Legal Aspects of Airport Programs. Topic 04-03. Analysis of Federal Laws, Regulations, Case Law, and Survey of Existing Airport NPDES Permits Regarding Tenant-Operator Responsibilities Under NPDES and Storm Water Management BMPs Under Owner/Airport's Operating Permits

The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) amendments of 1987 empowered the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate polluted, non-point source discharges, from municipal separate storm sewer systems, and additionally mandated that the EPA establish a storm water discharge permitting system. In 1990, the EPA published guidelines for certain storm water discharges associated with eleven categories of industrial activities known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). These original industrial activities subject to NPDES permitting are known as Phase I operators. Later in 1995, the EPA expanded the scope of the activities regulated under NPDES to include smaller municipal and commercial activities. The operation of an airport servicing an area of more than 100,000 people is a Phase I, Category 8 industry. The State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES), administered by State environmental regulatory agencies is a program designed to monitor and minimize the environmental impacts of wastewater and storm water runoff on both surface and ground water. SPDES is an EPA-authorized storm water runoff regulatory program, approved to uphold the regulatory standards promulgated by the EPA. In fact, at least one state regulatory agency has asserted that the SPDES program is broader in scope than NPDES. The problem involves the responsibility for implementation, enforcement, and liability in connection with SPDES permits at airports where tenant operators (although not a listed permittee) are afforded coverage under the airport's specific SPDES permit. In issuing the final NPDES regulations, the "EPA encourages co-permittee status because this approach to permit coverage promotes better coordination of the pollution prevention plan measures and possibly better control of the stormwater discharges" [Final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Storm Water Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Activities, 60 Fed. Reg. 50804-01 at 51103 (9/29/95).] While the EPA also states that "as the owner/operator of an airport facility and the storm sewer system, airport authorities are ultimately responsible for storm water discharges from their storm sewer system to waters of the U.S. or to a municipal separate storm sewer system" (Id.), if owner/operator alone is on the permit, the implication of the coverage is that the owner/airport is looked to by state and/or federal regulatory authorities for tenant compliance assurances (operations/reporting/ certifications) of both general storm water management, best management practices (BMPs), and construction projects which would traditionally be covered under a state's general permit. The project would provide a survey of airport NPDES/SPDES permits where: 1) the airport is the sole permittee under the SPDES program; 2) tenant/operators are treated as co-permittees under the SPDES program with the airport; and 3) tenant/operators (airlines or private terminal operators) are issued individual permits to operate and manage storm water and other discharges from their operations. The project would also survey and delineate BMPs that airports employ to implement the NPDES obligations for tenant and service provider operations where they are independent from Airport operations and management. The project would further analyze and compare individual state environmental laws; rules; regulations to expound upon SPDES jurisdictional authority for imposing enforcement responsibility and liability directly on airports for tenant activities; and operations subject to SPDES requirements. Finally, the project will identify SPDES jurisdictional authority for imposing enforcement responsibility and liability directly on airports for tenant activities and operations.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $20000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 11-01, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Greenberger, Marci

  • Performing Organizations:


  • Principal Investigators:

    Greene, Jill

  • Start Date: 20120514
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20140930
  • Source Data: RiP Project 29065

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01546042
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 11-01, Topic
  • Files: RiP
  • Created Date: Dec 2 2014 1:01AM