Association Urges EPA to Look Beyond the Clean Water Act in Trading Comments

(January 8, 2020) – In comments filed December 18 on EPA’s September 2019 notice, Water Quality Trading Under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (84 Fed. Reg. 49293), NACWA thanked EPA for its continued interest in jumpstarting market-based and other innovative approaches to improving water quality.  The comments also encouraged the Agency to “explore the full range of options, including looking at existing opportunities to address some of our toughest water quality challenges outside of the conventional Clean Water Act (CWA) framework.”

NACWA expressed concerns with EPA’s discussion in the notice of using variances and compliance schedules in a trading context, but generally supported the other concepts EPA laid out, especially those aimed at providing more flexibility around nonpoint source baselines.

Current practice with regard to baselines has stymied some trading efforts and EPA’s notice was targeted primarily at getting input on potential changes to allow nonpoint sources to generate credits before baseline activities are completed.

NACWA’s letter also encouraged EPA to look beyond trading, in particular in the context of nutrients, and explore opportunities to address water quality impacts outside of the rigid CWA water quality standards and total maximum daily load (TMDL) frameworks.

The notice only sought comment from stakeholders and now EPA will have to decide what to do with the information provided by the public. EPA has held off on a wholesale revision to its 2003 trading policy, but some stakeholders, including NACWA, are asking EPA to consider revisiting that document.

Members with questions can contact Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Deputy CEO.