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Application of the California Construction Storm Water General NPDES Permit to Oil and Gas Projects


“The NPDES “General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated With Construction and Land Disturbance Activities” (“Construction General Permit”), adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) in September 2009 as Order 2009-0009-DWQ, became effective on July 1, 2010. Anyone conducting “construction activity” after July 1, 2010 which results in a land disturbance of one acre or more, or less than one acre but part of a larger common plan of development or sale, is required to electronically file Permit Registration Documents. “Construction activity” includes clearing, grading, excavation, stockpiling, and reconstruction of existing facilities involving removal and replacement. Historically, most oil and gas exploration and production activities have been statutorily exempted from the permit requirements of the Clean Water Act.

However, as a result of a 2008 decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, California’s new Construction General Permit now applies more broadly to oil and gas drilling or construction activities (such as pipeline construction). According to the State Water Board, now oil and gas construction activities that disturb one acre or more, discharge sediment, and contribute to violation of a water quality standard in a receiving water must apply for coverage under the Construction General Permit.”

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