ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
NACWA filed an amicus curiae brief today in litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, pushing back against EPA’s regulatory approach to blending and arguing that a previous federal appellate court ruling on the issue should be applied nationwide. The Association is participating in this case due to the importance of blending for many NACWA members and the leading role it has played in the blending debate over the past two decades.
NACWA’s brief in Center for Regulatory Reasonableness (CRR) v. EPA provides a critical national utility perspective on the important issue of blending. It highlights why NACWA believes the 2013 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decision in Iowa League of Cities v. EPA - which struck down EPA’s efforts to regulate blending through application of secondary treatment limits internal to the treatment plant before the final point of effluent discharge - should be applied nationally by EPA. More specifically, the brief argues that if a POTW is meeting its permit limits at the point of discharge, EPA has no legal authority to apply secondary treatment requirements internal to the plant or dictate what kinds of treatment techniques are used within the plant’s boundaries, including the use of blending. The brief further articulates the Association’s position that blending, when done consistent with the design and operation of a treatment plant, is not a bypass.
The CRR v. EPA lawsuit was filed in 2014 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to challenge EPA’s application of the Iowa League decision. NACWA’s brief supports the legal challenge is specifically focused on EPA’s inappropriate regulatory actions with regard to blending. The Association will keep members updated on developments in the case.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy circulated an announcement to EPA staff this week, informing them that Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, will leave the Agency in early November. After more than 30 years of public service, President Obama’s nominee to lead the water office is retiring. Though never confirmed by the Senate, Ken has worked in various capacities in the water office for several years and took over leadership of the office when Nancy Stoner left in August 2014. He also had a long and distinguished career on Capitol Hill as a key staff person on water issues. NACWA thanks Ken for his long-time service to EPA and the nation and wishes him the best in his next adventure.
In the same message, Administrator McCarthy announced that Joel Beauvais, currently serving as an associate administrator in EPA’s policy office, will assume the role of Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the water office. While NACWA has not worked directly with Beauvais, the policy office he worked for is a silent but critical player in all of EPA’s rulemaking efforts. It plays a gatekeeper role between the program offices at EPA and the White House Office of Management & Budget, including among other roles running the Agency’s retrospective regulatory review effort. Beauvais is expected to step into his new role the week of November 9. NACWA is working to set up a meeting to brief him on the Association’s priority issues.
The bipartisan 2-year budget agreement hammered out by the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders this week paves the way for Congress to finalize an omnibus appropriations package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 by December 11, the date by which a current Continuing Resolution expires. A key sticking point in this next round of negotiations will be what to do with several environmental policy riders the Republican majority inserted into a Senate proposed appropriation package for the EPA, including a policy rider prohibiting combined sewer overflows to the Great Lakes. The policy rider was inserted at the request of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) – who is facing a stiff reelection challenge next year – in an attempt to bolster his pro-environmental credentials given his decision to back away from his previous support for federal action on climate change.
Senator Kirk’s proposal would prohibit direct and indirect dischargers to the Great Lakes from releasing any overflows from combined sewer systems including overflows discharged in compliance with the Clean Water Act. The proposal would also prohibit the practice of discharging blended effluent by all Great Lakes dischargers. NACWA has estimated that potential compliance costs for Great Lakes CSO dischargers would be nearly $70 billion should this proposal be enacted, and it also would set extremely negative precedent for clean water utilities nationwide. NACWA members and other key stakeholders have been busy pushing back on Capitol Hill in an advocacy campaign to ensure this proposal is not included in a final year-end spending package.
The Senate this week passed the stopgap transportation bill, H.R. 3819, extending federal transportation funding until November 20. An extension for the deadline to implement positive train control (PTC) technology was included, providing the railroad industry three more years, until December 31, 2018, to comply. Many railroads were not on target to meet the previous December 31, 2015 deadline, which would have caused many rail services to shut down. The Association participated in joint letters with other water associations urging an extension and is pleased that the PTC deadline extension was passed. This extension will ensure that the transportation of chemicals like chlorine and anhydrous ammonia that are critical to water and wastewater utilities will not be disrupted or halted.
Jim Pletl, Chair of NACWA’s Water Quality Committee and Director of Water Quality for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Va., participated in the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) meeting this week in Herndon, VA. ACWI is a Federal Advisory Committee convened by the Department of the Interior (DOI) through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help guide the federal government’s collection and distribution of water data and information. NACWA has been a member of ACWI for more than 10 years and participates in several Committee subgroups including the National Water Quality Monitoring Council and the Climate Adaptation Workgroup.
ACWI covered a range of topics at its annual meeting this week, but the round robin discussion with ACWI’s member organizations on what the federal government should be focused on was the most insightful part of the gathering. Pletl raised concerns that ACWI, and by extension the federal government, may not be focused on collecting the most helpful water data for the challenges currently facing the nation’s waters. NACWA has raised similar concerns in the past and will continue to engage with the advisory committee in an effort to improve the prioritization of federal spending on water information.
On Tuesday, Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) hosted a roundtable discussion on the state of the nation’s drinking water infrastructure investment needs in which NACWA and other key stakeholders were invited to share perspectives on how the Federal Government should help communities deal with the investment challenge. Congressman Tonko is Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy with jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act. He is also a past sponsor of legislation reauthorizing the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program. Along with NACWA, participating organizations in the roundtable included the EPA’s Office of Drinking Water, the Water Environment Federation, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the American Water Works Association, among others.
NACWA was busy this week discussing clean water issues with a number of key regional partners. NACWA CEO Adam Krantz attend the fall conference of the Western Coalition of Arid States (WESTCAS) and discussed how the Association’s current advocacy priorities, especially related to water reuse and recycling, are aligned with key priorities and initiatives of utilities in the arid west. A focus of conversation at the WESTCAS meeting was the need – especially in light of current drought and water supply issues facing utilities in the West – for greater regulatory flexibility to empower and encourage clean water agencies to pursue more innovative solutions in addressing water scarcity concerns.
Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director, Regulatory Affairs, was also on the road this week and gave two presentations at the New England Pretreatment Coordinators Workshop in Chelmsford, MA. One presentation was on NACWA’s work on wipes, focusing on the collaboration between the wastewater associations and the wipes industry to develop new flushability guidelines and improve product labeling and consumer education. The other presentation was on the Association’s comments on EPA’s proposed dental amalgam rule, which NACWA believes should be withdrawn due to a lack of environmental benefit at too high of a cost.
The Green Infrastructure Collaborative, EPA, and the Environmental Finance Centers at the University of Maryland and Syracuse University hosted a two-day Green Infrastructure (GI) Learning Lab for communities this week. As part of a suite of programming organized by GI Collaborative members, Seattle Public Utilities and DC Water staff demonstrated how they have learned from their mistakes and those of others to produce more successful GI projects. The GI Learning Lab highlighted a number of tools developed by organizations around the country that can be useful to communities considering GI or trying to scale up their GI programs. A selection of those tools can be found on the NACWA website. NACWA helped to organize a number of the sessions at this week’s event and was pleased to be a part of the important discussion taking place.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a study this week examining the evolution of riverine nitrate concentrations in large U.S. rivers and found no widespread evidence of decreasing nitrate levels over the last century. The greatest increase in nitrate levels – a fivefold increase – occurred from 1945 to 1980 in intensively managed agricultural areas of the Midwest. The change in nitrate levels was strongly related to the rapid increase in livestock and fertilizer use in the region. Nitrate levels doubled during the same time period in urbanized areas on the East and West coasts. Since 1980, the change in nitrate concentrations has been smaller, but nitrate levels have continued to remain high in most rivers. The smaller nitrate level changes can be linked to a slowing increase in the use of fertilizer in the Midwest and as farmland is converted to forest or urban uses in the East coast. More information can be found in the USGS news release.
The study helps to highlight the continued growing impact of nonpoint sources on nitrate levels in the nation’s waters. It also supports NACWA’s longstanding position that more must be done to address nonpoint sources instead of just relying on additional point source reductions.
The Water & Wastewater Leadership Center is currently accepting applications for its 2016 class being held March 13-24, 2016. Hosted by the top-ranked Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Leadership Center is an 11-day intensive executive management program providing utility leaders with the advanced leadership and management skills needed to meet the challenges of current and future demands with the highest level of service and efficiency.
A joint venture of NACWA, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF) – in collaboration with the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) – the Leadership Center convenes annually at the Kenan Flagler Business School and boasts top-notch professors, state-of-the-art facilities, and a curriculum geared specifically toward the leadership development of water and wastewater professionals.
Program curriculum is designed for current and up-and-coming water and wastewater utility leaders. Participants graduate from the program equipped not only with an enhanced skill set, but a path forward in the establishment of strategic career and utility goals that deliver measurable results. With a limited class size of no more than 30 participants, water and wastewater utility executives have the unique opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another’s experiences in addition to receiving unparalleled personal attention from faculty. Applications for the program are due Friday, November 13, 2015. Interested participants are encouraged to apply early.
“The Water & Wastewater Leadership Center provided me with broad exposure to a number of relevant disciplines taught by a top-notch, experienced faculty. The leadership skills and training this program provided are invaluable as we each return to our own utilities with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper set of professional relationships.” - Mark Kim, 2014 Alumnus, Chief Financial Officer, DC Water
Utilities Cooking Up Treats for Halloween
What do DC Water, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Metro Denver Water have in common? It’s Halloween! Read on to find out how these utilities are using the upcoming holiday as a perfect excuse to engage their communities. Better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post!
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