The Conservation Law Foundation is asking the state to use its existing authority to require commercial, industrial and institutional property owners to obtain permits that would limit the amount of pollution flowing from their properties.
Runoff from parking lots and other impervious surfaces carries pollutants and nutrients into Lake Champlain. That accounts for about 14 percent of the lake's phosphorus loading, according to the state. Excess phosphorus is linked to toxic summer algae blooms and aquatic habitat degradation.
The state has an obligation under the Clean Water Act to regulate this type of runoff, CLF says, and can do so by requiring developers to obtain permits that would limit the amount of stormwater flowing off their property.
Pollution control measures currently exist that use natural vegetation to filter pollution and storm runoff before it enters lakes and streams. So-called green infrastructure includes rooftop vegetation, rain gardens and permeable pavement.
"The whole purpose of green infrastructure is to re-engineer the built environment with lots of little solutions," said Anthony Iarrapino, a senior attorney for CLF who wrote the petition.
He said the green practice mimics the landscape's natural ability to soak up rainwater, store it, and let it filter back into the ground while, at the same time, filtering pollutants.
CLF wants to require green infrastructure for the entire Lake Champlain watershed.
Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said the state will require development to incorporate green infrastructure as part of a Lake Champlain cleanup plan the state has submitted to the EPA.
"It will be part of the Phase I implementation," she said. "We do fully intend to expand the use of the regulatory tool. It's one of the important tools in our toolbox."
The state has 90 days to respond to CLF's petition.