» Clean Water Current Archive
June 21, 2013
EPA Breaches Settlement Agreement – National Stormwater Rule Further Delayed
This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) declared EPA in breach of their 2009 settlement agreement, a main component of which was the proposed national stormwater rule. For over two years NACWA, its members, and municipal partners have actively engaged EPA’s Office of Water as it worked to develop a national rule. Earlier this month, CBF had extended the deadline for EPA to propose the rule for a seventh time, through Monday, June 17th. EPA was unable to meet the deadline. Under the terms of the agreement's dispute resolution, EPA and CBF will meet within the next 30 days to discuss terms and will have another 60 days to announce a revised schedule for the rule that satisfies CBF. If an agreement is not reached, the issue will move to a judge.
The Foundation’s action puts additional pressure on EPA, who will continue their analyses and rule development as these negotiations take place. The remaining evaluation includes finalizing the complex cost-benefit analyses which, in addition to traditional infrastructure costs, also include difficult to calculate “avoided” and “opportunity” costs. This delay, though frustrating for those who have been eager to see a rule proposed, does give EPA more time to account for the nuanced cost burden this rule may place on utilities and municipalities, and ensure the process is fully vetted. NACWA expects to see a new rulemaking schedule this fall, at the earliest – a full two years past the original September 2011 rule proposal deadline.
NACWA Requests Revisions to Draft Flushability Guidelines
NACWA submitted a letter on June 18 to INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, recommending changes to the draft third edition of their Guidelines for Assessing the Flushability of Disposable Nonwoven Products. NACWA has engaged INDA in discussions regarding the guidelines for several years. The simplified testing procedures in the third edition are a significant improvement to the previous guidelines. The document also provides a Code of Practice for using a standard “Do Not Flush” symbol on products that are non-flushable. NACWA’s letter expressed appreciation to INDA for allowing representatives of the Association, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Maine WasteWater Control Association (MWWCA) the opportunity to review the draft guidelines and the emphasis on improved labeling of non-flushable products. NACWA expressed concern, however, over the removal of the term “dispersibility” from the guidelines, since products introduced into the sewer system must not only be flushable in terms of making it through a toilet and household plumbing – they must also disperse in the collection system to prevent clogs of pumps and screens. Shortly after receipt of NACWA’s letter, INDA posted the final, unchanged, version of the guidelines has been posted on INDA’s website. A link has been posted on NACWA’s resource page for flushable wipes and other non-dispersible products at www.nacwa.org/flushables. INDA has, however, responded to NACWA’s letter and offered to continue working with the Association on this issue. An in-person meeting will be scheduled next month between NACWA, WEF, INDA, and other partners.
Utility of the Future Partners Welcome ABC Interest in Operator Training, Certification
This week, WEF, NACWA, and WERF jointly responded to comments from the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) on the operator training and certification proposals in the Water Resources Utility of the Future Blueprint for Action. In April, ABC sent comments to the three organizations focused on the recommendation in the Blueprint regarding nationally consistent operator training and certification. ABC offered assistance in further development of operator certification. The organizations look forward to collaborating on operator education and training – and other water resources utility of the future issues.
Efforts Continue to Maintain Tax-Exempt Status of Municipal Bonds
The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) convened a third meeting this week with NACWA and dozens of other national associations across infrastructure sectors to ensure that Congress does not scale back, or eliminate, the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. The Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposes a 28% benefit cap on tax-exempt municipal bond interest, an action that would have enormous financial consequences for infrastructure projects, including those in the water and wastewater sector. The coalition is planning a large media campaign for later this summer to better educate Members of Congress about the importance of the current tax-exempt status.
In addition to NACWA’s work with the coalition, the Association is analyzing the potential impacts to the Nation’s clean water agencies from the proposed changes. Current analyses detail how such a tax policy shift would impact municipalities as a whole, but there is little information on how it will impact the water sector specifically. NACWA’s analysis, funded through the Association’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF), will serve as a key tool in advocacy efforts as budget discussions proceed. NACWA anticipates that the analysis will be completed in advance of the Summer Conference and will share it the membership at that time.
House Votes Down Farm Bill
On Thursday, the House of Representatives Farm Bill was defeated by a vote of 195 to 234. The bill’s failure was due in large part to proposed cuts to the food stamp program, which some Republicans and all but 24 Democrats opposed. Although the next steps for Farm Bill reauthorization are unclear at this time, the Association anticipates that the House will either consider the Senate bill next, a proposal unpopular with the House Republicans, or work on a proposal to further extend the 2008 Farm Bill. NACWA will update members as soon as more is known.
Earlier in the week, NACWA’s Healthy Waters Coalition (HWC) had held a conference call to discuss strategy going forward as the Farm Bill moved through the House of Representatives. Earlier this month, the Senate approved a five-year Farm Bill which contains language the HWC had advocated for to ensure that nutrient management activities receive priority conservation funding. The language allows farmers that are part of a partnership agreement to receive five-year contracts and special payments for nutrient management-related activities. The bill also contains new language that clarifies that municipal water and wastewater entities are eligible partners, and specifically sites partnerships that execute innovative water quality improvement measures as eligible for conservation funding. The HWC will be working to ensure that the nutrient management language included in the Senate Farm Bill is incorporated in any final package.
Coming to the Summer Conference? Need a Place to Stay?
NACWA’s Summer Conference and 43rd Annual Meeting, Managing & Financing the Resilient Clean Water Utility, July 14 - 17 in Cincinnati is only a few weeks away! A detailed program and other information on making your plans are available on NACWA’s website. The Conference program features management and financing approaches utilities are putting in place as they work to establish a more resilient business model founded on integrated financial and management practices, systems and processes. Strong response to this offering has left the conference hotel, the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, without available rooms. NACWA has secured a block of additional rooms at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, very near the Hilton at the conference room rate of $160 per night (single/double), plus applicable taxes. Reservations must be made by Friday, June 28, 2013. To ensure a hotel room, contact the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati at 888.421.1442. Please be sure to identify yourself as a NACWA attendee.
NACWA Blog of the Week:
Interpreting NACWA’s 2012 Service Charge Index
This week’s post explores NACWA’s Service Charge Index, the Association’s annual snap shot of residential service charges for wastewater services. With the wide variety of rate structures implemented at the local level, the average annual single family residential charge provides a unique and consistent benchmark to measure the cost of wastewater services over time. In May 2013, NACWA released its 2012 Service Charge Index showing, for the eleventh year in a row, an increase in the average cost of wastewater services for a single-family residence that outpaced the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
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