Notice & Comment

EPA & DoD Set Discharge Standards for Military Vessels in US Waters, by Shannon Allen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) participate jointly in making rules for the Uniform National Discharge Standards (“UNDS”) for Vessels of the Armed Forces.  The UNDS is under development in three phases.  Phase I is complete (64 FR 25126) and this proposed rule is part of Phase II.

The EPA and DoD are required to “promulgate uniform national discharge standards for certain discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel of the Armed Forces (CWA § 312(a)(12)), unless the Secretary finds that compliance with UNDS would not be in the national security interests of the United States (CWA § 312(n)(1)).”  The EPA and DoD propose “performance standards” for particular discharges attendant to the “normal operation of a vessel of the Armed Forces” in U.S. territorial waters.  The goal of theses proposed standards is to reduce negative environmental impacts related to discharges, encourage the development of better “pollution control devices,” and promote development of “environmentally sound ships by the Armed Forces.”  These standards are consistent with the “effluent limitations” in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) general permit for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a non-military vessel.”

The proposal establishes performance standards for “11 of the discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel of the Armed Forces.”  The 11 discharges addressed by the proposed standards are: aqueous film-forming foam; chain locker effluent; distillation and reverse osmosis brine; elevator pit effluent; gas turbine water wash; non-oily machinery wastewater; photographic laboratory drains; seawater cooling overboard discharge; seawater piping biofouling prevention; small boat engine wet exhaust; and welldeck discharges.

The UNDS do not apply to the following discharges from vessels of the Armed Forces:

  • overboard discharges of rubbish, trash, garbage, or other such materials;
  • sewage;
  • air emissions resulting from the operation of a vessel propulsion system, motor driven equipment, or incinerator; or
  • discharges that require permitting under the NPDES program, including operational discharges and other discharges that are not incidental to the normal operation of a vessel of the Armed Forces.

EPA and DoD are permitted to establish discharge standards that (1) distinguish among classes, types, and sizes of vessels; (2) distinguish between new and existing vessels; and (3) provide for a waiver of applicability of standards as necessary or appropriate to a particular class, type, age, or size of vessel.  In addition, the EPA and DoD have been directed to consider the following seven factors with promulgating discharge standards: the nature of the discharge; the environmental effects of the discharge; the practicability of using the MPCD; the effect that installation or use of the MPCD would have on the operation or the operational capability of the vessel; applicable U.S. law; applicable international standards; and the economic costs of installation and use of the MPCD.

Interested parties are invited to consider the following when submitting comments:

  • Identify the proposed rule by docket number and other identifying information (subject heading, Federal Register date, and page number).
  • Explain why you agree or disagree with any proposed performance standards; suggest alternatives and substitute language for your requested changes.
  • Describe any assumptions and provide any technical information and/or data that you used.
  • Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns and suggest alternatives.
  • Explain your views as clearly as possible.

Comments (identified by Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0469) are due by April 4, 2014, and may be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal:
  • Mail: Send an original and one copy of your comments and enclosures (including references) to EPA Water Docket, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code: 2822-IT, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0469.
  • Hand Delivery: EPA Water Docket, EPA Docket Center, EPA West Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20004, Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0469. Deliveries to the docket are accepted only during their normal hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. For access to docket materials, call (202) 566-2426, to schedule an appointment.
  • Email:; Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0469.

This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.

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