USACE Requiring New WOTUS Determinations for 404 Permits
The US Army Corps of Engineers announced in early January that the agencies have halted implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“NWPR”) nationwide and are interpreting “waters of the United States” consistent with the pre-2015 regulatory regime until further notice. The Corps will not revisit approved jurisdictional determinations (AJD) made under the NWPR. As the agencies’ actions are governed by the regulatory definition at the time of the action, permit decisions made prior to the court’s decision that relied on a NWPR AJD will not be reconsidered in response to the NWPR vacatur. Permit decisions may be modified, suspended, or revoked per 33 C.F.R. § 325.7 where the regulatory criteria are met. The Corps will not rely on an AJD issued under the NWPR (a “NWPR AJD”) in making a new permit decision. The Corps will make new permit decisions pursuant to the currently applicable regulatory regime (i.e., the pre-2015 regulatory regime). Therefore, for any currently pending permit action that relies on a NWPR AJD, or for any future permit application received that intends to rely on a NWPR AJD for purposes of permit processing, the Corps will discuss with the applicant, as detailed in RGL 16-01, whether the applicant would like to receive a new AJD completed under the pre-2015 regulatory regime to continue their permit processing or whether the applicant would like to proceed in reliance on a preliminary JD or no JD whatsoever.
EPA on Coal Ash
This week EPA announced several actions “to protect communities and hold facilities accountable for controlling and cleaning up the contamination created by decades of coal ash disposal.” A byproduct of burning coal in coal-fired power plants, coal combustion residuals (CCR) can contain contaminants like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic that, without proper management, can pollute water supplies.
As part of this effort EPA received/reviewed 57 applications from CCR facilities requesting deadline extensions. Of the 52 complete applications received, EPA conducted technical analyses and is proposing determinations on 4 applications today and more determinations planned in the coming months. Of the 4, EPA is proposing to deny three deadline delay requests due to deficiencies with groundwater monitoring, cleanup, and closure activities. Surface impoundments or landfills cannot be closed with coal ash in contact with groundwater. EPA is proposing a conditional approval for one request, which would require the facility to fix groundwater monitoring issues.
An EPA press release noted that EPA is “taking action to notify facilities of their compliance obligations for several facilities where the agency has information concerning the possible presence of issues that could impact health and the environment.” Concerns include improper groundwater monitoring, insufficient cleanup information, and the regulation of inactive surface impoundments. EPA also plans to work with state partners to investigate compliance concerns at coal ash facilities across the country.
And finally, EPA has indicated they “will improve the current rules by finalizing a federal permitting program for the disposal of coal ash and establishing regulations for legacy coal ash surface impoundments” as well as “continue its review of state-level CCR program applications to ensure they are as protective as federal regulations.”
For a list of the individual determinations and how to comment, click here.
For more information about coal ash more generally, click here.
EPA Accepting Comments on Candidates to Be Ad Hoc Reviewers for Draft TSCA Systematic Review Protocol
EPA is accepting public comments on candidates under consideration for selection as ad hoc peer reviewers assisting the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) with their review of the draft EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Systematic Review Protocol (protocol). This comment period follows a previous 30 day call for nominations that ended on November 17, 2021. Comments on the potential candidates will be used to assist the agency in selecting approximately six to eight ad hoc reviewers, depending on a balance of experience, to assist the SACC with their review. Biographies of these candidates are available at regulations.gov and through the SACC website. Public comments on the peer review candidates must be submitted on or before January 28 to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0414 on www.regulations.gov. For additional information, please see the Federal Register notice posted October 27, 2021, the docket (Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0414), or contact the Designated Federal Official, Todd Peterson, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-564-8450).
Background: The draft protocol, released in December 2021 for public comment, incorporates changes to address the National Academies of Science recommendations as well as comments received from the SACC and the public. The SACC review of the protocol will take place during a public meeting on April 19-21, 2022. The SACC serves as a primary scientific peer review mechanism of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and is structured to provide scientific advice, information and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on the scientific basis for risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures and approaches for chemicals regulated under TSCA.
The Sustain Our Great Lakes Program Announces 2022 Request for Proposals
The Sustain Our Great Lakes (SOGL) program is soliciting proposals to benefit fish, wildlife, habitat and water quality in the Great Lakes basin. The program will award approximately $11.2 million in grants in 2022 to improve and enhance: 1) stream, riparian and coastal habitats; 2) water quality in the Great Lakes and its tributaries, including a focal area within Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Watershed. Details about this funding opportunity are provided in the Request for Proposals. The submission deadline for pre-proposals is February 25 2022 Additional application information is available here.
In 2022, grant funding will be awarded in six categories:
- Restore and Enhance Stream and Riparian Habitat
- Restore and Enhance Coastal Habitats
- Expand Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Great Lakes Communities
- Maintain and Enhance Benefits of Habitat Restoration through Invasive Species Control
- Restore and Preserve Natural Areas and Biodiversity in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Watershed
- Accelerate Implementation of Conservation Practices and Regenerative Agriculture on Working Lands
To be eligible for funding, projects must occur within the Great Lakes basin. Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and state, tribal and local governments. Learn more and apply here.
A 2022 Funding Opportunity Webinar, “Guidance for Applicants,” will occur January 25, 2022, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Eastern Time. This webinar will provide additional information on the SOGL 2022 funding opportunity including specific guidance on navigating the application process, answers to participant questions, specific guidance related to the funding categories offered in 2022 and answers to applicant questions. Participants can register here. A recording of the webinar will be available for viewing here following the conclusion of the live program.
Draft Aluminum Implementation Technical Support Document: Comment Period Extended to March 9, 2022
EPA has extended the comment period for its draft aluminum implementation technical support document for a further 30 days, until March 9, 2022. The document, in a question-and answer format, addresses the topics of adopting the criteria into water quality standards, monitoring, waterbody assessment and listing for impairments, and NPDES permitting. This document is a revision of the draft that EPA released in 2019 and incorporates input provided by the public during the previous comment period. EPA is releasing this second draft in order to maximize the opportunity for public input.
EPA Motion for Remand: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation ELG
In 2021 Food & Water Watch challenged EPA’s statements in the Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14 where EPA claimed it was not an appropriate time to revise the CAFO ELG. While the previous administration intended to defend this position, the current administration on in January 2022 requested an opportunity to review their decision under Executive Order 13990 Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. Consistent with the order, “EPA intends to reevaluate its underlying position respecting effluent guidelines for the CAFO industrial category” as explained in a declaration made by EPA Official Rob Wood on January 7, 2022 and attached to the motion for remand without vacatur. EPA’s motion to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals claims “[A]gencies have inherent authority to reconsider their actions and to revise, replace, or repeal them to the extent permitted by law and supported by a reasoned explanation.” Food & Water Watch believe there is not enough monitoring data to fully understand the impacts of CAFO facilities on water quality. They also believe the current ELG is failing to control CAFO waste and current CAFO standards do not reflect best available technology. ACWA will notify you when the 9th Circuit issues its opinion on the motion.
Meetings and Webinars
Smart Tools for Field Inspectors
U.S. EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance will offer several upcoming training classes on the E-Enterprise Smart Mobile Tools for Field Inspectors, for clean water (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) basic training as well as advanced training on new features in the latest software release. On January 26 at 2-4 p.m. Eastern, EPA will offer introductory training for state and EPA staff on Smart Tools: Basic Training for NPDES Users. For more information or to receive the Zoom link information, contact Cassandra Rice of EPA.
Addressing State, Tribal, and Local Needs related to Wildland Fire and Climate & Equity Research
Date: January 25, 2022
Time: 3-4 PM ET
In 2021, EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) hosted several listening sessions for states, tribes, and local agencies to solicit input on key issues related to research on wildland fires, climate & equity, and cumulative impacts assessments. We are hosting two webinars as follow-up to these listening sessions. This first webinar will focus on wildland fires and climate & equity.
This webinar will consist of an overview of the listening sessions including what we heard from states, tribes, and local agencies. We will also present what ORD is currently doing in these areas, as well as areas under discussion for future research.
Optimizing Nutrient Removal and Wastewater Excellence
- January 27, 2022: Optimizing Nutrient Removal in Oxidation Ditches
- February 17, 2022: Optimizing Nutrient Removal in Sequencing Batch Reactors
- March 31, 2022: Optimizing Nutrient Removal in Activated Sludge WWTPs
- April 28, 2022: Transitioning from Permit Compliance to Wastewater Excellence
All four webinars take place from 1-2:30 PM EST.
This four-part mini-series featuring Grant Weaver, PE, will include case studies regarding oxidation ditch, sequencing batch reactor (SBR), and activated sludge wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) that are operated differently than designed to achieve notable reductions in effluent nitrogen and phosphorus. Mr. Weaver will explain how listeners might modify day-to-day operations at their WWTP to realize similar improvements. The case studies will be preceded by a brief overview of biological nitrogen removal and biological phosphorus removal science and technology. Mr. Weaver will explore potential barriers of optimizing nutrient removal in WWTPs and how to implement low-cost opportunities. Participants are encouraged to comment and ask questions throughout the webinar. Certificates of Attendance will be made available. Learn more about this and similar webinars here.
National Levee Safety Program: Virtual Stakeholder Workshops, Winter 2022
Starting January 2022, USACE and FEMA are launching a series of virtual workshops to seek input on how to improve the way levees are managed in the Nation. Workshops will occur from 1-5pm EST on January 18 and 20, and February 1, 3, 8, 15, 17, 22, and 24. Each workshop will have the same agenda, will not be geographically-specific, and will be limited to 100 participants.
Register here for one of these virtual workshops to share your challenges in living with levees and provide your input into the design of a new National Levee Safety Program, specifically:
- What should the Nation’s vision be for improving levee safety? Who should play what role?
- What information is most useful to you as a state/local/regional/tribal government, levee owner/operator, emergency manager, etc.?
- What best practices, guidance or procedures would be most helpful to you in managing flood risk and ensuring your levee is reliable?
- How can we most effectively talk about the benefits that levees provide, while also making people aware of the inherent risks in living in the floodplain?
Introduction to ECHO: EJSCREEN
Date: February 15, 2022
Time: 1:30-2:30 PM EST
Join U.S. EPA for its next Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webinar.
This webinar focuses on how to use the ECHO facility searches to learn about environmental and demographic data from EPA’s EJSCREEN. We will demonstrate examples of using ECHO searches and reports to view EJSCREEN data and how to interpret the information. The webinar will cover the following topics:
- How to search for environmental and demographic data in your community.
- How to view and interpret EJSCREEN index values at the location of a facility.
- How to visualize EJSCREEN data on an interactive map.
Water Permit Writer | Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Location: Washington, VA
Closing Date: January 21, 2022
The candidate will process Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) and Virginia Water Protection (VWP) permit applications and permit related operation-design submittals in a timely manner in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and Agency guidance to develop permits and permit decision documents. This position will also conduct compliance site inspections and audits of assigned VWP projects to adequately characterize site conditions and assess permit compliance and construction status; investigate complaints of permitted and unpermitted activity received from the public and other stakeholders; effectively collaborate with permitting, compliance, and enforcement staff to ensure timely and appropriate permit processing and permit non-compliance management; and use databases, GIS, and other available technological tools to track permit application status, permit compliance, inspections, and other information.
For more information, click here.
Environmental Planner 5 | Washington Department of Ecology
Location: Multiple Locations, WA
Closing Date: February 6, 2022
The Water Resources program within the Department of Ecology is looking to fill an Environmental Planner 5 position. This position can be located in any of the Department of Ecology offices throughout the state of Washington. In this role, you will work to support the mission of the Water Resources Program (WRP) and the Office of Columbia River (OCR), which is sustainable water resources management to meet the present and future water needs of people and the natural environment, in partnership with Washington communities.
For more information, click here.