Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - April 20, 2007
April 20, 2007
NACWA Joins EPA Administrator Johnson in Promoting Earth Day, Green Infrastructure
NACWA joined EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson April 19 in Pittsburgh at an Earth Day event to highlight the environmental benefits of green infrastructure and to sign a Statement of Intent on Green Infrastructure (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-04-19GIStmt.pdf) The Statement calls for “a collaborative effort among the signatory organizations in order to promote the benefits of using green infrastructure,” and outlines a number of steps to be taken in this regard such as development of models for all components of green infrastructure and exploring regulatory incentives for the use of green infrastructure. In a press release, EPA advertised its celebration of Earth Day with “four environmental organizations,” a phrase that included NACWA and acknowledges the work of its members as environmental stewards. NACWA President Dick Champion, director of the Independence (Mo.) Water Pollution Control Department, spoke of green infrastructure as an effective complement to traditional “hard” or “gray” infrastructure approaches in reducing stormwater and sewer overflows, while also reiterating the need to develop new sources of revenue to ensure the sustainability and viability of pipes and treatment plants. This important event sets the stage for NACWA’s summer conference Sustainable Infrastructure Choices. . .Gray, Green & Everything In Between, which will be held July 17-20 in Cleveland.
Also participating at the event and joining as signatories to the Statement were the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Low Impact Development (LID) Center, and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA). The Statement also included the Statement of Support for Green Infrastructure drafted jointly by NACWA and NRDC and signed by more than 30 organizations. Materials from the event are available on NACWA’s website (http://www.nacwa.org/earthday/).
NACWA also participated in a forum with EPA April 16 on how the Agency can better encourage the use of green infrastructure in communities across the nation. The forum was organized in response to the Statement of Support with representatives from the signatory groups attending. NACWA will meet with EPA and other key groups in the coming weeks to formulate a set of “action items” resulting from the forum. Additionally, 13 members of the House of Representatives forwarded a letter (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-04-17greinltr.pdf ) to Administrator Johnson on April 17 endorsing the Statement of Support and encouraging EPA to establish a strategy for utilizing green infrastructure as a way to reduce stormwater and sewer overflows. NACWA received some positive press from the event, which can be viewed on the NACWA in the News site (http://www.nacwa.org/advocacy/news.cfm).
Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Clean Water Act/Endangered Species Act Case
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in U.S. EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife (DoW), a case involving the Clean Water Act (CWA) and how it may be affected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Court accepted the case early this year, after EPA appealed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that the Agency improperly delegated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting authority to Arizona without considering sufficient consideration of ESA requirements. During this week’s oral arguments, the justices asked lawyers for both EPA and DoW whether Arizona could be counted on to protect species when issuing NPDES permits. The court appeared to be exploring whether it needed to rule that the ESA’s requirements overlay those in the CWA regarding delegation of permitting programs. Several questions seemed to support arguments contained in NACWA’s Feb. 20 amicus curiae brief – namely, 1) that the CWA clearly states the nine factors that EPA must consider when delegating NPDES authority to a state; 2) that ESA considerations are not among the permitted statutory considerations; and 3) that EPA followed the nine factors; and 4) that many other authorities exist to protect species. A decision in the case — which could be one of the high court’s more important environmental decisions this year — is expected sometime before the end of the Court’s current term in June. Relevant documents in the case can be found at http://www.nacwa.org/private/littrack/#epavsdef.
NACWA Attends OMB Meeting on NPDES Permit Fee Proposal
NACWA met with officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) April 19 to express concerns with EPA’s proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit fee rule. The rule, which was first proposed by EPA in December 2006, would provide a certain amount of “incentive” funds from the Section 106 program to states that fund at least 75 percent of their NPDES permit program costs through user fees, with the highest incentives going to those states that fund 100 percent of their programs through fees. NACWA attended the meeting as a member of the Coalition Against Permitting Unfunded Mandates (CAPUM), a group of organizations that has been working to stymie the proposed permit fee rule. The meeting produced some positive results, as OMB staff indicated that they will conduct an interagency review of the proposal. This represents a setback for EPA, which sought to avoid such a review by saying that the proposed rule did not constitute a “major agency action.” Additionally, OMB staff suggested they will also consider terminating the proposal, although they did not commit to doing so.
EPA extended the original comment period on the rule until May 14, and OMB will not take any action until the comment period closes. NACWA submitted comments (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-02cmts.pdf) opposing the proposal in early March and will continue to track this issue closely.
House Subcommittee Has Two Hearings on Nonpoint Source Pollution from Air, Ag
Two hearings this week before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment spotlighted the effects of nonpoint sources of pollution — namely air deposition and agricultural runoff — on water quality. The hearings are especially timely as NACWA continues to work with other stakeholders to pursue more funding in the 2002 Farm Bill reauthorization for cooperative partnerships that provide assistance for farmers to work with other organizations, including municipalities, on projects that result in improved air and water quality. The hearing also demonstrated that Congress is thinking about water quality from an integrated watershed perspective — precisely the type of issues that NACWA’s recently created Watershed Task Force is working on. Members of the subcommittee from both parties indicated their support for more funding to help farmers reduce their impacts on water quality. “We need to give farmers money to be part of the solution to reducing runoff,” Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) said at the hearing. According to subcommittee briefing materials, the rapidly increasing demand for ethanol will mean significantly more corn, a nitrogen-intensive crop, will be grown. USDA expects that the 2007 corn crop will be the largest since 1944. This could result in the increased use of fertilizers and additional agricultural runoff. NACWA will continue to push for more funding for conservation programs and insist that federal policymakers consider the water quality impacts of its energy and agricultural decisions. Information and testimony from these hearings are available on NACWA’s Legislative Correspondence & Outreach website (http://www.nacwa.org/private/leg_outreach.cfm).
Top EPA Officials, Members of Congress Headline NACWA/WEF Policy Forum
There is still time to register for the NACWA/Water Environment Federation (WEF) National Clean Water Policy Forum, May 6-8, at the Renaissance Washington in Washington, D.C. The Forum has an unmatched roster of speakers, exemplifying the strength that this joint conference enjoys. On Tuesday, May 8 speakers at the Policy Forum include EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles, and many of the office directors at EPA. On the Congressional front, the attendees will hear welcoming remarks from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a vocal proponent of the District’s watersheds and of the need for federal funding for the region’s public clean water agencies. Vital updates will also be provided on the water quality initiatives in the House from Reps. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and John Mica (R-Fla.), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the powerful House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Chairman Oberstar led the effort to pass H.R. 720, the Water Quality Financing Act, in March with overwhelming support and will discuss this process and the need to get the Senate to move more quickly with similar legislation.
Additionally, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a long-time clean water champion, will be providing Opening Keynote remarks for the Clean Water Utility Executives Summit on March 7. The Summit will gather top utility officials from around the country to examine the past, the present and the future of the clean water community – and the water sector as a whole. With such notable officials confirmed to address the Policy Forum, NACWA encourages you to join us for this must-attend event. Additional registration and agenda information is available online at http://www.nacwa.org/meetings/07may/.