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Clean Water Current - June 12

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 June 12, 2015

NACWA Highlights Implementation Challenges in Comments on SSI Federal Plan

061215T ssiNACWA submitted comments pdf button Thursday on EPA’s draft Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) pdf button for the sewage sludge incineration (SSI) regulations the Agency published in March of 2011. The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires that emission limits for existing sources be implemented via either the FIP or a State Implementation Plan (SIP). Few states have opted to develop SIPs for the SSI regulations, leaving many utilities to wait for the federal plan. EPA is more than a year behind in issuing the draft FIP and NACWA highlighted how this delay has complicated the already difficult task of implementing the SSI regulations. Though NACWA’s legal avenues for challenging the SSI rule are now closed, the Association’s administrative Petition for Reconsideration pdf button, filed in May 2014, remains unanswered by EPA. In addition, EPA has failed to address the provisions of the SSI rule that were remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) in its August 2013 decision pdf button Members Only in National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) v. EPA, 734 F.3d 1115. NACWA’s comment letter urged EPA to address both the petition and the remanded provisions prior to finalizing the FIP.

On the implementation side of things, NACWA commented on a range of issues that have presented challenges for utilities working to meet the SSI requirements. Chief among these is the requirement in the rule to conduct performance tests at a minimum of 85 percent of the SSI’s maximum permitted capacity. NACWA raised this issue with EPA prior to release of the FIP, and at the Association’s request, EPA specifically sought comment on this provision. NACWA’s comments highlighted how utilities are having difficulty testing at the 85 percent level and how operating parameters set at this level would be inappropriate and unachievable in many cases when the SSIs are operated at their normal, lower feed rates.

EPA typically takes up to a year to finalize federal plans, but with the March 21, 2016, final compliance date now only nine months away, the Agency will have to move quickly to have the plan in place. NACWA plans to seek a meeting with EPA in the coming weeks to get a status update on its petition and discuss any questions the Agency may have on its comments.

NACWA Encourages Members to Comment on FTC Wipes Agreement

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NACWA has prepared a template letter Members Only for members to use to submit comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding its proposed settlement agreement with Nice-Pak Products, Inc. The agreement would prohibit Nice-Pak – which supplies wipes to retailers including Costco, CVS, and Target – from advertising its wipes as flushable unless it can substantiate that the product is safe for sewer systems, septic systems, and household plumbing. NACWA supports the agreement and its requirement for “tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence” to show that the product “disperses in a sufficiently short amount of time after flushing to avoid clogging, or other operational problems.” More details about the proposed agreement and its ramifications for the Association’s collaborative work on wipes are contained in Advocacy Alert 15-10 Members Only.

Comments to the FTC are due on June 19, and Member Agencies are encouraged to use the template letter or to write comments of their own. A copy of NACWA’s draft comments may be obtained from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

House Appropriations Subcommittee Approves a 23% Cut to the SRFs

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The House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee approved a Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 spending bill pdf button on Thursday for the Interior Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The bill provides $30.7 billion in funding to the agencies for FY 2016, a $246 million cut below current spending levels and $3 billion below the President’s request for these agencies. The bill proposes steep cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs): $1.775 billion is provided for the SRFs – $1.018 billion for the CWSRF and $757 million for the DWSRF, a 30% and 16% cut to each program respectively from current levels and a 23% overall cut. NACWA members are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to urge them to restore these cuts and specifically to maintain CWSRF funding at $1.45 billion in FY 2016.

The proposed spending package would provide EPA with $7.4 billion in FY 2016 – $718 million, or 9%, below current funding levels. This is in sharp contrast with the Administration’s request to increase EPA’s budget by 6%. The House package also does not include funding to begin making loans under the newly established Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act or WIFIA.

NACWA urges its members to write to Congress to express their support for maintaining current funding levels for the CWSRF at $1.45 billion. Restoring the CWSRF has already gained strong bipartisan support in both chambers since the release of the President’s budget request. With the House's proposed cuts, it is imperative that NACWA members tell their Congressional delegation that maintaining current levels of spending for the CWSRF is essential to protecting their community’s clean water resources.

What Would You Like to See From EPA’s Water Finance Center?

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As EPA stands up its recently created Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center (Center), NACWA has prepared a draft letter pdf button Members Only to the Agency to provide input on the initiatives that the Center will support and suggest where additional leadership from EPA is needed. The draft letter reiterates that the tax exempt status of municipal bonds must be maintained, and while Utility of the Future projects are often good candidates for public-private partnership (P3), P3’s are not a panacea to the nation’s water infrastructure funding needs. Please provide any input on the letter to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by Wednesday June 17.

NACWA Submits Environmental Justice Comments; EPA Releases EJSCREEN Tool

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NACWA submitted comments pdf button Members Only June 11 to EPA on the Agency’s draft 2020 environmental justice (EJ) strategic plan pdf button Members Only, applauding EPA’s focus on EJ but encouraging greater consideration of community financial capability and affordability issues in EJ initiatives. EPA released the draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda Framework in April to map out the key EJ actions the Agency intends to take over the next several years. NACWA’s comments note that while EPA includes economically distressed communities as among the primary targets of EJ efforts, it is these same communities that bear a disproportionate share of the costs and rate increases related to federally-mandated clean water investments. This is particularly true when it comes to wet weather consent decrees and enforcement actions. NACWA’s comments highlight this contradiction in EPA’s EJ strategy, and suggest some specific language changes in the draft Framework to address financial capability and affordability concerns.

In a related development, EPA also released this week a public version of its EJSCREEN tool. As NACWA has previously reported, EJSCREEN is intended to be an informational tool for use by EPA, states, the regulated community, and the public to screen for a variety of environmental, demographic, and economic factors that could be helpful to understand when making environmental compliance decisions. EPA is committed to making continual improvements to EJSCREEN, and any members with feedback on the tool are encouraged to contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

NACWA Meets with EPA to Discuss Clean Water Rule, Finance Center

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NACWA met with EPA twice this week to discuss a range of priority water issues, including the Agency’s new Clean Water Rule (often referred to as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule). On Wednesday, Association staff joined representatives from a number of state and municipal organizations including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the Association of Clean Water Administrators, and the Environmental Council of the States for EPA’s Quarterly Association Meeting. Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water gave an overview of the Clean Water Rule, and provided clarification on language in the newly added exemptions for stormwater and water reuse systems referring to whether those units were created or constructed “in dry land.” Kopocis said the final rule should be published in the Federal Register within the next 2-3 weeks, and will become effective 60 days thereafter. He confirmed this during a public webinar EPA held on the rule on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Congress continues legislative efforts to require the Administration to rewrite the Clean Water Rule. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, this week requiring EPA to withdraw the rule and replace it with provisions more acceptable to members of Congress. Last month the House passed similar legislation, H.R. 1732, the Regulatory integrity Protection Act of 2015, by a vote of 261 to 155.

On Thursday, NACWA staff, along with representatives from the Water Environment Federation and the National Association of Water Companies, met with Ken Kopocis, Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Water and other senior EPA staff during the water sector’s bi-monthly meeting with water office leadership. EPA provided updates on its efforts to stand up the new Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, its technical assistance work with five communities on integrated planning, and the implications of the Clean Water Rule for water systems. NACWA plans to provide EPA with some feedback on the new Finance Center next week (see related story).

NACWA Participates in Senate Roundtable on Climate Change

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NACWA participated in an invitation-only roundtable discussion hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee this week on the economic impacts of climate change. Patricia Sinicropi, NACWA’s Senior Legislative Director, represented NACWA at the event, joining several other national environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Ceres, and World Resources Institute. The roundtable was facilitated by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and attended by 13 Democratic senators including Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Sinicropi addressed the risks and challenges that climate change poses to the nation’s clean water agencies. She explained how drinking water and wastewater agencies are now first responders for communities dealing with the challenges of climate change, with responsibility for developing alternative sources of drinking water and for dealing with extreme wet weather events. In the face of these growing challenges, Sinicropi asserted the importance of maintaining funding levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and updating the Clean Water Act to allow clean water agencies to better deal with these issues. NACWA will continue to work with policymakers and other organizations to address the risks that climate change poses for the clean water community.

Texas Water Groups Bring Message to Washington, Stress Importance of Reuse

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NACWA staff briefed members of the Texas Association of Clean Water Agencies (TACWA) and the Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) this week as they prepared to meet with their Congressional delegation about priority water issues in Texas. In addition to emphasizing the need for federal funding and financing support, the briefing covered the status of integrated planning, water reuse issues and the Clean Water Affordability Act. NACWA staff, along with TACWA and WEAT representatives, also participated in a briefing hosted by Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Congressman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) on Thursday, on the role water reuse has played in addressing the most recent drought of record in Texas.

NACWA Signs Coalition Cybersecurity Bill Letter

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NACWA joined five water organizations to send a letter pdf button to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week urging that language be included in S. 754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, to clarify that local government agencies performing public utility services – such as municipal water and wastewater systems – will enjoy the same cybersecurity incentives and protections as their private-sector counterparts. The legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop and promulgate procedures to promote: (1) the timely sharing of classified and declassified cyber threat indicators in possession of the federal government with private entities, non-federal government agencies, or state, tribal, or local governments; (2) the sharing of unclassified indicators with the public; and (3) the sharing of cybersecurity threats with entities to prevent or mitigate adverse effects.

NACWA signed the letter with the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF). NACWA will work with these organizations to ensure final cybersecurity legislation contains the sought-after clarification language.

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Climate Resiliency: Local Perspectives, Global Ideas, and the Upcoming International Water & Climate Forum

Guest blogger, NACWA Vice President Adel Hagekhalil, discusses Los Angeles’ approach to managing water in response to changing climate conditions and the NACWA co-sponsored 2015 International Water and Climate Forum. If your utility is interested in climate resiliency and the “one water approach,” read on.

 

 

 

 
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