Have a happy Earth Day, Wrap readers! Earth Day is this Monday, April 22.
EPA Releases Interpretation of Clean Water Act’s Relation to Groundwater
This week, EPA released its “Interpretive Statement of the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program to Releases of Pollutants from a Point Source to Groundwater” (attached here). EPA concluded that the Clean Water Act is “best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage, regardless of a hydrologic connection between groundwater and jurisdictional surface water.” The statement explains that this interpretation only applies outside the Ninth and Fourth Circuits, given recent court decisions.
EPA plans to solicit public comment on the interpretative statement regarding what may be needed to provide further clarity and regulatory certainty on the issue. The deadline will be 45 days after the official Federal Register publication of the interpretive statement. After the Supreme Court issues its decision in Maui (late 2019 at the earliest), EPA plans to go through a full notice and comment rulemaking on the issue.
EPA’s NSmart Program Webinars
Last week, EPA held two kickoff webinars on the NutrientsSmart (“NSmart”) program. The webinars explained the program in detail, providing an in depth look at how it will work and how to apply.
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 Hosts Sec. 401 Modernization Webinar
This week, EPA hosted a webinar for state and tribal representatives to update state and tribal partners on the Agency’s plans to implement the Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth. Slides from the webinar are available here. The EO instructs EPA to modernize the program to provide clear, predictable, and timely permitting decisions. The Agency’s efforts will focus on modernizing deadlines for certification, clarifying responsibilities, facilitating information coordination, and by limiting the scope of review to water quality issues. The EO instructs the Agency to issue new guidance in 60 days and initiate a rulemaking within 120 days after consulting with state and tribal partners. EPA plans to hold a follow-up state and tribal webinar in mid-May. Information about the May webinar will be posted on the EPA website. The Agency is taking pre-proposal recommendations in an administrative docket (EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0855) that you may access by clicking here. ACWA will be putting together a workgroup to develop comments to submit to the agency on its efforts. If you are interested in participating, please contact Julia Anastasio.
An Examination of the Hydropower Licensing and Federal Authorization Process
The Department of Energy has funded a research project jointly led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory seeking to improve its understanding of the time, costs, benefits, and uncertainty associated with US hydropower licensing and regulatory approvals. The project team hopes to retrospectively examine the time frames and costs of past licensing procedures to provide decision-makers with scientifically-based information to inform decisions about the non-federal hydropower authorization process, interagency coordination and collaboration, and the potential for increased efficiency and effectiveness for all stakeholders involved. In particular, one of the tasks is to elicit perspectives and feedback from a wide range of hydropower stakeholders. The team plans to use a combination of email inquiries and smaller subsets of video/phone interviews to seek a deeper understanding of causal factors behind licensing timeframes, benefits of shortened or lengthened timeframes, sticking points or areas of disagreement (e.g., study disputes), areas of inefficiencies, and areas of unresolved issues.
If you are interested in participating, please contact Julia Anastasio so that we can add your information to the contact list.
Because respondent identities are confidential, the project team does not know who may be asked to participate and how many from our organization who will be contacted. Furthermore, if you participate or are asked to participate, we ask that you keep that confidential. The project team has acquired appropriate Institution Review Board approval and ensures that your responses are confidential and will not be shared beyond approved project team members. Responses will be summarized to examine areas of alignment, or differences, across diverse perspectives.
Sections of Steam Electric Rule Remanded
On April 12, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision agreeing with the environmental petitioners that sections of the Steam Electric Rule regulating legacy waste water and combustion leachate were unlawful, and were remanded back to EPA (Southwestern Elec Power Co., et al v. EPA). EPA issued the final Steam Electric Rule on November 3, 2015. The rule originally addressed six waste stream areas including: Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater; fly ash transport wastewater; bottom ash transport wastewater; flue gas mercury control (FGMC) wastewater; combustion residual leachate; and gasification wastewater.
The court concluded, based on the record presented before it, that “EPA’s decision to set surface impoundments as best available technology economically available (BAT) for legacy wastewater was arbitrary and capricious.” The court went on to say that “while EPA concluded impoundments are the [BAT] for treating legacy wastewater, the evidence recounted in the final rule shows that impoundments are demonstrably ineffective at doing so and demonstrably inferior to other available technologies.”
As to the combustion residual leachate standard, the court concluded that the Steam Electric Rule “pegs BAT for leachate to the decades-old [best practicable control technology currently available (BPT)] standard, without offering any explanation for why that prior standard is now BAT.” The court further explained that “BPT is merely the ‘first step’ towards the Act’s pollution reduction goals and provides the ‘prior standard’ against which the stricter BAT is to be measured.” EPA has not yet indicated whether they will appeal this decisions.
EPA Seeks Public Input for Development of National Water Reuse Action Plan
EPA is seeking public input on the development of an action plan to accelerate the application of water reuse as a safe, reliable, and sustainable way to meet the country’s current and future water demands. To facilitate public input on the Water Reuse Action Plan, EPA released a Discussion Framework for Development of a Draft Water Reuse Action Plan which provides helpful background, context, and details on considerations the Water Reuse Action Plan could address. EPA Seeks Public Input for Development of National Water Reuse Action Plan invites ideas and input on all aspects of water reuse, including but not limited to: Specific actions that can be taken now and in the future by federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, water utilities, industry, agriculture, and others; Key relevant sources of information, such as literature, about water reuse, not already identified in the Discussion Framework; Examples of water reuse, both past and future, which demonstrate opportunities and barriers; Concepts for applying water reuse strategies within integrated water resources management planning; and, Ways water reuse can improve water resiliency, security and sustainability through a more diverse water portfolio. EPA will accept public input for the draft Water Reuse Action Plan through July 1, 2019, online via Regulations.gov using Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2019-0174. After consideration of the input received, EPA will release a draft Water Reuse Action Plan for public comment in conjunction with the 2019 WateReuse Symposium in San Diego, Calif.
Interstate Technology Regulatory Council
ITRC recently announced the opening of their 2020 Project Proposal Process. Starting on April 15, they begin accepting proposals that “address urgent environmental issues and advance innovative technologies and processes.” Applicable environmental topics will be considered, but evaluation criteria will give greater weight to proposals that address the needs listed in the 2020 ITRC Priorities list, or proposals which update ITRC documents that are outdated.
2020 ITRC Priorities (see more detailed list here):
- Water Reuse
- Waste Reduction
- Chemicals of Emerging Concern
- Cleanup Technology
- Water Quality
- Air Quality
Please follow the instructions found in the selection process and criteria document, and use the proposal template to submit your proposal. Proposals are due electronically to Patty Reyes, ITRC Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Wednesday, May 10, 2019. The proposals that are selected by the ITRC Board of Advisors will begin in January 2020. ITRC is a program of the Environmental Research Institute of States (ERIS), which is a 501(c)(3) organization managed by the Environmental Council of States (ECOS).
The Water Data Collaborative – Citizen Science Monitoring Data And Data Sharing Webcast: Thursday, May 9, 2019, 1:00-3:00 pm Eastern
The Water Data Collaborative is an affiliation of academic, governmental, and non-profit institutions dedicated to harnessing the power of citizen-based water quality monitoring data. Since its formation in 2017, the Collaborative has been working to develop a systematic process and resources that citizen monitors can use to more effectively collect, manage, and share their data in open data repositories to inform decisions.
The Collaborative seeks to expand activities related to the Internet of Water (IoW), a vision for improving data flow between typically fragmented water sectors, in order to proactively engage citizen science in non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Active facilitation by the Collaborative has allowed for seamless integration of water data into the IoW technical framework, maximizing the potential for data to be included in public policy and community decision-making.
This webcast will be of interest to groups at every stage of the water quality monitoring process and will cover:
• a discussion of best practices and the need for planning and implementing a study design to ensure a successful monitoring program,
• a live demonstration of tools to visualize and simplify data management using machine-readable data, and
• a conversation on how to conduct a GIS-based analysis that leverages existing EPA Water Quality Portaldata and other data sources to inform on-the-ground watershed restoration efforts.
Webcast participants are eligible to receive a certificate for their attendance. The webcast presentations will be posted in advance at EPA Watershed Academy and participants are encouraged to download them prior to the webcast.
Samantha Briggs, Acting Clean Water Program Director, Izaak Walton League of America
John Dawes, Executive Director, Chesapeake Commons
Emily Wiggans, GIS Analyst, Chesapeake Conservancy
You must register in advance to attend this webcast. Register at the Watershed Academy webcast website at: EPA Watershed Academy.
Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) meets in Washington, D.C.
The Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) provides ideas and advice to EPA’s Administrator and program offices on ways to lower the costs of and increase investments in environmental and public health protection. On April 17 and 18, EFAB held it’s annual public meeting in Washington, D.C., where ACWA staff attended in an observational capacity. This meeting included discussions of EFAB draft reports on topics such as Alternative Delivery for Water Projects, Chesapeake Bay Performance Metrics, Funding Pre-Disaster Resiliency, Stormwater Financing, Regionalization/Consolidation, and the American Water Infrastructure Act. EFAB’s website is continually updated, and the materials page for this recent meeting contains the draft reports for those topics, where you can learn more about what specific goals and questions the workgroups set out to answer and discuss for each topic. ACWA encourages members to keep updated on the latest work by the EFAB, especially within the stormwater finance workgroup which is currently being formed. For more information, contact the appropriate EPA individuals listed on the different parts of the EFAB website.
ACWA’s Monitoring, Standards, and Assessment Committee to Create PFAS Subcommittee
ACWA is setting up a PFAS Subcommittee for members of the Monitoring, Standards, and Assessment (MSA) Committee. The goal of this committee is to create a forum to present new surface water related PFAS research and PFAS related program development from the EPA and States, provide updates on PFAS analytical methods for water, soil, and tissue, and provide updates and information from other media organization’s PFAS work groups. Additionally, the subcommittee aims to establish a forum of state experts to discuss state updates related to PFAS monitoring, standards, and assessment in surface water and to pose questions to colleagues from other states regarding PFAS in surface water. For more information please contact Frances Bothfeld.
ACWA to Host Make Up Introduction to Water Quality Standards Webinar
Due to popularity, ACWA is hosting another Introduction to Water Quality Standards Webinar for states on May 16th from 1-3pm EST. Not everyone who registered for the original 3/21 session was able to access the webinar. While not a replacement for the extensive in-person Water Quality Standards Academy, this webinar will provide an introduction to the core components of water quality standards. All interested parties should contact Frances Bothfeld for a registration link
Animal Agriculture Program Survey
This week, ACWA released a survey on animal agriculture programs. The CAFO/AFO survey is intended to provide basic information associated with state agency roles and responsibilities in regulating animal agriculture facilities and to answer a couple of questions that came in from a couple state program managers. The survey is 18 questions long and should take no more than fifteen minutes to complete. A short report will be generated and shared with the survey participants at the conclusion of the effort. If possible, please respond to the survey no later than Friday, April 26, 2019.
To take part in the survey, go here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019_AFO.
2019 National NPDES Permit Writers Workshop – September 2019
The State/EPA 2019 National NPDES Permit Writers Workshop will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Washington, DC. This meeting is intended to help support states and EPA to showcase permit writer innovations, assist with analysis of training, guidance, tools, and other support material needs, improve administrative efficiencies, clarify roles and responsibilities, build stronger linkages to WQS & TMDLs, modernize permit terms and data management, discuss program performance measures, and identify program areas where targeted technical assistance would be most beneficial. For more information, contact Sean Rolland or see our website.
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 live. To register, go here. The workshop will focus on identifying challenges and building solutions regarding water quality standards and permitting for nutrients. To view a draft agenda, go here.
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 next 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.
The California State Water Resources Board (SWRCB) is seeking to fill a position for an Assistant Executive Officer (CEA Level A).
ACWA Watersheds Committee Call
Thursday, April 25
2:30-4:00 PM ET
Contact Julian Gonzalez for more information