WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), has introduced legislation to encourage the research, development and promotion of new green infrastructure technologies and designs that will help reduce polluted stormwater runoff. Companion legislation also has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (MD-4).
The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, S. 3561, would promote green infrastructure as a way to reduce flooding by limiting stormwater runoff, which is one of the largest sources of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. Other parts of the nation that are experiencing severe drought conditions could also benefit by using green designs of water infrastructure as a way to conserve water by helping to recharge groundwater aquifers.
“Stormwater runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, negatively impacting the plants, animals and people that depend on it,” said Senator Cardin. “Promoting these new green infrastructure techniques is another critical way we can protect our nation’s waterways and engage our communities in the effort.”
The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act defines ‘‘green infrastructure” to mean stormwater management techniques that preserve, restore, enhance or mimic natural hydrology, such as green roofs, porous pavements and ground cover, or vegetated channels and detention areas that reduce the burden of storm water on wastewater infrastructure and the environment.
The legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water to promote and coordinate the use of green infrastructure for stormwater management and accept these natural stormwater designs in its permitting and enforcement activities. EPA’s regional offices would complete similar efforts tailored to the water quality conditions in different parts of the country.
The proposal introduced by the senators, who are all members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, further authorizes technical assistance and project grants to local wastewater utilities for green infrastructure projects that take advantage of these alternative techniques to stormwater management.
The legislation also would establish up to five regional centers of excellence to spearhead the research and development of new stormwater management techniques. These Centers would use soil and plant life to filter stormwater polluted by sediments and chemicals before it reaches nearby bodies of water. The legislation does not create new regulatory requirements, but rather seeks to expand the options for communities to achieve clean water standards.
The bill is supported by a wide variety of organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; Natural Resources Defense Council; American Rivers; American Public Works Association; Water Environment Federation; Center for Neighborhood Technology; Clean Water Action; and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators.