Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - July 13, 2007
July 13, 2007
NACWA Meets with White House OMB to Seek Release of Final Peak Flow Policy
NACWA met with senior White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directors this week to urge release of a final blending policy so that implementation can begin in the field. NACWA’s presentation to the high-level staff focused on the fact that without a final blending policy, public clean water utilities will incur increased costs for additional treatment/storage capacity; increased litigation and permit appeals; and risk their investments in blending facilities. NACWA also explained that disparate EPA regional blending policies leave the door open for anti-blending legislation. For example, in late June Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2907, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.02907:), which would legislate that peak flow blending be subject to the bypass regulation without any of the context or implementation aspects contemplated by EPA’s proposed policy. OMB staff were receptive to NACWA’s arguments and reported that they continue to actively review the policy presented to them by EPA. NACWA’s presentation to OMB is available at http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-07omb.ppt. NACWA will keep the membership apprised of further developments in this key area.
NACWA, Water Sector Groups Meet with Key Hill Staff on Farm Bill Reauthorization
NACWA and representatives from other water sector organizations met with key staff members on the House Agriculture Committee this week to discuss the latest draft of legislation to reauthorize the 2002 Farm Bill (http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/2007FarmBill.html). The conservation title establishes a new program called the Regional Water Enhancement Program (RWEP) that would authorize $60 million annually for cooperative agreements between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and key partners. The term “partner” encompasses agricultural producers, a state or “unit of local government.” NACWA’s understanding is that this term includes public water and wastewater utilities.
The draft language also identifies the Chesapeake Bay, the Klamath River basin, the Upper Mississippi River area, and the Everglades are listed as regions that should be given some heightened consideration for projects that would receive funding. The water sector organizations requested that the language be clarified to allow partners to propose projects to USDA, rather than just having the Secretary determine priorities. The committee staff said the existing language provides that flexibility. In addition, bill language singling out four regions as priority areas prompted concern that little funding would be left to address other areas that should be considered priorities.
The House is moving quickly on the legislation with committee markup expected sometime next week. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, expects to move the bill to the House floor by the end of July. NACWA and the water sector will continue to advocate for language regarding the selection criteria that gives priority to projects that have the highest likelihood of improving the water quality of a particular area and that involve multiple stakeholders. In addition, NACWA and the water sector coalition are seeking to ensure that the final bill include a list of eligible activities for RWEP funding rather than, as it is currently written, allowing USDA to establish such a list through rulemaking.
The Senate is not as far along in its Farm Bill reauthorization efforts, although NACWA has obtained draft language (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-07-09draftfb.pdf) with a section-by-section breakdown (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-07-09sbys.pdf). The Senate version has a broader definition of “partner,” which includes non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and specifies that partners working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can work together to “identify key water quality or water conservation priorities for a specific region.” The Association will continue to work with its water sector partners to advocate for an updated Farm Bill that keeps as a priority the improvement of water quality.
NACWA Meets with EPA to Push for Water Transfer Rule
NACWA met with senior EPA staff this week to encourage prompt release of the long-awaited water transfer rule. The rule, first proposed by EPA in June 2006, is expected to exempt transfers of natural, untreated water from needing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. NACWA supported the draft rule in August 2006 comments (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2006-08-04xfercmts.pdf) to EPA that endorsed the proposed rule and suggested a number of changes. NACWA has also supported exempting water transfers from NPDES permitting requirements in two recent court cases, South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Indian Tribe and Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited v. City of New York.
During the meeting, Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, said the Agency intends to complete its work on the rule in the coming weeks; however, the rule must then go through an interagency review process before becoming final. Grumbles said he was optimistic that the rule could be released by mid-September. While not providing any details on the content of the final rule, Grumbles did indicate that EPA has considered all of the comments submitted in response to the draft rule. NACWA will continue to monitor this issue and inform the membership when a final rule is released.
NACWA Officially Joins EPA as a WaterSense Program Partner
In line with its Board of Directors’ decision to partner with EPA on its WaterSense program, NACWA received confirmation (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-07-12ws.pdf) from the Agency this week welcoming NACWA to the program. EPA describes the WaterSense program as a voluntary partnership program whose “mission is to protect the future of our nation's water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services.” In its letter to NACWA, EPA states that “by becoming a partner, your organization is demonstrating environmental leadership. Together we are helping Americans use water resources more efficiently to preserve them for future generations and reduce water and wastewater infrastructure costs.” Additional resources and information, including fact sheets about water efficient products and programs, are available at www.epa.gov/watersense.
- NACWA wishes everyone traveling to Cleveland for next week’s 2007 Summer Conference & 37th Annual Meeting a safe trip!