ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
NACWA Board and Committee Leaders Evaluate Election Results, Strategize Key Advocacy Priorities
NACWA’s Board of Directors and committee leaders met in Alexandria, VA last week for a Strategic Leadership Retreat to discuss how the recent national election will impact NACWA’s strategic advocacy priorities, as well as to chart out a path for the Association into 2017.
Dissecting and understanding the impact of the elections was a key element of Retreat discussions. NACWA staff kicked things off with a post-election analysis presentation, examining the results in light of the Association’s current Strategic Plan and also projecting how the new Trump Administration and new Congress could impact NACWA’s existing legislative, regulatory and legal priorities.
Staff noted that President-elect Trump’s own campaign vision regarding infrastructure highlighted water as a main priority – including a specific pledge to triple funding to the clean water and drinking water state revolving loan funds – and indicated there would be a good opportunity for additional infrastructure investment with the new Administration. NACWA’s leaders also agreed that – as a non-partisan organization – the Association is well-positioned to continue advancing water issues on a bipartisan basis and that this will be a focus for NACWA moving forward.
Affordability, Low Income Issues Take Center Stage
Other key topics discussed included the role of water professionals in working directly with policymakers when making key operational decisions to avoid situations like the lead contamination debacle in Flint, MI, and how to address complex issues such as “nutrient impairment” under the current structure of the Clean Water Act.
NACWA looks forward to working with its Board, committee leaders, and members to advance these key priorities and to ensure that NACWA’s advocacy agenda remains front and center in national policy discussion over the coming year.
Board Greenlights Critical Projects Supporting NACWA Advocacy Agenda, Statement of Collaboration Signed with AMWA
The NACWA Board of Directors met in Alexandria, VA on November 16 to consider critical Targeted Action Fund (TAF) projects aimed at supporting the Association’s member agencies and its advocacy agenda, and also witnessed the signing of a Statement of Collaboration with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA).
The Board approved TAF funding in the amount of $50,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 specifically to gather input from stakeholders – both internal and external – and to formulate advocacy strategies on the issue of nutrient pollution; including concerns over EPA’s continued focus on point sources, development and implementation of nutrient criteria, and the interplay between point and nonpoint sources. The TAF funds will be used to retain a facilitator to conduct interviews with key member agency representatives to prepare for a Nutrient Summit planned for March, 2017. The facilitator will also conduct the Summit and synthesize the outcomes to help NACWA craft a position paper by July, 2017.
Another $25,000 TAF investment for FY 2017 was authorized as a contribution to an ongoing project by the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) that evaluates and advances the use of peracetic acid (PAA) as an additional option for clean water utilities to disinfect their effluent. PAA provides advantages over existing disinfection options, but its use across the U.S. has been limited due to lack of knowledge in key areas, and uncertainty among state water regulators. The project will advance the industry’s understanding of this disinfection alternative, and a planned regulatory workshop will help alleviate any uncertainty of state regulators.
The Board also supported an FY 2017 TAF request for $10,000 to create a Digital Utility Blueprint. Building upon the 2013 Water Resources Utility of the Future Blueprint, the Digital Blueprint will explore the use of big data, advanced analytics, and decision support systems across the water enterprise to improve operational and management efficiency, and ultimately provide greater flexibility in meeting Clean Water Act requirements. The brief document will highlight the opportunities these technologies provide for utility managers.
Work on the Blueprint is currently underway based on in-kind contributions from NACWA’s Smart Utility Task Force members. Funding will be used to hire a contractor to compile the individual content contributions into an online resource for utility managers. Case study examples within each main area of discussion in the Blueprint will also be presented.
Additionally, the Board meeting featured the signing of a Statement of Collaboration between NACWA and AMWA, highlighting a continued commitment for strong collaboration between the two organizations. Diane VanDe Hei, CEO of AMWA, attended the meeting as an invited guest, discussed some of AMWA’s key current priorities, and joined in a signing ceremony for the Statement with NACWA CEO Adam Krantz.
NACWA filed comments on November 18, opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) reliance on Clean Water Act Section 308 to distribute and compel responses to a screener questionnaire, which is the first phase of EPA’s multi-year study on nutrient removal performance at secondary treatment plants.
As designed, the initial screener questionnaire would be distributed to all publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) nationwide, regardless of size of treatment technology. NACWA has been tracking this issue carefully since learning of the Agency’s efforts to develop the survey in May, raising concerns that the use of Section 308 would be problematic; and also questioning whether a massive nationwide study was the best way to evaluate opportunities for improvement in nutrient removal using only secondary treatment processes.
The NACWA Board of Directors voted during its November 18 meeting to oppose the screener questionnaire, given its reliance on Section 308, but stressed that it remained committed to working with EPA to better understand the goals of the study. The Board also committed to working with EPA, the water sector and the states to collect any needed information—on a voluntary basis only—to make progress in this area. The Board of Directors felt strongly that the clean water community and EPA should have been working more collaboratively on this program from the beginning to identify the best path forward.
Following the close of the comment period on November 18, EPA must address any comments before it proceeds to the next step of the process – gaining approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget to distribute the screener questionnaire. NACWA will remain engaged with EPA as it considers its next steps.
NACWA joined a coalition of water organizations to send a letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team on November 18, outlining key priorities that the water sector would like to see addressed in the new Administration. The letter, spearheaded by the U.S. Water Alliance, urged the President-elect to make investment in water infrastructure a priority and noted the significant needs facing the clean water and drinking water sectors. The letter also requested Administration emphasis on addressing water affordability and investment in innovation.
Other letter signatories included the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Water Companies, the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Research Foundation, and Water Reuse. NACWA is currently developing a separate transition document for the Trump Administration that highlights some of the Association’s advocacy priorities in more detail.
NACWA’s Board of Directors acted last week to appoint Angela Licata, Deputy Commissioner of Sustainability for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), and Rudolph S. Chow, Director of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) to fill vacancies in Region 2 and Region 3, respectively. In October, NACWA sent a call for nominations to member agency representatives from Regions 2 and 3, which yielded numerous highly-qualified and well-supported candidates. After thoughtful consideration by NACWA’s Nominating Committee, it recommended that the Board appoint Licata and Chow to fill the vacant seats.
Angela Licata also serves as Chair of NACWA’s Legislative & Regulatory Policy Committee. She has been with New York City government since March, 1987, named an Assistant Commissioner at NYCDEP in 2002 and then promoted to Deputy Commissioner in 2006.
Rudy Chow was appointed the Director of the DPW in February, 2014. He is credited with gaining political support, generating revenue in a cash-strapped jurisdiction, deploying the latest technological and management advances, and driving regional leadership in the Chesapeake Bay.
NACWA welcomes both Angela Licata and Rudy Chow to its Board.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit Remand Rule on November 17 to modify the national small MS4 program, and NACWA leadership was pleased that many of the concerns raised by the Association over the proposed rule were addressed in the final regulation. EPA anticipates the rule will be published in the Federal Register during the week of November 28, and become effective 30 days after publication.
The final rule satisfactorily addresses many of the issues NACWA, its members, and the Stormwater Committee raised in comments on the proposed rule earlier this year. Most notably, the final rule only makes procedural changes to the Phase II MS4 program and endorses a “Permitting Authority Choice” option for issuing MS4 general permits. This will allow a NPDES permitting authority to choose between two alternative means of establishing permit requirements in general MS4 permits, which is similar to the “State Choice” option from the proposal.
EPA agreed with NACWA’s firm position that the final rule remain procedural in nature, and should not make any significant substantive changes to the MS4 program. The Agency also altered the final rule to clarify that narrative limits may still be used in MS4 permits and that the removal of the term “narrative” in the proposed rule was not meant to imply a shift away from narrative limits. The word “narrative” is included in the final rule as among the options that can be used when writing permit limits.
NACWA strongly supported a hybrid permitting concept to allow for maximum flexibility for both permitting authorities and MS4s, and EPA has adopted this approach in the final rule. NACWA and its members have been tracking this process, and engaging with EPA for more than 18 months during this rule’s development (more detail to follow in a forthcoming Advocacy Alert).
Congress returned to Washington last week for a post-election session to determine key party leadership posts for the 115th Congress and to begin final deliberations on unfinished business for the Lame Duck period.
Though formal leadership elections will occur in January when the new Congress is officially sworn-in, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) was unanimously selected to return to his post as Speaker of the House and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will keep his post as Senate Majority Leader. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is retiring and will be replaced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). House Democrats have yet to determine whether their current Minority Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), should remain in that post, and they postponed their election until November 30.
Legislative items remaining on the agenda for the Lame Duck include finalizing appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017, reconciling Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation, approving an aid package for City of Flint, MI, reconciling comprehensive energy legislation and potentially passing western drought legislation. Republican appropriations leaders on November 17 announced their intention to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through March 31 of next year, something that has occurred several times in the past when the party controlling the White House changed. The federal government is currently operating under a CR that expires December 9.
House and Senate negotiators continue to work through reconciliation items on WRDA, though it is unclear whether these negotiations will be wrapped-up by Congress’ target adjournment date of December 9. Several key items of interest to NACWA members are included in this year’s WRDA package, including common sense reforms to the Clean Water Act which address affordability challenges and additional investment in water and wastewater infrastructure.
An aid package for the City of Flint is currently included in both the House and Senate WRDA packages, but it may be included in the CR should WRDA negotiations prove unsuccessful. Both Speaker of the House Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell have indicated that they would like to complete work on WRDA this Congress and NACWA members are urged to continue reaching out to their congressional delegations and urge them to complete work on WRDA this year.
NACWA met with representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) November 18 to provide thoughts on a water and wastewater utility workforce needs survey that GAO is currently undertaking. GAO is conducting the study, which was requested by Congress, to review the challenges that water and wastewater utilities are facing with significant percentages of their workforce approaching retirement age.
NACWA representatives discussed a number of issues with GAO during the meeting, including what is currently known about workforce trends and needs at water and wastewater utilities, how utilities are managing their workforce needs, and what actions the federal government may take to assist utilities in meeting workforce needs.
NACWA asked EPA to consider impacts on wastewater treatment in the risk assessments for two pesticides—spinetoram and copper compounds—in November 18 comments. Spinetoram is used in topical spot-on flea treatments for pets, and it can enter the sewer system when pets, human skin, clothing, and indoor surfaces are washed. It is persistent in aquatic ecosystems and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Copper compounds have many uses as conventional and antimicrobial pesticides, and can be used in swimming pools and for treating fabrics. Copper does not degrade and can be toxic to aquatic life.
NACWA asked EPA to evaluate the implications of both spinetoram and copper compound discharges in the sewer system, referencing the more detailed comments that were submitted by the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA). NACWA suggests that EPA consider proper labeling of pool chemicals, whether antimicrobials will affect the wastewater treatment process, and alternative pet flea treatment methods. The Association will continue working with BACWA, EPA and its member agencies to address concerns about pesticide impact on wastewater utilities.
Let us bring the latest in clean water law to you via NACWA’s Hot Topics in Clean Water Law webinar, scheduled for Wednesday, December 7, from 2:00 pm -3:30 pm ET.
EPA’s recent release of the final Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit Remand Rule—anticipated to be effective by the end of the calendar year—is one of the topics that will be covered during the webinar (see related story). Experts will provide an overview of the components of the final rule and discuss how the rule will likely affect MS4 permittees.
NACWA’s Legal Hot Topics Web Seminars are designed to benefit attorneys as well as existing and emerging utility leaders. Registration is complimentary for NACWA Members. Stay ahead of the curve and reserve a space for you and your colleagues today! Additional details including speakers and topics will be available soon.
As California enters its sixth year of drought, utilities are seeking innovative options to reduce the strain from the water-energy nexus. In an effort to address these issues, NACWA member Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) in Chino, CA forged a unique partnership with Advanced Microgrid Solutions to create a state-of-the-art grid system which incorporates their extensive renewable portfolio. This partnership marks the most recent initiative in a line of “Utility of The Future” (UOTF) projects by IEUA.
Starting in 2008, IEUA embarked on an ambitious campaign to ease electricity demand by utilizing renewable energy sources. After constructing 3.5 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, a 1.0 MW wind turbine, a 2.8 MW fuel cell and a food waste digestion facility, IEUA currently derives 50% of its peak electricity demand from renewable power. This partnership with Advanced Microgrid Solutions culminates these efforts by not only bringing these sources together to help power IEUA’s facilities, but also increasing energy efficiency. As part of the collaboration, IEUA utilizes Tesla Energy batteries to create “energy reservoirs” across its service area, as well as analytic software which, according to IEUA, features a learning algorithm that optimizes how and when the utility uses electricity.
Although the project is in test mode, IEUA hopes to have the system fully operational in early 2017. So far, IEUA has already seen cost savings from the partnership, and it has a positive outlook for battery storage technology in the wastewater industry. Due to the predictable nature of wastewater flow, utility leaders believe that this technology can be implemented industry-wide. NACWA applauds IEUA’s recent efforts to become more energy independent and to serve as a model for smaller-scale utilities.
NACWA wishes all its members a safe and happy Thanksgiving!