EPA Issues Final Rule Revising 401 Regulations
This week, the Office of Water released the long-awaited final rule revising the water quality certification process, Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule. The final rule establishes procedures designed to promote consistent implementation of CWA Section 401 and provide regulatory certainty in the federal licensing and permitting processes. The final rule also provides an analysis of the statutory text, legislative history, and relevant case law informing implementation of CWA Section 401. The final rule will become effective 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.
In response to some state comments, the EPA updated provisions in the final rule to increase clarity and regulatory certainty, including:
- New pre-filing meeting provisions to promote early coordination in the water quality certification process;
- Additional elements required in a “certification request,” which are required to start the
reasonable period of time for certification review;
- A clarified definition of “water quality requirements”;
- Refined information requirements that must be included in a decision document; and
- Clarification that federal agency review of a certifying authority’s decision document is
focused on compliance with the procedural requirements of Section 401 and the final rule.
Draft Recommendations for Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Lakes and Reservoirs Released
EPA recently released draft recommendations for developing numeric nutrient water quality criteria for lakes and reservoirs for public comment. When finalized, these recommendations, provided in accordance with Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act, will replace EPA’s previously recommended ambient nutrient criteria for lakes and reservoirs that were published in 2000 and 2001.
“When finalized, the Agency’s criteria recommendations will serve as important tools that states and authorized tribes can use to protect public health and the health of pets and aquatic life from certain adverse effects of excess nutrients, including harmful algal blooms. In 2000 and 2001, EPA published recommended numeric nutrient criteria for most lakes and reservoirs. The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires the Agency to periodically revise these recommendations to reflect the latest scientific knowledge. Since 2001, scientific understanding regarding nutrient concentrations’ effects has increased and new data collected from lakes and reservoirs across the U.S. have become available. The draft criteria recommendations represent the latest scientific knowledge of the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus that are protective of drinking water sources, recreational uses and aquatic life in lakes and reservoirs. EPA developed national statistical models that provide a flexible tool for deriving numeric nutrient criteria. States and authorized tribes can incorporate local data into the national models to help develop numeric nutrient criteria that are consistent with national relationships while accounting for unique local conditions.”
The recommendations appeared on the Federal Register (here) on May 22, 2020. Public comments are due July 21, 2020.
EPA Proposed Rule on Guidance Transparency
On May 22, 2020 EPA submitted to the Federal Register a proposed rule intended to establish procedures and requirements for how EPA will manage issuance of significant guidance documents subject to the requirements of the Executive Order 13891 (see copy of email below summarizing). This would be for both new, updated, and withdrawn guidance. The rule would:
- Establish a formal petition process for requests that EPA modify or withdraw a guidance document
- Ensure guidance documents are developed with appropriate review and are accessible by the public
- Provide for increased public participation in the development of significant guidance documents
ACWA circulated a draft letter to the Membership on June 3, 2020 and hopes to submit comments to the record on June 22, 2020. If you have questions, please contact Sean Rolland. Should your state be interested, further details on how to submit comments on this proposed rule can be found here.
ACWA Submits Letter to EPA on COVID-19
On May 26, 2020, ACWA delivered a letter to EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross regarding COVID-19.
In the letter, ACWA requested to meet with the Assistant Administrator to overview concerns and Clean Water Act implementation challenges faced by state, interstate, and territorial surface water programs since the onset of COVID-19. ACWA specifically requested to develop a collaborative strategy to guide coordination between states and EPA to address immediate and future issues related to COVID-19, as well as future pandemics.
To review the letter, click here.
Nutrients Policy Committee Webinar: RCPP Case Studies
Date: Tuesday, June 16 | 2:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
ACWA’s Nutrients Policy Committee will be holding a webinar on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The Kansas Water Office and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District have kindly agreed to present on their RCPP-funded projects.
Please contact Jasper Hobbs for more information on the webinar and the Nutrients Policy Committee.
EPA Webinar: Introduction to ECHO
Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2020 | 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Eastern Time
Register: Click here
EPA’s next Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webinar will provide an overview of the data in ECHO and guide users through using the site to answer environmental compliance and enforcement questions. The focus of this session will be a collection of short, step-by-step demonstrations geared toward new and infrequent users. We will demonstrate the capabilities of the ECHO Facility Search to answer questions such as:
- How do I search for a specific facility?
- How do I search for facilities in my community?
- How do I search for facilities releasing a pollutant?
If you can’t make it, don’t worry, ECHO tutorials and recorded webinars are available at any time.
EPA Webinar: DMR Integrity Screening Tool Webinar
Date Change: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Contact Sean Rolland for more details
EPA’s Office of Compliance is creating a beta tool, called the DMR Integrity Screening Tool, that uses statistical algorithms to detect whether submitted effluent values may have been misreported. The algorithms screen NPDES discharge monitoring reports for a variety of misreporting indicators.
Here is some information about piloting a project: “The DMR Integrity Screening Tool would be made available via ECHO Gov – for the states that join in our beta testing period. We expect to have it ready to launch by the end of August. At that time, we’d like to begin field testing it with up to nine states that have volunteered. The goals of the pilot will be to:
- Evaluate how effective the screening algorithms are at finding misreporting, especially serious or intentional misreporting.
- Improve the tool to make it as useful as possible for states in planning and carrying out their NPDES inspections.
- Ensure that ICIS-NPDES data can be used in a uniform way to track success rates for audits/inspections selected from the Tool.
- Develop best practices for investigating when misreporting is suspected.
OC will conduct training for participating states on how to use the tool to choose targets for inspection. For us to adequately measure whether the algorithms work in a way that supports expansion of the tool to all states, we will ask participating states to report out on findings at targeted facilities. During our national webinar, we will explain the project in detail and answer questions so states can decide whether they want to participate. If you have questions about DMR Integrity Screening, please reach out to Andrew Schulman.”
EPA Tools & Resources Webinar: Engaging and Collaborating with States in EPA Research
Date: June 17, 2020 | 3:00 – 4:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Environmental and public health protection in the United States begins on the front lines at the state and local levels. EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) provides vital scientific and technical resources to states and their communities, including the technical support and training, science-based tools, and innovative approaches and methods they need to meet their highest priority environmental and public health challenges. To make our research and resources more responsive to state science priorities and needs, EPA ORD engages and collaborates regularly with our state partners including the Environmental Research Institute of the States (ERIS)—the research arm of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS)—and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).
Staff from ECOS, ASTHO and ORD will co-present this webinar, highlighting mutually beneficial projects stemming from EPA’s partnership with state environmental and public health agencies. These efforts include involving states in the development of EPA’s Strategic Research Action Plans 2019-2022 and collaborative projects with state environmental health experts, including the development of a PFAS Risk Communications Hub and the Wildfire Smoke Guide for Public Health Officials. We will also feature new web resources on how EPA research supports states. Webinar participants will learn how to access these resources that illustrate the positive impacts of our ORD-state partnerships. For more information, please visit the EPA Research to Support States website.
Effective Utility Management (EUM) Roadmap Webinar: Taking the Next Step Toward Sustainability
Date: June 16, 2020 | 1:00 – 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
EUM is based on the Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities endorsed by EPA and a host of national water Associations. Utilities around the country have used the Effective Utility Management (EUM) framework to do an initial assessment of their current performance and move toward becoming fully sustainable using the EUM Primer.
This webinar will help utilities take the next step beyond the basic EUM assessment and identify and implement proven and effective practices, using a guide called Moving Toward Sustainability: Sustainable and Effective Practices for Creating Your Water Utility Roadmap and implement proven and effective management practices at their utility. The webinar will:
- Build on the results of the initial EUM Assessment
- Show participants how to conduct an in-depth assessment of specific utility management practices based on the EUM Attributes
- Equip participants to use the EUM Roadmap at their utility to determine which management practices can help them improve their performance
- Learn from examples of other utilities that have utilized and implemented the Roadmap