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Clean Water Current - September 18

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September 18, 2015

 Please Note: NACWA’s database systems are undergoing an upgrade this weekend to enhance member service. Member log-ins and online registrations will be unavailable for approximately 24 hours beginning at 5:30 pm Eastern Time on Friday, September 18. We apologize for any inconvenience.

NEORSD Achieves Major Legal Victory on Stormwater

091815T stormwaterThe Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling this week in the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) v. Bath Township, et al. case upholding NACWA Member Agency NEORSD’s municipal stormwater management program and fee and marking a major legal victory.

The legal dispute over NEORSD’s authority for the program and related stormwater fee reached all the way to the state Supreme Court after conflicting decisions by two lower courts. In the 5-2 decisionpdf button, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower appellate court and held that “the issues in this case are exceedingly straightforward: 1) is the Sewer District’s regional stormwater management program authorized by statute and by its charter, and 2) is the attendant fee structure authorized by statute and by the charter. We answer both questions in the affirmative.” More information on the decision can be found in Advocacy Alert 15-16 key.

NACWA joined with the Association of Ohio Metropolitan Wastewater Agencies (AOMWA) to file a briefpdf button key in the case supporting NEORSD as part of the Association’s aggressive advocacy to defend stormwater programs. The Association applauds the court’s decision, which not only affords legal recognition and protection for NEORSD’s stormwater management program, but also provides positive precedent that will benefit utilities managing stormwater nationwide.

NACWA Applauds Inspector General Report on EPA Wet Weather Enforcement

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On September 16, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report, EPA Needs to Track Whether Its Major Municipal Settlements for Combined Sewer Overflows Benefit Water Quality pdf button, that highlights needed changes in how EPA approaches municipal wet weather enforcement actions. Specifically, the report notes that EPA must improve tracking and reporting on how the results of wet weather enforcement initiatives and consent decrees are leading to fewer sewer overflows and resulting improvements to water quality in receiving waters.

NACWA provided significant input to OIG during the investigation, explaining that wet weather consent decrees are among the most expensive public investments a community will ever make, and highlighting the importance of ensuring these expenditures can be tied to specific, measurable environmental improvements. The report recognizes the significant financial impact of these projects and echoes NACWA’s position that EPA must do a better job of ensuring these public funds lead to actual water quality improvements.

For more information on OIG’s recommendations and how to best utilize the report, see Advocacy Alert 15-17 key. NACWA also issued a News Release.

NACWA Engaged in White House Resilience Study

091815T resilienceNACWA President Adel Hagekhalil has been asked to lead a study group that will guide the development of a seminal water sector resilience report for the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). The NIAC was formed by President Obama via Executive Order to assess resilience challenges and provide recommended changes across the sixteen core infrastructure sectors.

The fact that the NIAC has decided to address water sector resilience demonstrates a growing awareness of the fundamental importance of water infrastructure on which the other sectors rely. Hagekhalil was asked to lead the study group developing the report after he and NACWA CEO Adam Krantz addressed the NIAC on September 11 on national and LA-specific security and resilience issues. The Association will help ensure that appropriate experts are chosen to provide input into the report and that it assesses and addresses the most pressing security and climate-related resilience challenges, including a utility-based perspective, with a solutions-oriented approach. Most important, this report will be shared with key decisions makers in the White House, across the Administration's agencies, and with federal, state and local policy makers.

Philadelphia Hosts GI Practitioner Exchange

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The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Sustainability hosted a two-day Green Cities, Clean Water: GSI Practitioner Exchange this week to help share information with other communities interested in learning about and seeing Philadelphia’s green stormwater infrastructure (GI). Over 45 communities shared information on GI program implementation including funding, policy, design, community outreach, and innovation.

The commitment of early-adopting cities like Philadelphia, combined with staunch advocacy by NACWA, have helped create a regulatory environment where state and federal agencies, like EPA, accept GI as a wet weather management tool for compliance. At the same time, the public has made clear its desire for the co-benefits that GI brings to neighborhoods. The Exchange highlighted the importance of addressing three main issues related to GI: what solutions can it provide; what rules and regulations will govern it; and how will it be funded? NACWA congratulates PWD for organizing such a successful and well-attended event.

Traditional gray infrastructure may still form the backbone of the nation’s sewer systems, but more clean water utilities recognize the potential of GI for retention and infiltration of stormwater to alleviate burden on aging sewer systems, recharge groundwater, and mitigate flooding. The Association welcomes feedback on how NACWA can assist its members overcome GI implementation challenges, as a way to augment what was identified at the Exchange. To see attendee commentary and other information, use the #gccwx hashtag.

EPA Holds Briefing on Stormwater Phase II Rule

091815A stormwater.pIINACWA joined a number of other municipal and state organizations this week at an EPA briefing on the upcoming rulemaking that will make changes to the Phase II municipal stormwater program. The Agency recently entered a settlement agreement with environmental activist groups establishing a schedule for the rulemaking, which includes a deadline of December 17, 2015 for a proposed rule, and November 17, 2016 for a final rule.

EPA used the briefing to walk through a number of different options the Agency is considering as part of the rulemaking process and to solicit feedback. The Agency has three options they are evaluating, as outlined in their briefing presentation pdf button. NACWA is currently requesting input from its members on these options and plans to submit a comment letter to EPA by the end of September to help inform the rule proposal development. Any members with comments may contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs & Outreach.

NACWA Participates in Expert Workshop on Aquatic Life Criteria

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EPA kicked off a multi-year effort this week to update its 1985 Guidelines for Deriving Numerical National Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Aquatic Organisms and Their Uses during an expert workshop in Arlington, Virginia. Jim Pletl, Director of Water Quality for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District and Chair of NACWA’s Water Quality Committee, attended the workshop on behalf of the Association. Over the two and a half day meeting, experts from around the world presented the latest scientific information on the derivation and expression of criteria values for the protection of aquatic life. The workshop was an initial step in EPA’s efforts to overhaul the now 30 year old guidance. In general there was consensus, even among the EPA speakers, that there are new approaches the Agency could use to improve the scientific rigor of the derivation process, however, it is too early to predict the direction EPA will take with the revisions. NACWA will be closely tracking EPA’s efforts to revise the guidance over the next several years and will keep the membership informed of any developments.

EPA Releases Proposed National Enforcement Priorities

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This week EPA released its proposed national enforcement priorities for fiscal years 2017-19. These National Enforcement Initiatives are set by EPA every three years to spotlight complex environmental issues the Agency believes deserve particular attention.

As in past years, municipal wet weather overflows are included on the proposed priority list. In discussing this priority, EPA notes the importance of adaptive management to accommodate “changing circumstances and new information, such as the increasing commitment of cities to implement green infrastructure, changes in financial capability, or technological advances.” While NACWA is pleased with EPA’s recognition of the importance of adaptive management approaches to address wet weather issues, the Association continues to be concerned about the Agency’s approach to clean water enforcement that continually ratchets down heavily on municipal dischargers without consideration to corresponding improvements in water quality. Along these lines, EPA’s Inspector General released a report this week suggesting changes in EPA’s municipal wet weather enforcement program (see related article).

EPA is seeking comments on whether the identified initiatives should remain a priority, be expanded, or be relegated to the standard enforcement program. The comment period deadline is October 14. NACWA plans to comment, and members with input on the proposed initiatives are asked to contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , NACWA's General Counsel & Director of Public Affairs, by October 7.

NACWA Takes Its Clean Water Message on the Road

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NACWA staff has been busy this week, speaking at conferences across the county on various clean water issues and demonstrating the Association’s active engagement outside of Washington, DC. Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Chief Technology Officer, provided an overview of EPA’s regulatory agenda – including the recently released Clean Water Rule – at a meeting of the Missouri Public Utilities Alliance in Branson, Missouri. More than 100 communities from across Missouri and Arkansas were in attendance at the conference, which focuses on both water and energy issues. The presentation highlighted EPA’s growing regulatory agenda and the increased use of non-regulatory guidance and policy statements to impose Clean Water Act requirements.

NACWA traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to share a buyers’ perspective on water quality trading during the 2015 National Workshop on Water Quality Markets sponsored by the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Nebraska, and the Conservation Fund. NACWA’s Senior Legislative Director, Patricia Sinicropi, delivered remarks on behalf of the Association’s members and outlined some of the key elements necessary for a successful water quality trading relationship to occur – including elements essential to increasing buyer confidence that credits designed to delivered water quality improvement actually perform.

NACWA’s Brenna Mannion, Director of Regulatory Affairs & Outreach joined utilities, regulators and practitioners in Seattle for the WateReuse Symposium to examine the many projects that are turning treated municipal and industrial wastewater, stormwater, and agricultural runoff into valuable water sources. Water reuse projects are, by their very nature, multi-stakeholder endeavors often requiring complex collaboration between regional and municipal water management entities. NACWA Member Agency LOTT Clean Water Alliance demonstrated this commitment to collaboration by serving as a host utility for the conference and showcasing their beneficial use reclaimed water program. Other Member Agencies also displayed their leadership in this field, including Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority; King County Department of Natural Resources & Parks; El Paso Water Utilities; Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County; City of Los Angeles – LA Sanitation; Orange County Sanitation District; and Clean Water Services.

WateReuse also released a framework document, developed by a panel of experts, to provide information about the value of direct potable reuse (DPR) as a water supply option, and what is needed to implement a DPR program. Outcomes from the Symposium will be discussed at the next meeting of the NACWA Water Reuse Workgroup.

Clean Water Rule, Great Lakes Legislation & Clean Power Plant Rule Featured on Web Seminar

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NACWA hosted a Hot Topics in Clean Water Law Web Seminar this week featuring three very important topics, presented by four expert speakers pdf button. Fred Andes, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and Jon Devine, Senior Attorney for the Water Program at Natural Resources Defense Council, provided an overview of the highly controversial final Clean Water Rule, which took effect on August 28. The two speakers provided differing perspectives on the scope of the Rule’s jurisdiction and highlighted some of the new categories and exemptions. Also discussed was the multiple legal challenges that have been filed against the rule and their current status. These legal battles are anticipated to continue for several years and will likely result in split Circuit Court decisions ending up back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nathan Gardner-Andrews, NACWA’s former General Counsel and new Chief Advocacy Officer, then discussed a top advocacy priority, the Great Lakes provision in the Senate’s FY16 appropriations package for EPA (Sec. 428 of S. 1645 pdf button) which would eliminate all sewer overflows to the Great Lakes and eliminate the use of blending as a wet weather management tool. This language would cost communities tens of billions of dollars for limited water quality gains and set a dangerous national precedent of a zero overflow standard.

Allen Kacenjar, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP, concluded the Seminar with a presentation on the Clean Power Plan Final Rule’s impacts and opportunities for POTWs. The final Plan recognizes that water and wastewater utilities can play a role in increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy generation; however, that role will be decided completely by the states. The Clean Power Plan is also expected to be widely challenged in the courts once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

A recording of the web seminar, as well as presentation slides, are available on NACWA’s website. Join us for the next Legal Hot Topics Web Seminar on December 16, 2015 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm Eastern. Please send suggestions on topics to cover in future web seminars to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , NACWA’s Government Affairs Assistant.

Year at a Glance Showcases NACWA by the Numbers

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This week, NACWA was pleased to present its 2014-2015 Year at a GlanceNACWA by the Numbers . . . Impact through Advocacy, Return on Investment & A Healthy Environment. NACWA by the Numbers highlights the significant impact of the Association’s advocacy on behalf of its members; the undeniable return on investment that membership provides; and the healthy environment that results from the collaborative work of NACWA at the national level – and utilities at the local level.

The Association is proud to ‘have the back’ of public clean water agencies – large, medium, and small – as they work to spur jobs, strengthen the economy, and protect and improve the environment. In the coming year NACWA will continue to focus on advocacy on behalf of its members, maintaining a strong commitment to providing exceptional return on investment.

Hard copies of the report were forwarded, along with FY 2016 Membership Dues Renewals, to Member Agency contacts at the same time it was released to the membership as a digital publication in Member Update (15-09). Members wishing to receive additional hard copies of the publication to share with their Board of Directors, Commission, or Council should contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Director of Marketing & Digital Media. Questions regarding membership renewals should be addressed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Director of Membership Development & Retention.

NACWA Realigns Staff to Better Serve Membership

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NACWA President Adel Hagekhalil and CEO Adam Krantz announced a number of staff updates this week that will further enhance the Association’s ability to serve its members. These changes are designed to bolster NACWA’s advocacy efforts, expand membership, and move the organization towards a modern, 21st century business model that will foster greater growth and better performance. NACWA’s Executive Committee, in endorsing these staff changes, believes the realignment will increase the Association’s stature and influence with stakeholders and maximize opportunities for collaboration.

The following NACWA staff will be taking on new and expanded roles:

  • Chief Advocacy Officer – Nathan Gardner-Andrews
  • Chief Operating Officer – Paula Dannenfeldt
  • General Counsel & Director of Public Affairs – Amanda Waters
  • Chief Technical Officer – Chris Hornback
  • Chief Financial Officer – Meredith Ristic

Existing contact information for these staff will remain the same, and the entire National Office looks forward to continued strong representation of, and service to, the NACWA membership.

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Peyton Plays: Peyton Manning and Strategic Planning

As we kick off the football season, NACWA staff members ask – what do Payton Manning, strategic planning and clean water have in common? More than you think! Read on to find out more – or better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice today and never miss a post!

 

 
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