Press Release

May 9, 2011

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) has reintroduced legislation that would require highway projects paid for with federal funds to craft plans to contain and manage stormwater runoff — a major source of pollution to U.S. waterways — in line with new stormwater mitigation standards that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would craft.

The legislation, S. 898, introduced May 5, mirrors similar legislation that Cardin introduced in the 111th Congress but was never passed out of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee. The new bill has also been referred to EPW.

The bill would require the Secretary of DOT, in consultation with EPA, to craft stormwater mitigation standards for all federal highway projects, including both new roads and upgrades to existing roads.

In a May 5 statement, Cardin said stormwater runoff was the leading source of water pollution in the United States and S. 898 is aimed at reducing its impacts from highways, which are one of the largest sectors of impervious surfaces that the federal government funds. Requiring federal highways to include minimum stormwater management procedures would therefore go a long way in improving water quality across the country, Cardin said.

“Stormwater is the largest source of water pollution in our nation, and when it rains a myriad of dangerous contaminants are washed from road surfaces directly into our streams, rivers and other water bodies,” Cardin said. “Highways built with federal funds already are required to meet design standards for safety and structural quality. It’s time we implemented an environmental design standard for highways that protect water quality as well.”

The idea of including stormwater management requirements as part of federal highway projects was first raised by House staffers in March 2010 at an annual meeting of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies. At that meeting, Ryan Seiger, Democratic staff director of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s water resources subcommittee, said that committee Democrats were considering including “green design” incentives or requirements into a highway reauthorization bill.