Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - March 30, 2007
March 30, 2007
EPA Administrator Johnson to Address Policy Forum; Hotel Room Deadline Nears
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has confirmed that he will provide the Agency’s perspective on water quality in the 21st Century in the Keynote Address at the NACWA/Water Environment Federation (WEF) 2007 National Clean Water Policy Forum May 6-9 in Washington, D.C. Also on the agenda to provide welcoming remarks is Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. With such notable officials confirmed to address the Policy Forum, we encourage you to act now to reserve a room at the Renaissance Washington Hotel at the conference rate of $269 for a single/double as soon as possible. The deadline for reserving rooms at the conference rate is April 13. You can contact the hotel directly at (202) 898-9000 to make a reservation.
In addition, NACWA looks forward to having many of its public agency members participating in the Clean Water Utility Executives Summit, scheduled for the afternoon for May 7. Utility executives from across the country will convene for the Summit at 1:30 p.m. for a provocative three-hour facilitated dialogue examining the past, the present and the future of the clean water community – and the water sector as a whole. Our organizational infrastructure will also be a focus as we consider whether the associations and federations that serve you today must embrace significant changes to best meet your needs in the future. Private affiliate members are welcome to attend and listen to what no doubt will be an informative discussion.
Court Rules EPA Violated BEACH Act; NACWA to Help Set Litigation Schedule
A federal court in California ruled March 23 that EPA violated the Beaches Environmental Assessment, Cleanup, and Health Act (BEACH) Act by failing to publish new or revised recreation water quality criteria for bacteria by the October 2005 deadline. The ruling (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-21USDCDoc.pdf) by the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California in Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA was expected, as EPA admitted that it failed to meet the deadlines in the BEACH Act. The focus of the case now shifts to determining how much time EPA will be given by the court to meet its BEACH Act obligations. NACWA intervened in the case as a plaintiff to ensure any schedule imposed on EPA provides sufficient time for the agency to develop appropriate criteria. A conference before the court is set for April 2 to determine a litigation schedule for the remainder of the case, and NACWA will participate in those discussions as a party in the case.
NACWA Comments Raise Concerns about Factors in EPA Emissions Inventory
NACWA submitted comments (http://www.nacwa.org/private/reg_outreach.cfm) yesterday on EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005, Draft for Public Review (Inventory), expressing concern that factors used in the emissions calculations may produce inaccurate estimates of the contribution from treatment facilities. Clean water agencies are likely to be impacted by increased state and national efforts to curb levels of greenhouse gases, and the Inventory may take on added significance if it is used as a basis for regulating industries. Wastewater treatment ranks sixth in methane emissions and fifth in nitrous oxide emissions in the Inventory, but NACWA’s review of the Inventory found that some factors used in the emissions calculations are too conservative. “Overall, we are concerned that the methodology used for the emission estimates leads to an overestimation of the contribution of wastewater treatment to total greenhouse gas emissions from all sources,” the comments said. EPA said it is willing to work with NACWA to refine the estimates using data collected from wastewater treatment plants, rather than the current theoretical approach, and NACWA’s Air Quality and Climate Change Committee leaders are examining other potential data sources. NACWA will keep members informed about any data collection needs and developments on how clean water agencies may be affected by climate change concerns.
Court Endorses NACWA Position in Stormwater Fee Case
NACWA continued its litigation success March 27 when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled in City of Cincinnati v. United States that a U.S. government facility is not exempt from paying the city’s stormwater fees. In its ruling (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-27opordr.pdf), the court endorsed arguments made by NACWA in its brief that Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 313 gives local governments the authority to collect fees from the federal government to cover the cost of stormwater services at its facilities.
The case involves the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) refusal to pay more than $100,000 in late invoices for stormwater services at one of its facilities in Cincinnati. The litigation arose when the facility alleged that the stormwater service charges are an impermissible “tax” on the federal government. The court disagreed and noted that “the City’s stormwater system charge falls squarely within the waiver of sovereign immunity,” and thus the HHS facility was not exempt from paying the charges. Additionally, the court granted permission to the city to amend its complaint and aggregate its claims in order to achieve the full recovery of past-due bills. A status conference is scheduled for April 12 to discuss the progress of the case.
NACWA to Work with EPA on Planning Green Infrastructure Forum
EPA sent a letter March 28 acknowledging NACWA’s important leadership role in drafting the recent Green Infrastructure Statement of Support (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-16Green.pdf) and inviting signatory organizations to attend an EPA-sponsored forum on green infrastructure scheduled for April 16. The letter (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-28greeninv.pdf) from Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, and Grant Nakayama, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, discusses the topics to be covered at the meeting, including the identification and prioritization of green infrastructure needs, such as funding, modeling, resources, and knowledge. Additionally, Dean Marriott, director of the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland, Ore., a NACWA member, will present on the varied and successful green infrastructure programs used in Portland. NACWA will be working with EPA in the coming weeks to further refine the meeting agenda and will report on the outcome of the meeting.