Senate Holds Hearing to Examine Federal Response to PFAS
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing this week, “Examining the federal response to the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)” . The hearing featured testimony from David Ross, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency; Maureen Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment at the Department of Defense; Dr. Patrick Breysse, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health.
USGS: Massive changes over last 50 years in human influences that affect water quality
Some of the major human influences on water quality, in particular the ways we use land, water, and chemicals, have undergone dramatic changes over the last five decades, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Program.
Some U.S. urban and agricultural areas and practices are almost unrecognizable from the way they were in the 1970s. From 1974 to 2012, urban areas increased by almost 70% (50 million acres), with the greatest growth in low-density “exurban” residential areas. Crop production increased 114% while cropland area increased only 23%, reflecting a vast growth in agricultural productivity. Animal production, particularly of hogs and pigs, became much more concentrated—the number of hog and pig farms decreased from a half million in 1974 to 63,000 by 2012, yet the number of hogs and pigs increased 45%.
The USGS study assessed a total of 61 human influences in 16 categories, including land use, agricultural practices, and population density. Some of the changes in those influences reflect regulatory actions. For example, from 1974 to 2012 there was a widespread and rapid increase in the use of the herbicide glyphosate with concurrent decreases in other herbicides resulting from their regulatory phaseout. Another example was the widespread decrease in atmospheric deposition of sulfate related in part to the Clean Air Act.
EPA’s NSmart Program Webinars
Save the date for EPA’s NutrientsSmart (“NSmart”) program kickoff webinars! The webinars were rescheduled for April 10, 2019, 1 – 2 pm EDT and April 11, 2019, 3 – 4 pm EDT. You can view the informational flyer here.
To register for the webinars, go here.
For some background, NSmart is a proposed voluntary program to recognize water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) and their watershed partners’ progress towards reducing nutrients in water bodies. The EPA Office of Water and the NSmart Steering Committee are hosting an interest and information webinar to introduce a proposed voluntary recognition program for POTWs, WWRFs, communities, and other stakeholders and potential partners that have reduced or are working towards reducing nutrient loadings to streams, rivers, lakes, and other surface waters. As one of these stakeholders, we would like to provide you with background and answer your questions on the different ways to participate and be recognized as NSmart and gauge your interest in NSmart. We want to know how best to engage with you and make recognition valuable to you, your ratepayers, partners, and local communities.
EPA Holds E-Reporting Rule Phase 2 Kick-off Webinar
This week, EPA held a webinar on Phase 2 of the NPDES E-Reporting Rule. Phase 2 is scheduled to go into effect in December 2020. EPA has been developing electronic reporting tools to implement Phase 2 for EPA-administered permits and on behalf of some authorized states. Other states plan to provide Phase 2 data to EPA electronically. The webinar is intended to kick off a candid conversation about how states and EPA all can complete Phase 2.
The webinar helped states better understand EPA’s current overall approach and schedule for implementing Phase 2. EPA also discussed their plans for more regular ongoing communications on Phase 2 implementation.
If you were unable to attend, a recording and transcript of the webinar will be available soon. For more information on the E-Reporting Rule, go here.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Deference Case
This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kisor v. Wilkie, a case asking whether the Supreme Court should overrule Auer v. Robbins and Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., which direct courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of its own ambiguous regulation. Arguing for Mr. Kisor, attorney Paul Hughes urged the court to overrule the Auer doctrine, which he described as a way around the general requirement that agencies notify the public of proposed regulations and provide an opportunity for comments on those proposed regulations. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued on behalf of the federal government and acknowledged that the Auer doctrine “raises some problems in its applications” but urged the court to keep it in place with some “reasonable limitations” to address those problems. For more information, go here.
Montana Court Makes Decision on Nutrient Variance
This week, the United States District Court for the District of Montana found that EPA improperly approved Montana’s plan to allow dischargers 17 years to meet a controversial variance from strict water quality standards (“WQS”) for nutrients rather than requiring immediate compliance with the variance and working toward attainment of the WQS. The decision endorses the use of variances to WQS under the Clean Water Act, however, the court ruled that the implementation of Montana’s variance was arbitrary and capricious. The judge also asked “counsel for all parties to confer in good faith to attempt to reach agreement as to potential remedies that include a timeline to achieve prompt compliance with the Current Variance Standard.” To view the decision in Upper Missouri Waterkeeper v. EPA, go here.
Extension Provided: State CWA Program Resources Online Survey Responses Now Due By April 5
ACWA continues to support the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration research team (whose expertise includes water resource policy, public finance, regulatory policy, environmental law, and program evaluation) on a new project to update some of the information generated by ASIWPCA’s 2002 State Water Quality Management Resource Analysis. ACWA is hopeful that updated information regarding state program costs to implement the CWA and major sources of funding support will provide the association and individual states an important tool for communicating resource needs. We recognize this survey will take a little bit of time and effort to respond to, but we hope you will agree on the importance of being able to tell this story. Timely state participation is vital to this research effort and we appreciate your efforts to respond to the research team’s efforts. Survey responses are now due by April 5, 2019. If you have questions about the survey, please contact Kami Ehrich at firstname.lastname@example.org. ACWA thanks you for your assistance.
ACWA Nutrients Permitting Workshop – November 2019
Registration for the November 2019 Nutrients Permitting Workshop located in Alexandria, Virginia at the AlexRenew facility November 5-7, 2019 is now live. To register, go here. The workshop will focus on the relationship between water quality standards and nutrients permitting. Lodging is available at the Embassy Suites Alexandria Hotel. To reserve your lodging, call direct 703-684-7900 or 1-800-EMBASSY and ask for the Association of Clean Water Administrators group of rooms, or reserve online here.
ACWA is able to help support and organize this meeting because of a cooperative agreement with EPA. As part of the agreement, ACWA has funds available to assist states with travel. Our hope is to ensure that each state and interstate that wishes to attend is able. If you plan to request travel support from ACWA, please do your best to provide an estimate of the cost categories and total expenses you will need. Request for travel support should be submitted to Mark Patrick McGuire by Friday, April 26. Once all requests are in, we will have a better idea of the total travel funds needed, and will subsequently notify you of the costs for which we will be able to reimburse.