Senate FY17 Appropriations Restores CWSRF Funding, Supports Integrated Planning
Senate Interior & Environmental Appropriators released their FY17 Appropriations bill last week. The legislation restores key clean water funding and supports integrated planning efforts – results reflecting the Association’s significant advocacy on these issues.
NACWA has been closely the monitoring the Appropriations process since the President’s FY17 Budget proposed drastic cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The Association is very pleased to report that the Senate’s FY17 Bill restores nearly all of the proposed cuts. The bill would provide $1.35 billion in FY17 for the CWSRF – still less than the $1.39 Billion authorized in FY16, but a much stronger funding level than the $979 million which the Administration proposed. The Senate bill also supports other NACWA priorities including providing $3 million for EPA’s Integrated Planning initiative.
The restoration of 90% of the CWSRF proposed cuts and the inclusion of the appropriation for integrated planning is a testament of the power of clean water advocacy, including the many letters to Congress that NACWA Member Agencies submitted in support of both programs and the meetings held during the National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In in April.
The Senate’s FY17 Interior and EPA spending package provides much stronger funding for the CWSRF than the $1.0 billion provided in the House’s bill, which wasreleased by the House Interior & Environment Subcommittee last month and passed by the full Committee on Wednesday, June 15. The House bill did provide a strong $6.5 million for integrated planning. The full House bill can be reviewed here , and the full Senate bill can be reviewed here .
For the remainder of the 114th Congress, NACWA will continue engaging with the Senate and House to ensure the Association’s priorities are addressed as the final FY17 spending package is negotiated. Questions on FY 17 Appropriations can be directed to Kristina Surfus, Legislative Affairs Manager.
NACWA Comments Highlight Concerns with “Technical” Report on Flow Alteration
NACWA filed comments June 17 on a draft document developed by EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effect of Hydrologic Alteration , raising concerns over the extensive policy and legal discussions throughout the draft.
NACWA’s comments underscored the important role that flow-related impacts can have on aquatic life – the focus of the draft report – but also noted that the Clean Water Act is focused on protecting all designated uses and does not prioritize aquatic life uses above all else. The draft “does not strike an adequate balance among the various uses of the nation’s waters – beyond the protection of aquatic life – and fails to recognize that returning waters to their natural flow regimes in many places will not be possible given the extent of development and existing alteration.”
But it was the inclusion of extensive policy/legal discussions in what is described as a “technical document” that raised the most concern. NACWA’s comments stressed that EPA and USGS must either “work to separate and remove the policy discussions from the document before it is finalized, or initiate a more substantive review process on a revised version of the report acknowledging that it contains both extensive policy and technical information.”
NACWA appreciates the extensive comments and input it received from members on this issue. Special thanks go out to Clean Water Services in Hillsboro, Oregon, the City of Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District in Denver, Colorado for their input.
Association Leads Joint Effort in Support of WRDA 2016
NACWA joined with 15 other organizations representing the local government, water, and infrastructure sectors on June 17 in sending a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The NACWA-led letter demonstrates the bill’s broad base of support.
As Senate Majority Leader, Sen. McConnell will determine whether the 2016 WRDA bill, which passed out of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee in late April, will receive floor time in the this year. Stakeholders, including NACWA, are urging that the bill go to the floor before the Congressional summer recess in mid-July, given the election-year uncertainties that will be in play this fall. The bill received remarkable bipartisan support in the Committee, where it passed 19-1, and includes a number of Clean Water Act-related reforms that could benefit communities and utilities around the country.
NACWA is also circulating letters among utilities in key states requesting that the Senate consider and pass the WRDA bill. These letters will be sent to each states’ respective Senators. To join this effort, please contact Kristina Surfus, Legislative Affairs Manager. While we have focused on a dozen states with particularly influential Senators for this process, letters to any and all Senators can help.
Record Turnout for Legal Webinar Addressing Permit Shield Litigation
NACWA hosted nearly 140 participants on a June 15 legal web seminar for a discussion on pending permit shield litigation and efforts to overturn negative lower court precedent. Richard S. Davis, Beveridge & Diamond, and Karen C. Bennett, Hunton & Williams, led the discussion on NACWA’s Hot Topics in Clean Water Law webinar, covering pending litigation that could affect Member Agencies’ ability to rely on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit compliance as a shield against citizen suits. Presentation slides, a recording, and speaker bios from the web seminar are posted on the handouts page.
The panelists explained that under Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 402(k), compliance with a NPDES permit is compliance with the CWA, and permittees are thereby shielded from citizen suits (the permit shield). But, in recent cases discussed by the panelists, environmental groups are using common boilerplate NPDES permit language that incorporates water quality standards by reference to collaterally attack permittees.
Following the presentation, NACWA’s Legal Affairs Committee Chair Hilary Meltzer, Deputy Chief of the NYC Department of Law’s Environmental Law Division, moderated an in-depth discussion and Q&A session. The discussion focused on raising awareness regarding what to look for in draft permits and offered suggestions on how to work with permitting authorities to strike the language from the outset in order to limit liability and avoid citizen suit litigation.
NACWA encourages members interested in legal issues to join the Legal Affairs Committee – the next meeting will be on July 11 from 3:00-4:00 pm during NACWA’sUtility Leadership Conference & 46th Annual Meeting to be held in Denver July 10-13.
Chesapeake Bay POTWs Hit Nutrient Reduction Targets 10 Years Early
Federal and state environmental officials last week hailed the progress made by public wastewater treatment facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in reducing nutrient discharges, noting that the sector is meeting its 2025 targets in the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL) 10 years early. EPA highlighted that publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) have reduced nitrogen discharges to the Bay by 57% and phosphorus by 75%, and stated that “the wastewater sector is leading the way….to restore the Bay and local waters.” Ben Grumbles, current Maryland Secretary of the Environment and former EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, said that “wastewater plants are workhorses for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay.”
The press event to announce these great developments took place at Association Member Agency DC Water’s Blue Plains Treatment Plant, and DC Water CEO and NACWA Board Member George Hawkins participated. NACWA congratulates all of its member utilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for contributing to this remarkable achievement – keep up the great work!
Survey Results Inform Membership Enhancements
NACWA’s Small & Medium Utility Advisory Workgroup recently conducted a survey of the Association’s Member Agencies that serve communities of 75,000 or less in population. The survey explored the aspects of membership these utilities most valued, general perceptions of the Association, and their interest in potential new initiatives.
The results of the survey provide insight into possible resources that could not only enhance the value these utilities receive from membership but also increase engagement – such as increasing low-cost, web seminar offerings and additional promotion of the innovative work being done at small & medium size utilities. Participants in the survey also indicated value in the concept of utility-to-utility partnerships. Among the aspects of utility-to-utility partnerships deemed most valuable were technical support on utility management issues and the opportunity to pool shared resources.
This feedback is invaluable to NACWA as it works to formalize a utility to utility partnership program and develop other resources that meet members’ needs. The Association is committed to ensuring that it is representing utilities of all sizes across the nation – with the goal of ‘every utility a member’. The survey information will be valuable not only to better serve our current members but also to encourage new small and medium utilities to add their voice to NACWA’s advocacy efforts.
EPA Releases Guidance on Environmental Justice Assessment
EPA recently published a document, Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis , designed to aid Agency analysts (including economists, risk assessors, and others) in evaluating potential environmental justice (EJ) concerns associated with regulatory actions. As described, the document does not create any new regulatory obligations or requirements, but is instead intended to help EPA analysts assess whether EJ concerns exist prior to a rulemaking, and whether such concerns are exacerbated or mitigated for each regulatory option under consideration. The document is meant to be used in conjunction with EPA’s Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action, which was published last year.
EPA has focused increased attention on EJ issues over the past several years, and the Technical Guidance document is the most recent resource produced by the Agency. EPA also published a Draft Final Strategic Plan on EJ issues last month, which NACWA is currently reviewing and will comment on as part of the Association’s advocacy around EJ concerns. The Association recently formed an EJ Workgroup to guide our efforts in this area, and will be developing a compendium of EJ practices at clean water utilities over the coming months. Members with questions about EJ issues should contact NACWA’s Chief Advocacy Officer, Nathan Gardner-Andrews.
Initial Analysis Available on EPA Proposal to Update NPDES Program
In an Advocacy Alert last week, NACWA summarizes the changes EPA is proposing to make to current NPDES regulations. While a number of the changes are simple modifications that help to bring the NPDES program into the 21st century, the proposal also includes certain amendments that could alter how states set water quality based effluent limits. One of the more controversial proposals is a provision that would give EPA regions additional leverage to compel states to address permits that have been administratively continued for extended periods of time. NACWA is soliciting input from its members for the Association’s comment effort. Please send any feedback on the items below to
Brenna Mannion, Director, Regulatory Affairs & Outreach, by June 30.
EPA Finalizes Fracking Wastewater Effluent Guidelines
On June 13, EPA finalized its effluent guidelines for the Unconventional Oil & Gas Extraction category. Wastewater produced by this type of oil and gas extraction, which is known as fracking, contains high concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) and can also contain many other organic and inorganic chemicals, metals, and radioactive materials. Since POTWs are not designed to remove these types of contaminants, EPA established a zero-discharge standard for this wastewater, prohibiting its discharge to POTWs. In comments on the proposed rule last year, NACWA supported this standard, since no Association members accept this type of waste in order to protect their operations and their receiving waters.
Volunteers Sought to Review WIFIA Application Materials
EPA is seeking up to nine volunteers to consult on an Information Collection Request (ICR) supporting statement and draft Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) application materials that are available on regulations.gov. Volunteers need to be potential applicants to the program, such as government entities, corporations, partnerships, and State Revolving Fund programs. The feedback provided during the consultations will be used to revise the application materials and burden estimates. For more information on the WIFIA program, visit https://www.epa.gov/wifia.
Specifically, EPA would like volunteers to review the ICR supporting statement and draft application materials for the following:
- Are the instructions and forms are clear? If not, what areas need clarification?
- Do any requirements seem unnecessarily burdensome? Why? How could we make it better?
- How long do you estimate it would take to compile and provide the necessary information to EPA?
- Is there any other feedback on the application materials that you would like to share with EPA?
Potential applicants interested in volunteering should email Karen Fligger at EPA.
EPA Launches Two New Climate Tools, Requests Case Studies
EPA’s new Adaptation Case Study & Information Exchange plots utility and community climate adaptation case studies on an interactive map to make it easier for users of a similar type, location or climate threat to gather and share information about resilience planning. If your utility has adaptation success stories to share you may also submit them via this link to be added to the map. A number of NACWA members, including Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority and Capital Region Water, are among the first set of case studies.
The Workshop Planner for Climate Change & Extreme Events Adaptation provides local officials and utility staff with easy-to-use templates to facilitate an adaptation planning workshop exploring how extreme weather events affect water resources. The web tool allows users to pick a scenario and customize materials to conduct a workshop in their community, from invitations to presentations.
EPA expects to launch the newest version (3.0) of its Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT) later this summer.
Interactive Map Offers DC Residents a Look at their Lines
NACWA Member Agency, DC Water, recently launched a new interactive map and supplemental online content designed to help property owners identify the material that makes up their water service lines. The easy-to-use map allows customers to enter an address to see if their service lines are lead or another material, where records are available. Newly added features provide customers with access to information regarding lead in water; identifying lead service lines or requesting free testing; and what to do if they have lead service lines or other lead sources in their plumbing.
DC Water has collected pipe material data from plumbing records, service installation, and maintenance activity to provide the most up-to- date information for its customers. The utility has also pledged to pay for the replacement of lead service lines in public space if property owners elect to replace their portion of the line located on private property.
Limiting lead exposure is a shared responsibility. With the launch of their new interactive map, DC Water has taken active steps to efficiently serve its community and protect its residents both at work and at home for years to come.
Have you gotten involved in NACWA's online community – Engage™? Ranked high in value in a survey of NACWA's members, Engage™ offers solutions to utility challenges and a platform to network with colleagues.
If you haven't yet engaged in this valuable member resource, now is the time! Discussions are currently underway on FOG compliance and local limits; Capital Improvement Plan metrics; and permit shields and general provisions in NPDES permits. Why not add to the conversation and join our community? Get engaged today!