Final EPA Rule on Guidance Published
This week on October 19, 2020, EPA published in the Federal Register a rule titled EPA Guidance; Administrative Procedures for Issuance and Public Petitions, which establishes the procedures and requirements for USEPA to implement EO 13891 entitled Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents. This rule provides a definition of “guidance documents” for the purposes of this rule, establishes general requirements and procedures for certain guidance documents issued by the EPA, and incorporates additional requirements for guidance documents determined to be “significant guidance.” The rule also provides procedures for the public to petition for the modification or withdrawal of active guidance documents or to petition for the reinstatement of a rescinded guidance document. EPA claims this regulation is intended to increase the transparency of the EPA’s guidance practices and improve the process used to manage EPA guidance documents. The rule also provides that the EPA will use an online portal (the EPA Guidance Portal) to identify EPA guidance documents for the public. A copy of the rule can be found here.
Trump Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure
On October 13, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order titled Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure (EO) that creates an interagency “Water Subcabinet” led by EPA and the Department of Interior with the goals of modernizing the nation’s water infrastructure, improving water resources management, and creating job opportunities for American water workers. The EO formalizes ongoing coordination among several federal agencies including EPA, Interior, Department of Agriculture, Commerce, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Energy. The EO aims to eliminate duplication of efforts among federal agencies, develop a national water strategy, and improve infrastructure development.
In conjunction with the announcement of the new Water Subcabinet, EPA announced a new mapping effort to better depict the scope of federal CWA jurisdiction. The federally-led mapping effort will accelerate progress in developing better data, tools, and strategies for managing our nation’s vital water resources, including developing maps of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that can more accurately depict the scope of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.
ACWA Submits Informal Comments on FY 2022-2023 National Water Program Guidance
ACWA submitted informal comments to the Office of Water on the FY 2022-2023 National Program Guidance (NWPG). The NWPG is a tool that states, tribes, and local partners can use to help EPA realize its goal of implementing effective programs to monitor, protect, and improve America’s water while fostering economic growth. The NWPG is issued on a two-year cycle with an optional addendum in the second year to address any significant changes. The development process begins with early engagement with state partners and is intended to identify common priorities to inform development of the NWPG.
ACWA comments emphasized the need for greater alignment between the NWPG and EPA’s Strategic Plan, greater flexibilities for state programs, development of a process for de-prioritizing priorities and additional information on how much progress is currently being made towards existing metrics.
NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule – Phase 2 Extension
EPA Administrator Wheeler signed the NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule – Phase 2 Extension (“Phase 2 Extension”) on September 23, 2020. EPA is publishing this final rule to postpone the compliance deadlines for implementation of Phase 2 of the NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule (“NPDES eRule”). The NPDES eRule requires EPA and states to modernize Clean Water Act (CWA) reporting. EPA notes the NPDES eRule will save the NPDES authorized programs considerable resources, make reporting easier for NPDES-regulated entities, streamline permit renewals, ensure full exchange of NPDES program data between states and EPA, enhance public transparency, improve environmental decision-making, and protect human health and the environment.
The Phase 2 Extension provides states with additional time for implementation and flexibility to request additional time as needed. The final rule provides EPA and states with five additional years to implement Phase 2 (until December 21, 2025). This timeframe responds to state comments for more time and addresses concerns about the potential delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic response. EPA also provides a process for a state to seek even further time to finalize Phase 2 implementation, with an EPA granted extension not to exceed December 21, 2028. EPA has included language that would allow the agency to, on its own initiative, add additional time for one or more authorized NPDES programs (states and EPA Regions) to implement NPDES electronic reporting beyond December 21, 2025. Under the provision, EPA may set an alternative Phase 2 compliance deadline for up to three years but not beyond December 21, 2028.
EPA has also added regulatory language that explicitly creates separate deadlines for the public release of the NNCR using Phase 1 data (December 2022) and Phase 2 data (one year after the draft report is made available to states but no later than December 2026). The NNCR public release dates for Phase 2 data would be phased in over time to give states at least one year to review and provide comments on draft versions of the NNCR that incorporates Phase 2 data before EPA releases a new version to the public.
In this rule, EPA has clarified that states are empowered to build and deploy one or more electronic reporting tools as deemed necessary. Additionally, it also clarifies that EPA is not intending to dictate how electronic reporting will be implemented, if the state is meeting its obligations under the rule (e.g., implementation schedule, data collection and sharing requirements) and complying with EPA’s Cross-media Electronic Reporting Rule (40 CFR part 3). EPA modified the language in 40 CFR 127.24(f) to make clear that this provision does not make any changes to the initial recipient designation process, which is documented at 40 CFR 127.27.
Finally, this rule includes a number of minor updates to Appendix A definitions that were described in the rule proposal. A prepublication copy of the rule can be found here.
EPA Finalizes Rule on Coal Ash Alternate Liner Demonstrations
In 2015, EPA promulgated the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule which included a variety of waste streams including fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization materials generated by coal plants. The rule established recordkeeping and reporting requirements, corrective actions, closure and post closure responsibilities, technical standards, inspection, and monitoring. As a result of litigation (Utility Solid Waste Activities Group et al. v. EPA, August 2018)], the D.C. Circuit of Appeals overturned certain provisions of EPA’s 2015 rule and remanded some provisions back to the agency. The original requirements on the 2015 rule to detect and assess, and as needed to remediate, impacts on groundwater from CCR in surface impoundments and landfills remain in place as do the requirements for facility inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The new 2020 rule finalizes the alternate liner demonstration procedures for unlined surface impoundments and increases flexibility by allowing for more site-specific management of coal ash, as long as the impoundments demonstrate “no reasonable probability of adverse effects” to the human health and the environment. EPA anticipates that a very limited number of CCR surface impoundments will be eligible to continue operations based on this rule, given the very site-specific factual and technical demonstrations that are required. A prepublication copy of the rule can be found here.
Federal Strategy for Addressing Global Marine Litter
The Trump Administration released a Federal Strategy for Addressing the Global Issues of Marine Litter. The strategy highlights the federal government’s four pillars for tacking the issue of marine litter: (1) building capacity, (2) incentivizing the global recycling market, (3) promoting research and development, and (4) promoting marine litter removal. It also identifies existing U.S. legal authorities and federal programs already underway, such as EPA’s Trash Free Waters program. Six federal agencies, including EPA, the Departments of Interior, Commerce, and Energy, NOAA and US AID are partners in the strategy.
FERC Published “Reasonable Period of Time” Proposed Rule
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a proposed rule on “Waiver of the Water Quality Certification Requirements of Section 401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act” in the Federal Register, starting a 30 day comment period. FERC is publishing new rules in response to EPA’s final rule modifying the 401 water quality certification process to categorically establish a reasonable period of time for a certifying authority to act on a water quality certification request related to natural gas and liquified natural gas projects, for which either an application filed pursuant to section 3 or section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act. The Commission is allowing CWA certifying authorities up to one year after the certifying authority’s receipt of a request for section 401 water quality certification to grant or deny the applicant’s request for certification. Comments are due by November 18, 2020.
Past ACWA President Chard Named to Serve on the Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation
Shellie Chard, Water Quality Division Director for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Past President of ACWA, has been chosen to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation (WEF). Chard has 28 years of water and wastewater experience and has been the Water Quality Division Director at DEQ since 2010. She currently holds several leadership positions including: Treasurer and Board of Directors for the Ground Water Protection Council, 2020 President of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, and Produced Water Committee Chair for the Oklahoma Water Environment Association. She has also served in various leadership roles in the past, has won numerous awards for her efforts in water and wastewater, and earlier this year, she testified before the United States House of Representatives as an expert in her field. WEF is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 35,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. Since 1928, WEF and its members have protected public health and the environment. As a global water sector leader, its mission is to connect water professionals; enrich the expertise of water professionals; increase the awareness of the impact and value of water; and provide a platform for water sector innovation.
Meetings and Webinars
2020 Virtual Nutrients Permitting Workshop – October 26-29
Dates: October 26-29, 2020 | 1:00-5:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
ACWA’s next Nutrients Permitting Workshop, the fifth in a series of seven, will be held virtually beginning October 26, 2020. This workshop will focus on nutrients permitting flexibilities such as water quality trading and other market-based methods, integrated planning, and more. Sessions will take place through GoToWebinar, and a draft agenda with registration links may be found on the workshop event page. If you have any questions about this meeting visit ACWA’s website or contact Jasper Hobbs directly.
EPA Webinar on Tribal & Indigenous EJ Policy, EJ Financial Assistance Programs, and Tribal & Indigenous Experiences Using the EJ Financial Programs
Date: November 10, 2020 | 2:30-4:00 PM Eastern
Registration: Click here
EPA is hosting a webinar for federally-recognized tribes and indigenous peoples to learn about the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples and EPA’s EJ financial assistance programs. These programs are available to help tribes and indigenous peoples in the United States to address their EJ concerns and interests. The webinar will also include the experiences and projects of a tribal community-focused organization and an indigenous-based organization, each supported by an EJ financial assistance program. Specifically, the webinar will discuss:
- EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
- EPA environmental justice financial assistance programs:
- Grantee experiences:
- Kawerak, Inc. and Zender Environmental Health and Research Group – Backhaul Alaska, removing hazardous waste from rural Alaska through partnership with tribes, tribal communities, agencies, and industry stakeholders.
- Tewa Women United – VIPRE Anti-phishing removed a known bad URL from your email message. It was deleted or quarantined and replaced with this message., community transformation of a barren slope in downtown Española into an edible food garden utilizing traditional dry-land farming techniques and permaculture principles.
Tribal Exchange Network Virtual Data Academy and Conference
Date: October 26-November 2-12, 2020
Pre-Registration: Click here
Are you a tribal official who works with environmental data? Interested in streamlining or enhancing your data management capacity? The Exchange Network Tribal Governance Group and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) invite you to join their 2020 Virtual Data Academy and Conference. The conference portion of the event is being held from October 26-28 (open to all interested attendees) and will demonstrate how tribes can benefit from participating in the EN through live discussions and a showcase of tribal projects and tools. The series of workshops comprising the data academy are from November 2-12 (open to tribal officials only) and will offer practical lessons for tribes working with environmental data.
By pre-registering, you will be granted priority access to event sessions and added to our announcements email list which will share updates about the upcoming event and notifications about conference recordings. Conference Sessions are open to the public, workshop sessions are open to tribal employees only and require pre-approval.
Register for Workshops after submitting your pre-registration form. Session details can be found in the agenda. Workshops include:
- Data Carpentry – Ecology Curriculum (R emphasis) – 20 seats
- The E-Enterprise Community Inventory Platform (EECIP): A Live Demo & Workshop for Tribes – 20 seats
- The Quality Review and Exchange System for Tribes (QREST) – 15 seats
- Introduction to ESRI Field Operations – 15 seats
Environmental Compliance Inspector, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Location: Missoula, Montana
Closing Date: November 6, 2020
Montana DEQ is recruiting for an Environmental Compliance Inspector based out of the Missoula field office to join our Compliance, Training and Technical Assistance section in the Water Protection bureau. The Compliance Inspector performs scientific and technical analyses, calculations, assessments and determinations essential to the implementation of the water quality program in the State of Montana. For more information on this posting, click here.
Environmental Specialist, Kansas Department of Health & Environment
Location: Shawnee County, Kansas
Closing Date: November 11, 2020
The Kansas Department of Health & Environment’s Watershed Planning, Monitoring, and Assessment Section within the Bureau of Water is hiring an Environmental Specialist (Job ID 197898) to support the 303(d) TMDL Program. The ideal candidate will have demonstrated successes in establishing linkages between watershed activities and water quality conditions with results communicated verbally and in report format. This position will be responsible for developing watershed based TMDLs utilizing contemporary statistical and modeling approaches. In addition, this position will assist with reviewing draft TMDL documents, will interface with USEPA and State counterparts engaged in TMDL development and quality modeling, and may be called on to support other Clean Water Act Programs within the Division of Environment. After satisfactorily completing a probationary period, position may be eligible for telework. For more information on this posting, click here.
Professional Environmental Engineer Supervisor, Kansas Department of Health & Environment
Location: Shawnee County, Kansas
Closing Date: Open until filled
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is seeking a Professional Environmental Engineer Supervisor to join our team in our water permitting and compliance division located in our Topeka, KS office.
This is a supervisory and specialized professional engineering position. The work involves directing a major engineering function and the supervisory responsibilities of the Municipal Programs Unit. The Municipal Programs Unit manages the Municipal and Commercial wastewater permits, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program, sewer extension permitting and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. The Bureau of Water is looking for someone with experience in the design of municipal wastewater treatment facilities; the development and implementation of NPDES permits to achieve water quality goals; application of design controls to implement regulations K.A.R 28-16-160 et seq.; and the development and implementation of municipal wastewater project funding and financing including the Federal EPA Clean Water SRF grant programs.
Stormwater Program Coordinator, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Location: Potentially flexible (Wisconsin)
Closing Date: November 1, 2020
The Stormwater Program Coordinator directs the statewide stormwater permit program with a focus on the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) construction site and industrial stormwater permit programs. This position develops and oversees policies and operational strategies for consistent, efficient and effective implementation of the permits in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act and applicable state statutes and administrative codes. In addition, the position develops informational materials and provides training and outreach to internal and external audiences.
For more information on this posting, click here.
Monitoring Team Environmental Scientist, New Mexico Department of Environment
Location: Sante Fe, New Mexico
Closing Date: Open until filled