CLF petitions state for increased regulations for stormwater runoff

A vegetative strip divides the parking lot at the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

A vegetative strip divides the parking lot at the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

The environmental group that prompted federal regulators to require the state to improve Lake Champlain’s water quality wants polluters to pay for part of the cleanup.

The Conservation Law Foundation is asking the state to use its existing authority to require commercial, industrial and institutional property owners to obtain permits that would limit the amount of pollution flowing from their properties.

Runoff from parking lots, big box store roofs, campuses and other impervious surfaces carries pollutants and nutrients into Lake Champlain. That accounts for about 14 percent of the lake’s phosphorus loading, according to the state. Excess phosphorus is linked to toxic summer algae blooms and aquatic habitat degradation.

The state has an obligation under the Clean Water Act to regulate this type of runoff, CLF says, and can do so by requiring developers to obtain permits that would limit the amount of stormwater flowing off their property.

Pollution control measures currently exist that use natural vegetation to filter pollution and storm runoff before it enters lakes and streams. Building with so-called green infrastructure – rooftop vegetation, rain gardens, permeable pavement and the like – is one way to change the state’s urban landscape to improve water quality.

“The whole purpose of green infrastructure is to re-engineer the built environment with lots of little solutions,” said Anthony Iarrapino, a senior attorney for CLF who wrote the petition.

He said the green practice mimics the landscape’s natural ability to soak up rainwater, store it, and let it filter back into the ground while, at the same time, filtering pollutants.

Green infrastructure has already been implemented in some areas, such as Chittenden County, state officials point out. But CLF wants to require it for the entire Lake Champlain watershed.

“This special treatment has allowed a lot of polluters to take a free ride and contribute to the problem without contributing to the solution,” Iarrapino said.

The state last month sent a letter of commitment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will restore Lake Champlain’s water quality by reducing phosphorus loading into the lake from the state’s farms, forests, roads and cityscapes.

The state’s proposed Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan was released last month and is currently being reviewed by the EPA.

Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said the state will require development to incorporate green infrastructure as part of that plan.

 A blue-green algae bloom in St. Albans Bay. Photo courtesy of Gould Susslin

A blue-green algae bloom in St. Albans Bay. Photo courtesy of Gould Susslin

“It will be part of the Phase I implementation,” she said. “We do fully intend to expand the use of the regulatory tool. It’s one of the important tools in our toolbox.”

The agency is working with stakeholders to decide how to pay for the restoration of the lake’s water quality. So far, the state is seeking money from the federal government and raising revenue through new taxes, state officials have said. The agency said it will have a funding proposal this fall.

Markowitz said all residents contribute to Lake Champlain pollution and the state must find the most fair way to share the cost of cleanup.

“We need to talk with people about what this will look like as it rolls out,” she said about the TMDL financing plan.

The state has 90 days to respond to CLF’s petition. CLF wants a commitment from the state that it will require polluters to help restore that lake’s water quality and could sue the state for not enforcing its obligations under the Clean Water Act.

CLF last May petitioned the state Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to enforce new regulations to curb agricultural phosphorus runoff into Missisquoi Bay.

John Herrick


  1. Dave Bellini :

    Why not ban phosphorus in fertilizer ?

  2. Paul Lorenzini :

    How will they fairly, accurately and in the interest of all, administrate such a concept?

    I am just guessing, but I suppose that the big businesses like Toyota, GM, Ford, Hyundai, Chrysler, Nissan, Kia, Dollar General, Walmart, Rite Aid, Verizon, Fairpoint, Blittersdorf, and whoever else can work the system, will get exemptions, based on their ability to pay, and all the commoners, and their kids will just have to suck it up.

    In the name of what?

  3. Seth Jensen :

    Vermont already requires stormwater permits for any development that results in more than 1 acre of new impervious surfaces. It is unclear from the article, as well as the attached petition, what changes in current policy CLF is requesting. Can VTDigger provide some clarity?

    • Townsend Peters :

      I don’t know if VT Digger can, but you are referring to the stormwater permit program created under _state_ law. The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) also is delegated to administer the federal Clean Water Act.

      If you read the petition, in it CLF asks ANR to require discharge permits under the Clean Water Act, and would have this requirement apply to stormwater dischargers regardless of acreage of impervious surface or whether they have a State stormwater permit.

      CLF’s petition refers not only to currently unregulated dischargers – which would include dischargers with less than an acre of impervious surface – but also to dischargers who have permits under state law and whom it would require to get permits under federal law that may impose additional conditions to address runoff.

    • Kim Greenwood :

      In other words, CLF’s petition rightly and equitably seeks to require those existing sources of pollution from, for example, paved parking lots, to pick up their share of the cost that is currently being borne by Vermont taxpayers. It’s a step in the right direction towards making sure that all of us who are responsible for the problem are paying for the clean up and an approach that should be embraced for all sectors of polluters: roads, agriculture, logging jobs, development, and acts that make our rivers unstable, you and me.

  4. Jim Barrett :

    Storm water run off is already being addressed by some towns and when you see a filthy pond on businesses property that is storm water control. When you read of the dangers of mosquitos to our health that is also being promoted by these filthy ponds and usually in populated areas. Somehow we never hear of the downside until it is too late.

  5. Jamie Carter :

    Until we can keep farms and farmers from polluting the water the rest is a drop in the bucket… from the article 14% is what all these businesses and stores contribute. It’s not an insignificant number, but its a small portion in an already business unfriendly state. Even a 50% decrease would go unnoticed in terms of algae blooms.

    Sorry farmers, but the state needs to stop with special exemptions for farmers. Because of the odd spring we had the state asked for farmers to hold off on spreading manure, so it didn’t run off and yet I on my drive home I passed several that were out spreading. If we want to target the problem and fix the problem its time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room.

    • Paul Lutz :

      Does all manure that is spead on the field, make it to the lake? Proably has something to do with it.

  6. Randy Koch :

    And where exactly were Iarrapino and CLF when it came to stormwater runoff from politically correct wind turbines constructed at fragile headwaters? Delivering a standing ovation, that’s where.

  7. Annette Smith :

    Fast forward a few years and some geniuses will probably recognize that requiring GMP, David Blittersdorf, and First Wind to re-forest the mountains that were blasted away would be a good way to reduce sedimentation (which contributes to phosphorus loading) running off into the Lakes.

    CLF wants to start with parking lots. Water flows downhill. Look up.

    • Townsend Peters :

      Lake Champlain and other waters were out of compliance with water quality standards before any of these wind projects were built. Look around.

      • Mark Whitworth :

        You think there’ll be no impact from the turbine projects? Look out.

        • Townsend Peters :

          No, I don’t. But do you and Ms. Smith think that if you took away the turbines, the Lake would be in compliance?

          • Annette Smith :

            If the goal is to clean up the lake, then adding new sources to the problem is not going to help. Farms, forests, parking lots, chemicals used in water disinfection, there are plenty of sources and some of us who are watching how this state is supposedly protecting its environment keep seeing new sources added rather than minimizing and reducing sources of pollution to the Lake.

          • Townsend Peters :

            Under CLF’s petition, wind farms with stormwater runoff that contribute to the Lake’s violations of water quality standards would have to get federal Clean Water Act permits.

  8. Dave Bellini :

    Why not ban phosphorus in fertilizer ? For everybody. Golf courses, farms, lawns……
    Will the world stop spinning or something?

  9. John Dupee :

    Jamie Carter addresses the major culprit – agricultural run-off. We would be well on our way to cleaning up Champlain if we had eliminated agricultural run-off.

  10. Jeff Green :

    The CLF is horrible.They are ruining VT, not aiding it. No jobs or companies coming here? Ask CLF why. They who run the show. The VT Agency Natural Resources hasn’t much power. Look at Lowe’s or Stowe Resort lawsuits. The ANR granted permits, after years of study. Then the CLF decides the ANC overstepped their “bounds & authority”. So the CLF sues and brings in the EPAin, on their favorite scam…the Clean Water Act (they apply that in all cases if they don’t like you). Any parking lot in the State , by CLF thinking, is a violator. But that favorite scam got tougher to use in their extortion. A Federal Judge in Virginia ruled that stormwater runoff is not a pollutant, or violating the Clean Water Act, and the EPA cannot regulate it. If the EPA cannot regulate it, nor can the CLF. Yes, if we can slow destructive Ag runoff, good! But all CLF tries is to CONTROL business parking lots? What a fraud and dangereous notion. Here is ifrom the Virginia court ruling. EPA (thus the CLF) has NO POWER TO REGULATE!

    “A federal judge ruled Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority by trying to regulate water as a pollutant and restricting stormwater flow into a Fairfax County creek.

    “Stormwater runoff is not a pollutant, so EPA is not authorized to regulate it,” said federal judge Liam O’Grady, who sided with the county and Virginia in the ruling.

    In July, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Democratic-led Fairfax County Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit against the EPA. The agency proposed a plan that required the county to control the flow of water in order to manage sediment discharges in Accotink Creek watershed.

    “EPA was literally treating water itself — the very substance the Clean Water Act was created to protect — as a pollutant,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “This EPA mandate would have been expensive, cumbersome, and incredibly difficult to implement.”

    Read more:

  11. Jeff Green :

    Here’s a quote:

    “Fascist ideology consistently invokes the primacy of the state, over private enterprise.”

    Sound familiar? From my personal viewpoint, the CLF is nothing but an “Eco-Fascist” organization, seeking to control (extort?) the extreme Eco-Ideology as they see fit – whether you like it or not. Time and time again, the CLF has gone over decisons granted by the VT ANR, and if they don’t like it, they sue. Their favorite ploy is to call in their favored minions at the EPA. Look at Stowe Resort or Lowes. The ANR granted permits after long & expensive reviews. The CLF was pissed, so they called the EPA and sued under the Clean Water Act. In both cases the CLF lost, and cost millions to the defendants.

    The CLF knows full well that the majority of polltion coming into Champlain is Ag related.. But they don’t care. What the CLF is really seeking is total control (fascist?) over what business and industries can operate in VT. The way they do that is thru the EPA and the Clean Water Act. IF you want tio build a business 60 miles from the lake and need a parking lot…if you do NOT fit their Eco-Enviro manifesto, they will sue. This is what the CLF is really after – total control of who is allowed to operate in VT. If you are Eco Friendly, they won’t sue. if they don’t like your business or industry – they basically extort you in Court under the specious Clean Water Act. If the CLF is allowed to garner in regulation of businesses PARKING LOTS, we are on a slippery slope of what is basically Eco Fascist control by the State (in reality the CLF, not ANR).

    Why hasn’t anyone caught on to this? LAst year (as I said above) a Federal Judge in Virginia ruled the EPA has no authority to regulate storm water from parking lots. In essence, that shoudl stop the CLF from their scam…..but as per this article, they never give up. I know folks at the ANR, and they take a dim view of many of the CLF’s actions. WHEN will someone stand up to these Eco Fascists….the CLF has done enough damage to Vermonts economy….businesses, job creation and taxes.and with the bill they propose….they angle for total control over every business parking lot..and if you are NOT on their list of Eco approved enterprises, they will seek to destroy you in court. WHEN will someone stand up to them? The ANR means nothing to them. In the CLF’s mind, the VT ANR is there for nothing more than to do their bidding……OR ELSE.

  12. Jeff Green :

    See the last sentance from article? what the CLF threatens??:

    “The state has 90 days to respond to CLF’s petition. CLF wants a commitment from the state that it will require polluters to help restore that lake’s water quality and could sue the state for not enforcing its obligations under the Clean Water Act.”

    Doesn’t ANYONE get it? The CLF is not elected, nor appointed by anyone in Vermont. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the CLF is running the show. They threaten to sue the State if they don’t do what they want. They have no use for the VT ANR or it’s already tough Act 250 rules. The CLF cares not. If they don’t like an ANR ruling, they skip the ANR and sue the person/company directly. Their ‘Extortion-In-The-Hole” (or ace in the hole), is the EPA’s Clean Water Act. The CLF will bend, twist and apply that Act any way they want. And for sure, they have a direct line to the EPA offices…who do what the CLF demands of them. What someone has to do is SUE the CLF……Federal Court has ruled that the EPA cannot regulate storm water… the CLF cannot force VT to regulate parking lots…but that is exactly what the CLF wants. But once they control every parking lot, or parking lot permit application….they then control who qualifies for their Eco-Friendly Manifesto approved’s basicaly extortion….if they don’t like you, they just sue you over and over…until you say ‘Enough”. Luckily, Stowe Resort and Lowes stood up to these Eco-Facsists…and won, although it came at great delays and cost to them.

    If the CLF sues Vermont over parking lot storm water (which legally now they cannot – the EPA has no right to)…..then it is high time that the State sues the CLF. All you need is a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) to the NEw England office of the EPA..and subpoena ALL correspondance between the CLF and EPA. My hunch? It will be a gold mine of abuses. But magically, wanna bet that all the hard drives “disappear” from the EPA, just after a FOIA?? The IRS can do it, why not the EPA! …….Eco-Facists..the whole bunch.



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