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EPA Issues General Permit for Vessels

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., January 7, 2009

On December 18, 2008, EPA issued its Vessel General Permit (“VGP”) for discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels.  The permit responds to a 2005 U.S. District Court vacatur of EPA’s decades-old exclusion of those discharges from permitting under the Clean Water Act’s (“CWA”) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”).  Northwest Environmental Advocates v. EPA, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5373 (N.D. Cal. 2005).  The VGP’s focus is on vessels “operating in a capacity as a means of transportation.”  For those vessels within its scope, the VGP applies to a broad array of discharges “incidental to the normal operation of a vessel”— including deck runoff, bilgewater, and ballast water—into waters of the United States. 

The VGP’s substantive requirements are grouped into four categories: (1) technology-based effluent limits applicable to all vessels; (2) technology-based effluent limits for specific discharges; (3) water quality based effluent limits; and (4) requirements applicable to specific classes of vessels. Additional requirements from 28 states and tribes are incorporated into the VGP through the CWA section 401 certification mechanism.

The regulated community will be subject to the VGP’s requirements beginning February 9, 2009.  To obtain coverage under the permit, EPA will offer an Electronic Notice of Intent (“NOI”) system in June of 2009.  Only vessels of 300 or more gross tons, or with the capacity to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic meters (2113 gallons) of ballast water, are required to submit an NOI; other vessels are automatically covered under the permit and authorized to discharge according to its requirements.

To view the full summary, click here.

For additional information on EPA’s Vessel General Permit, please contact Richard S. Davis, (202) 789-6025, rdavis@bdlaw.com.  This article was prepared with the assistance of Lauren Hopkins.

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