ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
A bipartisan House letter opposing the Great Lakes provision, Section 428 of the Senate’s FY2016 appropriations bill for the EPA (S. 1645), was circulated on November 24. NACWA was instrumental in formulating the letter, which serves as a strong statement of opposition to the flawed Great Lakes proposal. The letter was signed by nine Members of Congress – five republicans and three democrats – and demonstrates the deep bipartisan concern with the legislative language. Republicans signing the letter were Reps. Bob Gibbs (OH), Mike Kelly (PA), Jim Jordan (OH), Jackie Walorski (IN), and Glen Grothman (WI). Democrats on the letter were Reps. Gwen Moore (WI), Mike Pocan (WI), and Rob Kind (WI).
Section 428 would prohibit combined sewer overflows and blending in the Great Lakes region, costing communities more than $70 billion to comply. NACWA has been leading the charge against the legislation, and as discussions on a final FY 2016 appropriations bill progress the Association will continue to advocate to prevent this measure from being included.
NACWA staff and Randy Schmidt, Senior Engineer for the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, CA and Co-Chair of the Association’s Biosolids Management Committee, met with Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air & Radiation, this week to discuss the impending March 2016 compliance deadline for sewage sludge incinerators (SSIs) to comply with new Clean Air Act (CAA) emission standards published in 2011.
The top concern for NACWA and its members has been EPA’s delay in issuing a final Federal Implementation Plan (FIP), which is usually complete 1-2 years prior to the compliance date and is a required step to ensure the emission standards are enforceable. Most of the SSIs in the country are in states that will follow the FIP and EPA’s delay has been causing a lot of confusion, including delaying issuance of CAA Title V permits and other required elements of the 2011 rule. EPA indicated during this week’s meeting that they are working hard to issue the final FIP "very early in 2016". EPA stressed that the requirements in the FIP will match the model rule from 2011 and that there should be no uncertainty regarding what requirements must be met. In addition, EPA noted that the FIP will not provide any extension of the compliance deadline.
On the issue of compliance agreements – where a utility cannot meet the deadline and enters into an agreement for coming into compliance – McCabe noted that EPA's enforcement office will take the lead, but that utilities in states operating under the FIP that would like to pursue compliance agreements should first approach their EPA Regional Office. NACWA is now working to set up a meeting with the top enforcement official for air issues at EPA Headquarters to discuss this matter further.
Congressional negotiators this week put the final touches on a five-year transportation reauthorization measure that provides nearly $300 billion to highway, transit and rail projects for the next five years. Significantly, the measure included a provision enabling borrowers under the recently-established Water Infrastructure Financing & Innovations Act (WIFIA) program to use tax-exempt municipal bond financing as match for federal loans. NACWA, the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), and other water sector organizations have advocated strongly in favor of the “WIFIA fix” and this week’s Congressional passage is an important legislative victory for the sector.
The fix was necessary because the original WIFIA authorizing legislation contained a restriction on the use of municipal bonds due to concerns over costs. These concerns were addressed in the overall transportation package and conferees were able to reach an agreement. NACWA and other water associations argued that preventing municipal borrowers from using tax-exempt bond financing as a match for a WIFIA loan would significantly diminish the attractiveness of the program for municipalities. Several key Congressional lawmakers agreed, including Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee with jurisdiction over the transportation package and WIFIA, who led the effort to include the WIFIA fix in the transportation package.
WIFIA is a pilot program and is designed to provide U.S. Treasury-backed loans for up to 49 percent of a water infrastructure project that costs at least $20 million. NACWA anticipates EPA will be ready to launch the WIFIA program late next year once the program rules and guidelines are established.
Utility leaders and representatives from the largest cities across the world met in Paris this week at the Water, Megacities & Global Change conference in conjunction with the COP 21 international climate talks. The meeting, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), underscored how climate and resiliency issues are fundamentally about water and that all cities must share their strategies with one another to ensure they are adapting to – and mitigating the effects of – climate change.
NACWA was represented at the meeting by its President Adel Hagekhalil from the City of Los Angeles. Other utility leaders and representatives from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Chicago also attended. Hagekhalil discussed Los Angeles' own response to the drought and a climate-altered environment while underscoring the vital importance of sharing information and collaborating with cities to ensure a safe water supply and uninterrupted sanitation service for all people. Hagekhalil also expressed NACWA's sympathy for the tragic terror attacks in Paris, noting that increasingly the international community must work together to solve complex problems.
Most important, the conference was meant to ensure that water would be a consideration for the COP 21 talks that could lead to binding international requirements that must fully consider water quality and quantity issues in a reasonable and sustainable manner.
NACWA representatives also spent a day with the leadership of the Parisian wastewater agency – SIAPP. The dialogue shed light on the fact that the challenges faced in France and the U.S. are very similar. Both agreed that a stronger partnership is needed and the SIAPP and UNESCO representatives were invited to attend a future NACWA conference.
Courts were busy this week in two cases where NACWA is an active participant, highlighting the important legal advocacy role the Association plays on behalf of the nation’s clean water utilities. On December 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral arguments in a challenge to EPA’s 2008 Water Transfers Rule. NACWA submitted a brief in the litigation along with a number of other organizations in 2014 supporting the rule, and the Association has long been in favor of exempting water transfers from the federal Clean Water Act regulatory structure. At least two of the three judges at the hearing this week seemed inclined to defer to EPA’s judgement in the original rule and its exemption of water transfers from the permit program. Additional information on the case is available on NACWA’s website, and a decision is expected in the coming months.
In a related development, the Ohio Supreme Court this week also denied a request for reconsideration of its September ruling that upheld NACWA Member Agency the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s (NEORSD) municipal stormwater management program. NACWA participated in the case in strong support of NEORSD and is very pleased with this week’s court action, which leaves in place the September ruling. The Association believes the decision in this case can serve as excellent legal precedent for municipal stormwater programs nationwide facing similar legal challenges.
NACWA sent a letter to EPA on November 24 asking the Agency to consider potential wastewater treatment plant interference in its registration review of diquat dibromide, a root control chemical. Diquat dibromide can be effectively used to control roots in wastewater collection systems, helping to prevent overflows and backups. However, if too much of the chemical is used in too short a time, it has the potential to interfere with the microorganisms used in the wastewater treatment process.
NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF)—in partnership with Singapore’s national water agency PUB—invite U.S. utility leaders to apply for the 2016 Singapore International Water Week Scholarship. The scholarship will help offset costs for a U.S. utility delegation to the 2016 Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), a biennial event that showcases best practices, innovative technologies, and business opportunities in the global water sector.
Scheduled for July 10-14, SIWW 2016 will bring together international water leaders and practitioners to share and co-create innovative solutions that reinforce global integration of sustainable water management strategies with urban planning processes. Through a collaborative sponsorship of the scholarship and utility delegation, the organizations are seeking to help break down international barriers, assist with the acceleration of technology transfer, and create an understanding of innovative policy options to further integrate resource recovery across the water sector. Scholarship recipients will be encouraged to write papers for publication and make presentations about their SIWW experiences.
High-level managers, general managers, and CEOs of U.S. water and wastewater utilities are encouraged to apply. Scholarship applicants must be a WEF or NACWA member and/or work for an agency that is a WERF subscriber. Applications will be accepted through February 5, 2016. The recipients will be notified and announced in March 2016. To learn more about the scholarship and application process, visit www.wef.org/SIWWScholars.
NACWA members and staff have been featured in a variety of prominent media outlets in recent weeks, highlighting the important role the Association and its Member Agencies play in media coverage of key clean water issues. Chris Crockett, Chair of NACWA’s Climate & Resilience Committee and Deputy Commissioner of Planning & Environmental Services with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), spoke with National Public Radio this week about the challenges presented to municipal clean water utilities by climate change. The interview, done as a series of stories around this week’s international climate change meeting in Paris, sought to highlight the issues a city like Philadelphia is facing in planning for future water and wastewater needs. This includes the uncertainty created by climate change of not being able to rely on past models to predict future infrastructure needs. Crockett also emphasized the important work Philadelphia is doing to address its water needs in a proactive way that serves the City’s citizens.
Representatives from PWD and the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA), including NACWA Board Member and CCMUA Executive Director Andy Kricun, were also interviewed for a recent article in Popular Mechanics on the challenges controlling combined sewer overflows.
Last week, Amanda Waters, NACWA’s General Counsel & Director of Public Affairs, was interviewed by the Washington Post for a front page story on a recent lawsuit over bacteria total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). The litigation, filed by Association Member Agency, DC Water, challenges a TMDL for E.coli that was improperly developed and could impose substantial costs on the utility with little environmental benefit. Waters highlighted the importance of ensuring TMDLs are technically accurate to avoid spending limited ratepayer dollars on sporadic wet weather events that will not result in meaningful water quality improvement. Waters was also quoted in a recent Governing magazine article on the challenges facing clean water utilities from leaky underground sewer laterals.
NACWA, along with several other state and local government associations, including the Association of Clean Water Administrators and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, met with EPA this week during the Agency’s regular ‘National Associations Outreach Meeting’ to discuss a number of issues. Central to the meeting was a new effort seeking to engage intergovernmental partners on identifying the best focus for EPA research and other federal investment to protect public health.
Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, kicked off the discussion by stressing that the Agency is at heart a public health agency. She acknowledged that as a nation we cannot afford do everything, and thus it is important to work with communities to listen to their priorities and help direct EPA and other federal agency resources towards assisting communities with their top environmental and public health challenges first. She also noted that environmental statutes do not tend to change, which makes addressing these challenges even harder.
Following McCarthy's remarks, Tom Burke, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Research & Development and the Agency's Science Advisor, led a discussion with top officials from the Environmental Council of the States and the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials on the linkages between public health and environmental health. He stressed EPA's desire to work with its intergovernmental partners to better target research and help to communicate the research and tools the Agency currently has available. Burke further expressed an interest in working across all of the Agency's programs to allow for better prioritization by communities on all of their public health and environmental investment needs. EPA also discussed its "Making a Visible Difference" initiative, intended to help support communities as they pursue environmental improvements that enhance economic opportunity and quality of life.
NACWA launched a Small & Medium Utility Workgroup this week that will focus on improving the Association’s advocacy work on behalf of small and medium sized utilities. In addition, the group will discuss opportunities to enhance the value of membership for both current and potential utilities of this size. For purposes of this Workgroup, the small and medium sized utility has been defined as any utility that services a population of approximately 50,000 or less.
The next Legal Hot Topics Web Seminar will be held on December 16 from 2:00 – 3:30 pm Eastern. These quarterly webinars are designed to benefit municipal utility attorneys and managers, those new to the clean water arena and seasoned professionals. It is offered at no cost to NACWA members and provides an excellent and convenient way to keep current on the latest clean water issues, developments, trends and case law.
The webinar will feature several topics including Regulating Discharges to Groundwater via the Conduit Theory. Shawn Hagerty a partner with Best Best & Krieger, Samuel Brown, senior attorney, and Diana Pfeffer Martin, Counsel with Hunton & Williams will provide an overview of this issue, recent case law advancing the Conduit Theory and potential implications for the clean water sector.
Christopher Smith an Environmental Attorney with Squire Patton Boggs will then present Joint and Several Liability is the Future for the Clean Water Act. This presentation will offer strategies for municipal stormwater co-permittees to bring unpermitted and disinterested upstream pollutant contributors to the table to engage in meaningful discussions. Smith will also address the availability of judicial relief to provide an equitable allocation of responsibility for upstream contributions. Registration is complimentary for NACWA members, so reserve your space for you and your colleagues today!
Toilets Are Not Trashcans
Just in time for World Toilet Day, NACWA unveiled a new Toilets Are Not Trashcans logo to better raise awareness about the proper use of toilets and municipal sewer systems. Too many utilities across the country – and around the world – are spending too much money on removing products from sewers that people flush down their toilets instead of putting in the trash. In the absence of any immediate regulatory or legislative solution for people flushing the wrong things, public education is the only way to change these problematic behaviors. How can you join our campaign? Read on to find out more!
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