2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

Four solar energy companies faced allegations they violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by failing to comply with stormwater permit requirements during construction of large-scale solar generating facilities. The companies paid a total of $1.34 million to settle; each used the same contractor.

Stormwater Permit Requirements for Construction Sites
The CWA requires construction sites of one acre or more to have a stormwater permit. According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) news release announcing the settlement, owners at each of these four solar farms “violated their construction stormwater permits in similar ways: failing to design, install, and maintain proper stormwater controls; failing to conduct regular site inspections; failing to employ qualified personnel to conduct inspections; and failing to accurately report and address stormwater issues at the site.”

These settlements are a reminder that owners of construction sites have stormwater compliance responsibilities. The scope of their responsibilities may depend on the relevant state law if the state administers a delegated stormwater permit program.

Contractor and Owner Responsibilities at Texas Sites
Texas construction sites of one acre or more require a stormwater permit. For Texas sites of five acres or more, contractors (including subcontractors in some projects) and owners that retain the ability to change the plans and specifications or control activities during construction are primary operators; other owners are secondary operators. Primary operators have extensive stormwater permit compliance responsibilities, but even secondary operators are subject to some requirements.

To see DOJ’s news release regarding the settlements https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/settlements-resolve-clean-water-act-violations-four-solar-farm-construction-sites-alabama