Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - January 12, 2007
January 12, 2007
NACWA to Testify at House Hearing on Infrastructure Funding Needs
NACWA will testify at a hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Jan. 19 on reauthorizing the clean water state revolving fund (SRF). Executive Director of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District Kurt Soderberg will speak on behalf of the Association regarding the importance of a federal recommitment to clean water. Specifically, NACWA will emphasize that despite the SRF program’s success, the nation’s clean water objectives cannot be met without dedicated sources of federal revenue. Although no legislation has yet been introduced, the new Chairman of the Committee, Rep. James Obertar (D-Minn.), who represents Soderberg’s district, has indicated that the legislation being drafted will be similar to the Water Quality Financing Act (H.R. 1560) introduced in the House in 2003. That bill authorized $20 billion over five years, but never got a vote on the House floor. NACWA will be a key player in the upcoming bill and will provide input into the draft legislation before it is introduced. NACWA will also forward its final testimony to members next week.
NACWA Finds EPA Draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory Overstates POTW Contribution
NACWA submitted comments on EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005, Draft for Expert Review (Draft Inventory) (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-01-10Cmts.pdf), indicating the document overestimates greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment plants. With Congress planning numerous hearings on the potential causes and impacts of global climate change, EPA’s draft Inventory will certainly take on added significance. Clean water agencies may be affected as more statewide and national efforts are launched to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases thought to contribute to climate change. NACWA’s review of the Draft Inventory found that overall, a series of conservative or incorrect factors led to significant overestimation of these emissions from wastewater treatment. “We recognize that uncertainty exists in calculations of this type,” NACWA stated, “however, the objective should be to use ‘mid-range’ estimates so that a ‘best estimate’ of emissions is developed, rather than one which is inherently biased to overestimate the actual emissions.” NACWA asserted that conservative assumptions should be considered in the uncertainty analysis, rather than preemptively embedded directly in the base calculations for the estimates. NACWA will also submit comments on the Draft Inventory during the public review period. NACWA’s comment effort was supported by the Targeted Action Fund (TAF), and the Association will keep members informed of further developments.
NACWA Files Response in BEACH Act Case
NACWA filed a Response Jan. 12 in Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) v. EPA, a federal court case in California involving EPA’s failure to establish new recreational water quality standards as required by the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000 (BEACH Act). NACWA’s filing replies to a Response filed by NRDC Jan. 8 objecting to NACWA’s Dec. 14, 2006, Motion to Intervene in the case on NRDC’s side on Dec. 14, 2006, arguing that any resulting order directing EPA to develop new recreational water quality standards will have a direct impact on its members.
NRDC argues that it does not oppose the Association’s participation in the case but believes NACWA should enter as a defendant on the side of EPA. NRDC says that previous NACWA statements on recreational water quality suggest the Association favors “less stringent” water quality standards, and therefore should not be allowed to intervene on NRDC’s side. NACWA’s Jan. 12 filing rebuts this claim arguing that NRDC’s claims are “disingenuous” because NACWA is equally as concerned about EPA’s failure to establish new recreational water quality criteria. More information on the case and copies of recent court filing may be found on the Legal section of NACWA’s Member Pipeline (http://www.nacwa.org/private/littrack/#nrdcepa).
NACWA Advocates for Short-term Fixes to EPA Financial Capability Guidance
NACWA sent EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles a list of recommended enhancements (http://www.nacwa.org/private/reg_outreach.cfm) for the Agency to consider as it reviews its 1996 guidance, Combined Sewer Overflows – Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development (Guidance). NACWA’s 2005 white paper, Financial Capability and Affordability in Wet Weather Negotiations, was the Association’s initial effort to influence how theses financial capability assessments are conducted. The white paper spurred EPA to revisit the 10-year-old Guidance to see if it needed updating. NACWA has since initiated a new TAF project to delve deeper into these issues, and the Jan. 10 letter to EPA was intended, in part, to update EPA on our progress. The letter also provides EPA with a list of several short-term fixes for the Agency to consider as part of its current Guidance review process. NACWA’s primary recommendation was that specific criteria or other alternative consistent approach or process be developed that incorporates site-specific, local conditions directly into the affordability analysis. NACWA’s TAF project on affordability will be completed soon and will be distributed to the membership upon completion.
Supreme Court to Review Critical ESA/CWA Case
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 5 that it will review EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit examining the interplay between the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Ninth Circuit ruled in August 2005 that EPA had improperly delegated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting authority to the state of Arizona without sufficiently considering ESA requirements. The decision was controversial because it suggested that the ESA could trump the CWA on issues of NPDES delegation, thus raising serious implications for both past and future delegation of NPDES authority by EPA to the states. It also raised questions about the authority of the CWA in relation to other environmental statutes. NACWA has been closely tracking this case over the past few months as it went before the Supreme Court on a petition for review. Now that the high court has agreed to hear the case on the merits, NACWA is in discussions with our Arizona members and other clean water organizations in the Southwest to determine whether to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. Copies of previous court filings may be found in the Key Cases section of NACWA’s Member Pipeline at http://www.nacwa.org/private/legforms/cases.cfm. We will keep the membership informed on developments in this important litigation.
Submit Your NACWA Index Survey Response by January 26!
It is not too late to complete the 2006 NACWA Index Survey. Since 1992, NACWA has published the NACWA Index annually to track average annual single-family residential service charge increases as measured against the rate of inflation. NACWA needs your response to ensure that this year’s Index will continue to help NACWA accurately represent nationwide trends. January 26 is the last day survey responses can be accepted. Visit the NACWA website (http://www.nacwa.org/private/membcomm/memupdate/mu06-22.cfm) for more information or complete the survey online at www.cleanwatercentral.org. Contact Chris Hornback, NACWA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs, at email@example.com for a hard-copy of your agency’s survey form.