SCOTUS Hears Arguments about Proper Court for WOTUS cases
On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in National Association of Manufacturers v. Dept. of Defense, a case questioning the proper venue to hold challenges to the 2015 Clean Water Rule. Though EPA is currently repealing and replacing the Clean Water Rule, the case will determine whether it is appropriate for federal district courts or appeals courts to hear future disputes concerning the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The courts may also determine whether the current administration’s new clean water rule initiative would make the question of appropriate venue for the 2015 rule moot. You can find the transcript of the oral arguments here.
ACWA Participates in WH Conversation on Water Infrastructure
This week the White House hosted a White House Conversation on Water Infrastructure and Land Use. Administrator Pruitt kicked off the event and discussed EPA’s role in the Administration’s infrastructure initiative. He discussed the president’s executive order (Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure ) and how the agency will leverage federal funding for infrastructure projects and streamline the permitting process. Representatives from the states, local government organizations, and water sector non-profit organizations were in attendance.
The White House Deputy Chief of Staff joined the session to discuss the importance of leveraging federal funding and eliminating permitting delays caused by the lengthy NEPA process. Next there was a presentation from a representative of the National Economic Council who discussed the principles the Administration is considering to speed up the development and permitting of infrastructure projects. The Administration will focus on four areas to improve the process: transforming laws, transforming regulations, transforming guidance/policy and transforming culture. They see public-private partnerships as a key part of this effort and think that projects need to be generated at the local level. Factors they will consider in selecting projects for additional financing include: local/ federal share, transformative projects, commitment to long term operations and maintenance, and projects of regional/national significance. There was then a presentation from the CEQ discussing how they will be implementing the Executive Order, which includes the development of an Action Plan for Implementation, a Practitioner’s Guide to help navigate the process and a public, and a searchable database of NEPA Records of Decision.
S. 692, The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, Passes the Senate
S. 692, The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, passed the Senate on October 5th, 2017 by unanimous consent. The act, sponsored by Deb Fisher D-NE and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 9 senators, would promote green infrastructure, establish an Office of the Municipal Ombudsman, and require revisions to the financial capability guidance. This bill aims to codify the EPA’s integrated planning process laid out in a 2012 policy document titled “Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework.” Additionally, the bill aims to help municipalities accomplish water infrastructure improvements more affordably by using the integrated planning framework. The bill text is available here.
EPA Appoints Jim Gulliford as Region 7 Administrator
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the appointment of Jim Gulliford of Missouri to become Regional Administrator for Region 7. Mr. Gulliford will oversee environmental protection efforts in: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. He previously held the position of Regional Administrator for Region 7 from 2001-2006. From 2006-2009, he served as EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances where he was responsible for helping protect public health and the environment from potential risks of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Mr. Gulliford also served as director of the Division of Soil Conservation at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for 15 years, where he was responsible for the development and management of soil conservation, water quality, and mine regulation for the state if Iowa. Most recently he held the position of executive director at the Soil and Water Conservation Society where he led the organization from 2009-2016.
Animal Waste Air Emissions Update
Earlier this year the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision vacating a 2008 rule that generally exempted farms from CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements for air releases from animal waste. EPA had initially reasoned that these reports were unnecessary “because in most cases a federal response is impractical and unlikely.” The court determined that, in light of the full record, reporting of these numbers was not nearly as useless as EPA made them out to be and that “EPA’s action could not be justified as either a reasonable interpretation of statutory ambiguity or implementation of a de minimis exception.” More recently, EPA had urged the court to stay the decision for six months while EPA crafted guidance for how AFOs should comply with the reporting requirements. On August 16,2017 the court granted a short stay of its mandate until November 14, 2017. On October 6, 2017 OMB posted notice of receipt of “Guidance for EPCRA Reporting Requirements for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste at Farms.” OMB review can generally can take up to 90 days, althouhg it is believed the administration is trying to meet the November 14 deadline.
Registration Information for the Variance Workshop
The Variance Face-to-Face Workshop will be held November 16 – 17 , 2017 in Washington, DC. The workshop will be a venue for face-to-face information sharing between the state water quality standards staff and the EPA. For more information on this meeting and an agenda please see the website. ACWA will be able to provide some travel support for the states. Currently ACWA is holding one seat per state. However we will be opening it up next week for states to send two representatives on Wednesday, October 18th. Therefore if your state is interested in attending and haven’t indicated interest already, please contact Frances Bothfeld to reserve your spot. For more information on travel support and to register for this workshop, please contact Frances Bothfeld. The last day to register is October 23, 2017.
2017 NPDES Program Managers Meeting
Transportation to and from the Tommy Douglas Conference Center where the meeting is being held and to downtown Silver Spring, Maryland is provided here.
2018 National Stormwater Roundtable – Additional Day
The 2018 National Stormwater Roundtable has added a day to the meeting agenda. The meeting, schedule to occur in Atlanta, Georgia , will now go from February 22 – February 23, 2018. The goal of this meeting is to support implementation of federal and state municipal, industrial, and construction stormwater programs nationwide by sharing best management practices, showcasing innovative state programs and initiatives, highlighting new technologies, facilitating discussion on national program enhancements and improvements, identifying state resource needs including tools, training and guidance, and proposing solutions to challenges and barriers faced by the regulators and other stakeholders.
The Stormwater Roundtable is national meeting specifically organized by state and federal regulators. Attendees to this meeting should include:
- State managers, permit writers, inspectors, and compliance staff involved in managing and regulating stormwater
- EPA Headquarter and Regional staff involved in stormwater regulation
- Partnering state and federal agency staff that provide technical and/or regulatory assistance to the stormwater program
- Invited guests
More details about the meeting can be found here.
ACWA MSA Monthly Call: Variance 101
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 2:30 – 4:00 pm Eastern
For call-in and agenda information, contact Frances Bothfeld.