combined or separate sewer systems in combination with, or in lieu of, centralized hard infrastructure solutions
  • Establish a framework for working together to advance an understanding of green infrastructure as a tool for reducing overflows from sewer systems and stormwater
  • Identify partnership opportunities between the signatory organizations
  • Develop strategies to promote the use of green infrastructure by cities and utilities as an effective and feasible means of reducing stormwater pollution and sewer overflows such as:

-Developing models for all components of green infrastructure and make them available nationwide.

-Exploring opportunities and incentives for the use of green infrastructure provisions in MS4 permits and CSO Long Term Control Plans (LTCPs), including as a component of injunctive relief provisions of enforcement actions

-Developing memoranda and guidance materials, including language for the NPDES permit writer’s manual, that would explain how regulatory and enforcement officials should evaluate and provide appropriate credit for the use of green infrastructure in meeting Clean Water Act requirements

-Recognizing the most effective and innovative uses of green infrastructure to meet Clean Water Act goals through EPA awards or recognition programs

-Providing technical assistance, training, and outreach to potential users of green infrastructure, including states, cities, counties, utilities, environmental and public health agencies, engineers, architects, landscape architects, planners and nongovernmental organizations

-Establishing a web-based green infrastructure resource center at EPA to assist communities in complying with requirements for combined sewer overflows and municipal stormwater permits and evaluating the multiple environmental benefits that green infrastructure can provide

-Developing tools to assist local green infrastructure programs with outreach, training, model development and application, planning and design, monitoring, and plan review

It has been almost three years since this statement was released. In that time, we have come a long way. There has been a tremendous increase in attention to green infrastructure within municipalitie’s overflow control plans and integration of best management practices into city stormwater manuals. We have gone from having to convince municipalities to employ green infrastructure practices, to being encouraged to use them by the same agencies. With Philadelphia proposing an all green infrastructure solution to the EPA for addressing the city’s overflow plan, it will be interesting to see how the EPA responds.

A recent New York Times’ article, “City’s ‘All Green’ Stormwater Plan Raises Eyebrows at EPA” underscored the unique approach the City of Philadelphia is taking. I thought Howard Neukrug summed it up well. He was quoted as saying:

“We recognized that if we manage stormwater where it lands, whether on the ground or on a roof, that in very many circumstances we can not only prevent that gallon of water from overflowing, but we may be able to find additional benefits for our customers…Things that impact the urban heat island effect, things that improve the aesthetic of a community.”

As we enter this new decade, we can be assured that green infrastructure will increasingly be a part of the solution.

-Brian Phelps