Alexandra Dunn Selected to be U.S. EPA Region 1 Administrator
U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has selected current ECOS Executive Director (and former ACWA Executive Director) Alex Dunn to serve as Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, which covers New England. The EPA press release contains praise from Administrator Pruitt, who stated “Alexandra Dunn is exceptionally qualified to carry out administrative duties to lead our New England office.” The press release also contains quotes of approval from State Commissioners and others including ACWA Board Member Susan Sullivan of NEIWPCC. As a long time friend of ACWA, we wish Alex the best in her new and exciting endeavor.
Public Release of the NPDES eRule Readiness and Data Completeness Dashboard
The 2015 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule (“NPDES eRule”) requires the U.S. EPA to assess the progress each authorized state is making in implementing NPDES electronic reporting, and to repeat these assessments annually. EPA has published a dashboard on its public access website (ECHO – https://echo.epa.gov/trends/npdes-erule-dashboard-public) to show these assessments. Since November 2016, EPA has worked collaboratively with states to improve the functionality of the dashboard and the quality of the data supporting the dashboard. EPA plans to build additional charts and data visualizations over time to make it easier to evaluate implementation of the NPDES eRule. EPA will continue its collaboration with states prior to any new enhancements of this dashboard. Overall, data sharing between states and EPA has greatly improved, which helps further educate the public and gives EPA and states the ability to more strategically address the most serious water pollution problems.
Residual Designation Authority
A California District Court Judge expressed support for EPA’s interpretation that the Clean Water Act and implementing regulations do not create a “nondiscretionary duty to require stormwater permits” that third parties can enforce. The court rejected environmentalists’ claims that EPA is required to use residual designation authority to expand the universe of entities needing stormwater permits in those watersheds that are impaired by pollutants coming from stormwater. EPA had made the decision to instead rely on existing stormwater initiatives, including a new green infrastructure retrofit program that was addressing the impairments. Secondarily, the district court disagreed with EPA’s argument that this case met the statutory definition of “issuing or denying a permit under section 1342,” which vests exclusive jurisdiction with U.S. Court of Appeals. Rather, the district court determined jurisdiction was appropriate as “refusing to subject a site to the NPDES permitting requirements is neither an issuance or denial of a permit.” The court goes on to say “[T]he action at issue here — EPA’s denial of two citizen petitions — is different in function and effect from either an individual permit issuance or a regulation governing that decision.” Los Angeles Water Keeper v. Pruitt (United States Central District of California, November 2, 2017).
US EPA and US ACE Set to Officially Propose to Amend the Effective Date of the 2015 WOTUS Rule
EPA and U.S. Department of the Army are proposing to amend the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States.” The agencies are proposing that the 2015 rule would not go into effect until two years after today’s action is finalized and published in the Federal Register. This amendment would give the agencies the time needed to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.” You can see the official press release from EPA here. The agencies will be collecting public comment on this proposal for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register and plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018. ACWA will send out a link to the Federal Register page for the proposed rule once it is available.
Some context on the proposed rule, as originally written in last week’s Weekly Wrap:
The purpose of delaying the implementation date is likely to hedge against the regulatory uncertainty that would result if the Supreme Court rules in NAM vs Department of Defense that District Courts, and not Appeals Courts, are the appropriate venue for WOTUS Jurisdictional questions to be argued. The reason such a decision would result in potential regulatory uncertainty is as follows:
- If SCOTUS rules that District Courts are the appropriate venue for WOTUS questions, the current nationwide injunction staying the implementation of the 2015 rule would likely be lifted as it was issued by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- If the nationwide stay on the 2015 rule overturned, and the current proposed rule repealing the 2015 rule (“step 1”) is not finalized, then the 2015 rule would go into effect in a number of states where there were not district court rulings staying implementation of the 2015 rule, while not going into effect in those states where district courts did stay the 2015 rule.
If the implementation date is pushed back, then this scenario where some states are operating under the 2015 rule and some are operating under the current status quo (i.e. pre-2015 rule) would be avoided.
Please contact Julian Gonzalez with any additional questions.
House Appropriations Bill Update
House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly expressed doubt that Congress would make an early December deadline for an appropriations bill to be written and passed, due to more time being needed for the writing of the actual appropriations bills and the current congressional focus on tax reform. Accordingly, the more likely short-term result would be Congress passing another short-term continuing resolution to continue funding the government, similarly to what occurred in September. As usual, there are many moving parts, and ACWA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on both the budget process generally and on any information regarding EPA program and grant funding.
ACWA Re-signs Decentralized Systems MOU Partnership
EPA and 18 partner organizations recommitted to work collaboratively at the national level to improve decentralized performance and protect the nation’s public health and water resources. ACWA along with the other partners recommitted to building upon the successes of prior MOUs by working together:
- To strengthen external partnerships;
- Improve decentralized wastewater treatment system performance through improved practitioner competency, management practices, research and technology transfer;
- Improve accountability, control, and oversight through enhanced state, tribal, and local program implementation;
- Improve local decision making through improved public awareness, education programs and information materials;
- Support the principles outlined in the Voluntary Management Guidelines and Management Handbook for Decentralized Systems developed by EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management;
- Support homeowners in small or rural communities in meeting their infrastructure and development needs by providing outreach and education materials on decentralized technology;
- Improve homeowners understanding of the role decentralized systems play in protecting local water quality and public health.
For more information, contact Frances Bothfeld.
ACWA Holds Variance Workshop With EPA
This week ACWA held a successful Variance Workshop in conjunction with the EPA. Thirty-Five states attended to learn about the utility of WQS variances under 40 CFR 131.14, learn from their peer states, meet with their EPA counter parts in the region, and provide suggestions to the EPA to streamline the variance approval process. The goal of the workshop is to foster a community of practice and for states to feel more comfortable with the variance process.
WQS Handbook Chapter 3 Updated
EPA published an update to Chapter 3 of its Water Quality Standards (WQS) Handbook. The WQS Handbook consolidates program guidance for the WQS program and is widely used by EPA, states, authorized tribes, and other stakeholders and is updated periodically. Chapter 3 contains information relevant to water quality criteria. For more information please refer to the Handbook.
ACWA TMDL Modeling Workgroup Update
The ACWA TMDL Modeling Workspace is now live, and members of the modeling workgroup should have all received emails with instructions on access to the workspace. If you are either a member of the modeling workgroup and have not received that email, or are interested in participating in this workgroup, please contact Julian Gonzalez.
Additionally, if you are either a member of the Watersheds Committee or are one of ACWA’s official State Representatives or Board Members and know of any efforts within your state agency to improve/expand modeling capacity (i.e. bringing in modeling experts from a university to train staff, hiring contractors to identify useful TMDL models, working closely with EPA to ensure staff access to EPA modeling webinars, etc.) please email Julian Gonzalez and briefly identify what your state is doing.
2018 Exchange Network Grant Program Solicitation
The National Environmental Information Exchange Network (EN) is an inter-governmental partnership to foster better environmental management and decision-making through increased access to timely and high quality environmental information. For the FY 2018 competitive grant process, the EPA Exchange Network Grant Program is soliciting project proposals that use the EN to:
- Facilitate sharing environmental data, especially through shared and reusable services.
- Streamline data collection and exchanges to improve its timeliness for decision making.
- Increase the quality and access to environmental data through discovery, publishing, outbound, and analytical services so it is more useful to environmental managers.
- Develop foundational EN shared services (e.g., network security or corporate portals) to reduce burden and avoid costs for co-regulators and the regulated community.
- Expand and improve participation in the EN by strengthening the requisite information management and technology capabilities for interested parties to fully participate in the EN.
For more information on this solicitation please see EPA’s website
ACWA Legal Affairs Committee Call
November 30th, 1-2 pm ET
For more information, contact Patrick McGuire