Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - July 6, 2007
July 6, 2007
NACWA Meets with Key House Committee Staff on Waters of U.S. Legislation
NACWA met with key congressional staff members this week to discuss the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421), which seeks to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States.” Introduced by Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, John Dingell (D-Mich.), and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), the legislation would remove references to “navigable waters” from the Clean Water Act and replace them with “waters of the United States,” which would be broadly defined as “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams…mudflats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting these waters, are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution.” H.R. 2421 currently has about 170 cosponsors.
NACWA received numerous substantive comments on H.R. 2421 in response to Legislative Alert 07-02 (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legreg/legalrts/la07-2.cfm). Members expressed concern that an expanded definition of “waters of the United States” could potentially subject stormwater impoundments, retention ponds that are used as part of the wastewater treatment system, isolated wetlands, effluent-dominated streams, and other treatment processes to Clean Water Act (CWA) permit requirements. While the legislation preserves existing statutory exemptions, it fails to preserve regulatory exemptions – including one for waste treatment systems which is found in both U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Corps of Engineers’ regulations. According to congressional staff, the Corps’ preliminary, unofficial interpretation is that waste treatment facilities would remain exempt under the new legislation; however, EPA’s general counsel has not yet reached a similar determination.
The House T&I Committee plans hearings on July 17 and July 19 to establish a record on the many issues associated with CWA jurisdiction and the implications of any changes to the law. The Committee plans to receive testimony from former EPA administrators, scholars, scientists, cities, and stakeholders. Under optimistic time schedules, the bill could reach the House floor before the August break. The Senate has not yet introduced a companion bill, although Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) has circulated a similar draft.
NACWA continues to gather comments from member agencies on the bill, and will share a summary of those comments with key T&I committee staff. Based upon member input to date, NACWA is concerned that without changes to the legislation to preserve the regulatory waste treatment exemption, and to clarify jurisdiction over groundwater and constructed wetlands, it will be difficult for the Association to support the bill. NACWA will continue to work aggressively with congressional offices to gain changes to the legislation that protect our members’ interests. H.R. 2421 will be a topic of discussion at several committee meetings in Cleveland during the Association’s Summer Conference. We hope to see many of you at those meetings.
NACWA Participates in Deposition Regarding BEACH Act Litigation
NACWA participated this week in the depositions of key EPA witnesses in Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) v. EPA. NACWA is an intervenor in this case, which involves a legal challenge regarding EPA’s failure to establish new recreational water quality criteria as required by the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. In March, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that EPA violated the BEACH Act when it missed the October 2005 deadline for publishing recreational water quality criteria. The focus of the case now is on how much time EPA will be given to meet its BEACH Act obligations. Key to EPA’s future decision-making is the June 15 report of the Experts Scientific Workshop on Critical Research Needs for the Development of New or Revised Recreational Water Quality Criteria (Experts’ Report)
(http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/criteria/recreation/). The Agency will release a recreational criteria research plan late this summer based upon its consideration of the Experts’ Report.
NACWA also is reviewing EPA documents to form a position on how long EPA should be given to complete its obligations under the BEACH Act. These documents will also guide NACWA in deciding whether to name an expert witness in the case. Activity in the case is expected to continue, with more depositions scheduled for later July. The BEACH Act case will be one of the topics discussed at NACWA’s Summer Conference, both at the Water Quality and Legal Affairs Committee meetings. Current information on the BEACH Act case can be found on NACWA’s Litigation Tracker at http://www.nacwa.org/private/littrack/#nrdcepa.
Summer Conference Exhibits to Focus on Green Infrastructure Offerings
There is still time to register online or by fax for NACWA’s 2007 Summer Conference, Sustainable Infrastructure Choices…Gray, Green, & Everything In Between, which will be held July 17-20 in Cleveland. Registration numbers are strong, and the conference promises to provide an excellent forum for discussing green infrastructure options for the clean water community. Dress for the 2007 Summer Conference is business casual – with the exception of Wednesday evening’s Awards Ceremony & President’s Reception which is business attire. Please visit NACWA’s website (http://www.nacwa.org/meetings/07summer/) for more information on the Summer Conference.
NACWA’s Corporate and Legal Affiliates are taking advantage of the special Green Infrastructure Technology, Goods & Services networking session on Wednesday, July 18 from 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm during the 2007 Summer Conference & 37th Annual Meeting. Firms to-date exhibiting their services related to green infrastructure include: Brown & Caldwell, Fuller Mossberger Scott & May Engineers, Komline-Sanderson, MWH Business Solutions, MWH Global, and Somach, Simmons & Dunn. The networking session will feature a complimentary buffet lunch – and will provide an exceptional opportunity for Summer Conference attendees to delve even deeper into many of the issues and options discussed during the conference. Affiliates interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should contact Robin Davis, Director of Marketing & Print Management, phone: 202/533-1802 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your space.