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March 5, 1999

EPA Draft Anti-Deg Guidance Slated For April Release
AMSA is closely tracking the development of upcoming EPA policy guidance that could significantly alter many states' permit issuance procedures. EPA is drafting guidance to states that will explain and clarify current antidegradation policy as it is applied to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and controls on nonpoint source pollution. Although it is unclear how much the guidance will ultimately impact AMSA members, the Association's national office plans to engage EPA on several of AMSA's antidegradation concerns, which were articulated in the Association's recent comments on the advance notice for proposed rulemaking for water quality standards. AMSA expects that the guidance will stress more consistent state implementation of antidegradation requirements in NPDES permits and identify possible mechanisms for applying the requirements to nonpoint source pollution. A draft of the guidance has been developed by an internal EPA working group with input from states.

The Clinton administration's Clean Water Action Plan calls for the guidance and says it is needed in order to “more specifically define expectations and procedures for states to follow in fully implementing antidegradation policies related to polluted runoff.” Specifically, the draft guidance strongly recommends that states require the implementation of nonpoint source best management practices with “reasonable assurance” that the nonpoint sources will implement the controls before issuing NPDES permits or allowing other activities to take place on the water body. EPA will also “object” to permits that do not explicitly address antidegradation requirements, the draft guidance says. The draft also suggests how antidegradation policies can be applied to wet weather discharges and general permits.

A draft of the guidance is slated for release in April, and after a 60-day public comment period, EPA plans to issue the final guidance in September. A fact sheet on the guidance is being distributed to the membership via Regulatory Alert 99-4.

AMSA President Urges Attendance At Upcoming Policy Forum
This week AMSA President Michele Plá issued a call to the national POTW community to turn out in force for the AMSA National Environmental Policy Forum, Clean Water in the New Millennium . . . The Shape of Things to Come, May 22-26 in Washington, DC. In her letter Plá advised AMSA members and potential member agencies that although prospects for AMSA's priority issues looked glum going into this session of Congress, the administration's decision to cut funding for the clean water State Revolving Loan Fund has launched clean water funding to the forefront of this year's environmental policy debates. A strong showing by POTWs, armed with compelling evidence on the skyrocketing Cost of Clean, could tip the scales in our favor on this critical issue. By meeting with their congressional representatives, POTWs can stress the importance of funding, nonpoint source controls and flexible approaches to regulating urban wet weather discharges. In addition, narrowly focused clean water bills have a shot in the 106th Congress. This offers another ray of hope for AMSA's efforts to achieve science-based, technically sound and cost-effective approaches to water quality regulation. Building strong relationships with Congress will gain momentum for AMSA's priorities in more substantive legislative debates in the future.