Clean Water Current - March 28
NACWA forwarded comments on March 21 to EPA on the Agency’s proposed rule to change the Phase II federal stormwater regulations for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). NACWA’s comments request a number of modifications and clarifications. The comments also indicate that, of the three options presented in the rule proposal, NACWA believes Option 3 (also referred to as the hybrid approach) will best address the procedural and participatory elements required of the rule – while also maintaining sufficient flexibility for permitting authorities and permittees to develop and regulate their small stormwater programs. The Association's comments also reflect member input and concerns about the Agency's potential move away from narrative and BMP-based effluent limitations for stormwater discharges to more numeric limits.
EPA proposed the MS4 General Permit Remand Rule (Remand Rule) in December modifying the national small MS4 program to comply with the Ninth Circuit’s 2003 Environmental Defense Center (EDC) v. EPAruling and a subsequent 2014 petition related to the decision. The Remand Rule proposal is intended to be a narrow procedural response to the Court’s requirements, but the potential impact of the proposal could be far reaching with significant substantive consequences for permittees.
The Association joined other national, state and regional stormwater associations to submit joint comments on the Remand Rule proposal from the National Stormwater Advocacy Network (NSAN). The NSAN comments reflect a broad set of consensus thoughts regarding the proposed rule that are jointly shared by the signatory organizations. NACWA formed and facilitates the NSAN to provide a forum for state and regional stormwater groups to engage in national stormwater advocacy. NACWA and the NSAN will continue to work with EPA as they finalize the rule over the coming months. EPA must finalize the rule by November 2016.
NACWA submitted comments this week to EPA regarding the Agency’s draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2014. The annual inventory provides nationwide estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for various sectors, including wastewater treatment, and is intended to be used only for informational purposes. The wastewater treatment category in the Inventory includes publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), septic systems, and industrial wastewater treatment systems. The category as a whole consistently ranks in the top ten sectors for emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, although wastewater emissions are much smaller in magnitude than for the highest ranked categories.
NACWA has commented on the nine previous Inventories, and EPA has made corrections and clarifications requested by the Association. EPA has not yet completed the calculations for the wastewater treatment category, but plans to use the same methodology to update the calculations later this year. Work on improvements for the next Inventory will follow. NACWA has offered to work with EPA on data collection or review of an updated methodology, and will keep members informed of any information needs or opportunities to discuss the Inventory with EPA.
Last week, NACWA submitted written testimony to the House Appropriations – Interior & Environment Subcommittee regarding the importance of strong funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Integrated Planning. The testimony builds on a coalition letter to Appropriators sent by NACWA and nine other organizations earlier this month. Despite uncertainty over whether the House can pass a budget this year, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said this week that the Appropriations Committee is pushing ahead on its work developing Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Appropriations bills.
NACWA met with staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on March 24 to discuss the Association’s legislative proposal for the upcoming Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization in Congress. NACWA’s proposed language calls for greater coordination on the part of the USACE when planning flood control projects that may impact local municipal stormwater initiatives, both from a water quality standpoint and with regard to groundwater recharge efforts.
NACWA met with Corps staff to explain the proposal and address any potential concerns. USACE staff were receptive to the Association’s efforts during the meeting and offered helpful suggestions to refine the proposed legislative language in a way that will further facilitate coordination between the USACE and local governments. NACWA will be making some additional changes to the proposal based on this feedback.
The White House convened a special Water Summit on March 22 – World Water Day – to address water sustainability issues in the Unites States. While concerns around increasing water resiliency and the impacts of climate change on water resources were a key focus, there was also significant attention paid to the water infrastructure challenges facing the country.
The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan was mentioned by many speakers as an example of the infrastructure challenges confronting many communities, especially those with large low income populations. The Summit also featured the release of a Presidential Memorandum on drought issues and the announcement by over 150 nongovernmental partners of new efforts to advance water innovation and sustainability.
NACWA commends the White House for convening such a diverse group of stakeholders to address water sustainability and resiliency challenges, but is concerned that the Administration’s most recent budget proposal to Congress calls for deep cuts in federal investment in water infrastructure – especially in light of the ongoing situation in Flint. More federal money for water innovation is important, but it should not come at the expense of water infrastructure. Additional thoughts on the Summit are available in this week’s The Water Voice blog.
The Association is actively supporting state and local initiatives as part of its Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign. Minnesota is considering state legislation that would require specific “do not flush” labeling on packages of non-flushable wipes, as well as flushability standards for wipes marked as flushable. NACWA sent a letter on March 23 in support of this legislation. Wipes have been a focus of the Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign, and the Association is currently working with the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) to improve the INDA labeling Code of Practice and flushability guidelines. These initiatives are expected to be completed later this year, but since both are voluntary, legislation such as Minnesota’s may be needed to ensure compliance by the wipes industry. NACWA, WEF, APWA, and their Minnesota members are working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on the legislation language to ensure that it is protective of wastewater utilities.
In an editorial featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Public Sector Digest, NACWA shared the message of Flint as an example of the great need for investment in water infrastructure nationwide. The article, Flint Michigan: The Water Crisis We Must Not Forget , co-authored by NACWA CEO Adam Krantz and Deputy General Counsel Erica Spitzig, discusses the complex challenges of affordability, aging infrastructure, and an outdated regulatory framework in the context of the growing number of water issues receiving media attention in recent years. The article highlights NACWA’s efforts to develop sustainable federal investment in water infrastructure and to advance the Water Resources Utility of the Future paradigm.
On March 21, 2016, the petitioner in Center for Regulatory Reasonableness v. EPA submitted a brief responding to EPA’s February 3, 2016 filing . The case, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2015, challenges EPA’s decision not to apply the Eighth Circuit’s 2013 ruling dealing with blending in Iowa League of Cities v. EPA.
In addition to responding to EPA’s arguments regarding jurisdiction, the reply brief focuses on the regulatory uncertainty and potentially high cost of compliance created by the Agency’s statements that it would apply the Iowa League decision on a “case by case basis” nationwide. Because the Eighth Circuit held that EPA’s policy on blending was effectively rulemaking, the brief argues that the Agency cannot selectively apply the decision outside of the Eighth Circuit because the Clean Water Act requires that permitting regulations apply uniformly nationwide.
The brief also reaffirms the petitioner’s argument that Iowa League was rightly decided, as the blending policy at issue created a new regulatory scheme at odds with existing regulations.
NACWA filed an amicus brief in this case, providing a critical national utility perspective on the important issue of blending and why the Association believes the Iowa League decision should be applied nationally.
NACWA CEO Adam Krantz spoke at the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) Water Policy Conference last week in Washington, DC. He discussed the strong record of collaboration between NACWA and AMWA, citing the recent joint water sector statement on Flint, climate/resilience issues, infrastructure funding, and other key areas. Krantz’s presentation also focused on the need to leverage our common municipal voices to address complex issues of drought, water supply, and aging infrastructure, and to ensure a meaningful local, state, and federal partnership.
White House Water Summit Highlights Need for Innovation & Investment
Last week, the White House hosted an important Water Summit focused on building a sustainable water future for the United States. The Administration is commended for convening a diverse group of stakeholders to address water sustainability and resiliency challenges, but there are some shortfalls in the Administration’s commitment to water issues – what are they? Read on to find out more.
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