USACE Issues RGL “Time Frames for Clean Water Section 401 Water Quality Certifications and Clarification of Waiver of Responsibility”.
On August 7, the Corps of Engineers issued a Regulatory Guidance Letter, “Timeframes for Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certifications and Clarification of Waiver Responsibility”. The policies contained in it are reflective of those included in the Corps’ December 2018 Memorandum. This guidance applies to both individual permits and general permits that require a 401 WQC. This guidance shall apply prospectively, and pertains to, permit applications that the Corps receives after the date this Regulatory Guidance Letter (RGL) is issued; permit modifications that warrant reconsideration of the 401 WQC; and instances where a 401 WQC expires prior to the permittees completing the discharges authorized by the Corps permit. Under the RGL , timelines for state review will be limited to a default 60-day period. USACE District Engineers are given sole discretion to determine whether states should be granted additional time for review beyond the default 60-day timeline. While given some very basic factors to consider (complexity of project, public hearing requirements, magnitude of impact to aquatic resources), USACE personnel are directed not to grant certification timeline extensions to states where requests are based on public notice requirements or workload/funding issues. Additionally, the Guidance Letter contains no discussion of: (i) Whether states’ timeline for review is tolled while the Corps District Engineer determines whether to grant requests for extensions of the timeline for certification review; (ii) How District Engineers are to work with, or engage with, states in determining whether to grant extensions of the timeline; or (iii) How states can appeal denials of requests for extensions of the timeline for certification review. The Guidance Letter does not address the determination of an application’s completeness before the timeline commences. The Guidance Letter permits District Engineers to issue “provisional permits” when the only thing holding up the Corps license/permit is CWA 401 certification.
IG Report – FY2019 Management Challenges
Released on July 15, 2019 EPA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) detailed for Administrator Andrew Wheeler a list of the areas IG considers major management challenges confronting EPA. This report is required by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000. Below you will find a summary of some of the challenges most likely to impact state programs.
- EPA needs to improve oversight of states, territories and tribes. The IG report indicates that the IG and the GAO both have consistently recommended that EPA needs to improve its oversight of states, territories and tribes that have authority to implement environmental programs. The IG report is calling on EPA leadership to demonstrate an “organizational commitment to correcting problems…by aligning the proper people, resources and processes, and developing a framework for addressing oversight issues.”
- EPA needs to improve workload analysis to accomplish its mission efficiently and effectively. The IG Report indicates EPA has not addressed the workforce planning requirements and that “EPA’s ability to assess its workload—and subsequently estimate workforce levels necessary to carry out that workload—is critically important to mission accomplishment.” And that EPA must comply with the “Strategic Human Capital Management rule by developing a workforce plan for the entire agency, not just parts of the agency.
- EPA needs to enhance information security to combat cyber threats. The IG report indicates EPA has not implemented a vigorous cybersecurity program that strengthens its network defenses and data security. The IG recommends a laundry list of improvements including strengthening internal controls, maintaining documentation to support corrective actions, provide for continuous monitoring assessment, work closer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, consult with critical infrastructure partners, and establish a control to validate vulnerability testing.
- EPA needs improved data quality and should fill identified data gaps for program performance and decision-making. The IG Report indicates EPA has weaknesses in quality controls for program data and identified multiple data gaps. EPA needs high-quality, accurate, and complete data to support high-quality decisions. EPA needs to show that it has “…the people and processes in place to deploy agency policies and procedures across all program data, and to actively manage data to improve quality and completeness.”
- EPA needs to improve risk communication to ensure others can make informed decision to protect their health and the environment. The IG Report points to several examples where EPA did a poor job communicating and informing the public of potential environmental dangers. “Despite increased awareness of the importance of risk communication strategies, EPA leadership needs to demonstrate an organizational commitment to correcting problems with such strategies, designed to protect human health and the environment.”
In order for EPA to remove a management challenge identified on this list EPA must demonstrate top leadership commitment, focus resources to reduce risks and improve processes/reporting, identify root causes and target plans accordingly, monitor efforts and establish performance measures, and demonstrate progress. A copy of the complete report can be found here.
OIG: EPA Exceeded the Deregulatory Goals of Executive Order 13771
The EPA Office of Inspector General issued a report this week on the agency’s deregulatory goals. In FYs 2017 and 2018, the EPA exceeded its deregulatory expectations under EO 13771. In addition, the EPA exceeded the savings goals associated with the EO. Specifically, in FY 2017, the EPA achieved an annualized cost savings of $21.5 million via 16 deregulatory actions and one regulatory action. In FY 2018, the EPA achieved an annualized cost savings of $75.1 million via 10 deregulatory and three regulatory actions. EO 13771 was issued to manage the costs associated with existing and new regulations established by federal agencies. The EO stipulates that for every new regulation issued, at least two existing regulations must be identified for repeal. Also, for FY 2017, the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, was to be no greater than zero. The OMB issued subsequent guidance establishing an FY 2018 regulatory savings goal of $40 million for the EPA. OIG recommend that the EPA enhance transparency regarding EO 13771 decision-making and outreach to interested stakeholders. Although the EPA concurred—in whole or in part—with Recommendations 1a and 1b, the agency did not provide sufficient corrective actions to meet the intent of the recommendations. The agency disagreed with Recommendations 1c and 2. All recommendations are unresolved.
Annual Meeting 2019 August 27 – 29, 2019
Guaranteed lodging at the Hyatt Regency – Austin, TX ends August 9, 2019. To reserve lodging now, call direct 1-512-477-1234 or 877-803-7534 use code (GHACW) for the ACWA block of reserved rooms, or reserve online here.
All Annual Meeting activities are included in your registration. Please remember to confirm your attendance.
2019 National NPDES Permit Writers Workshop – September 2019
Meeting SOLD OUT !! ACWA is no longer able to accept new registrations. If you have any questions, please contact Sean Rolland.
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.
The Department of Environmental Quality is currently seeking candidates to fill its Water Quality Regional Manager, for the Pendleton, Oregon region. Oregon DEQ leads this important work by developing and implementing water quality standards and improvement plans and providing resources for communities to build and upgrade local treatment facilities. Your vision and solutions oriented leadership approach will be critical to implement key priorities and help to refine critical processes that support the timely issuance of required permits. We are looking for our next Eastern Region Water Quality Permit Program leader to continue to foster a collaborative and family-centric workplace. The Water Quality Program’s mission is to protect and improve Oregon’s rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater quality. If you feel as committed to this work as we do, then let’s work together to listen, lead and craft innovative solutions that will protect and restore the resources that make Oregon special. This position closes August 18, 2019. To apply, go here.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Water
US EPA, Office of Water has an ORISE fellowship opportunity located within the Sustainable Communities and Infrastructure Branch titled Wastewater Treatment Technology Clearinghouse Research, which would primarily focus on wastewater technology information, on the cost effectiveness of alternative wastewater treatment, and recycling technologies, including onsite and decentralized systems, as mandated under America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, among other topics. The announcement and application details are located here: https://www.zintellect.com/Opportunity/Details/EPA-Water-2019-0040.
The deadline to apply for this opportunity is August 15, 2019.
Be sure to check out other opportunities on ACWA’s jobs page.