Citizen Guide to Public Participation in Maryland's NPDES Permitting Program

Organizations and citizens wishing to actively contend with water pollution, have a new guide to assist them. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Chesapeake Legal Alliance (CLA), with assistance from Jill Grant & Associates, have produced the Citizen Guide – Public Participation in Maryland’s NPDES Permitting Program (Guide). The Guide was produced for the purpose of improving the vital component of citizen involvement in environmental decision-making in Maryland.

MRC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of the Choptank, Miles, and Wye Rivers, Eastern Bay, and all of their tributaries. The organization serves as an advocate for the health of these tributaries and the living resources they support. MRC employs scientists and Riverkeepers who serve as guardians for these living resources. They regularly patrol these rivers and tributaries and are ready to combat illegal pollution. MRC also employs outreach coordinators and an experienced legal advocate, all of whom strive to work at every level to improve and protect Midshore rivers.

MRC is part of a growing network of over 180 river, bay, and lake “keeper” programs around the nation whose active presence on waterways is improving water quality and protecting aquatic life, wildlife and vegetation in and around the nation’s waters. MRC is a member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a group of 18 advocacy programs that pool resources, coordinate efforts, and build leverage to have an impact on environmental legislation and policy to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

CLA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to using the law to improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. CLA coordinates a network of pro bono lawyers who volunteer their time and professional skills, free of charge, to represent environmental organizations, citizens’ groups, and individuals in efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. CLA’s goal is to effect systemic change in compliance and enforcement, as well as to improve upon and create more effective laws, regulations, and policies. CLA strives for a Bay with clean water, abundant native plants and animals, and opportunities for people to enjoy the Bay safely.

MRC and CLA are issuing the Guide as an outreach tool to engage organizations and citizens to get involved with the many key avenues for public participation in protecting our waters. It is critical that those impacted by permit violations be engaged in the early stages. Although this Guide is designed for residents of Maryland, much of the information it contains applies to the public comment process for Clean Water Act discharge permits generally, and so may be useful to residents of other states as well.

To facilitate and encourage public involvement, the Guide provides an overview of Maryland’s NPDES permitting process. Although drafting NPDES permits is a specialized skill and may require the assistance of experts, there are aspects of NPDES permits that do not require technical knowledge. The Guide provides basic information, tools, and tips to assist in analyzing and commenting on NPDES permits in Maryland and, if necessary, seeking judicial review of an NPDES permit after it is issued.

The Guide is available to download from the MRC website at midshoreriverkeeper.org or the CLA website at chesapeakelegal.org. Printed copies will be available at MRC’s office, located at 24 N. Harrison Street, Easton, Maryland 21601. A Tool Kit will also available on MRC’s website to assist organizations in getting involved.

MRC and CLA will conduct a training webinar on July 26 at 12 pm. This webinar will teach the basic concepts discussed in the Guide. To register for the webinar, please SIGN UP HERE.

For more information, please contact Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta at 443.385.0511 or matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or Chesapeake Legal Alliance Staff Attorney Mary Clemmensen at 410.216.9441 or mclemmensen@chesapeakelegal.org.