Clean Water Current

NACWA Testifies on Key CWA Regulatory Reforms Before House T&I Committee

May 17, 2023

NACWA Secretary and CEO of Metro Water Recovery, Mickey Conway, testified May 16 on behalf of the Association before the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee on the need for sensible and important regulatory reforms under the Clean Water Act (CWA). 

During the hearing, entitled The Next Fifty Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion, Conway testified on three proposed reforms in particular that would provide greater regulatory certainty to clean water agencies, improve transparency and due process, and help protect utilities against the increasing number of unwarranted CWA citizen suits. 

The proposed reforms discussed by Conway include codifying EPA’s long-standing CWA Sec. 402 “permit shield” policy; stopping the post-hoc enforcement of boilerplate “cause or contribute” language in NPDES permits (which NACWA is currently litigating against in federal court); and establishing notice-and-comment and judicial review processes for EPA’s recommended 304(a) water quality criteria.  

These reforms are designed to address and ensure greater due process, transparency, regulatory certainty, and scientific integrity while helping to alleviate affordability challenges and ensuring communities have more clarity and certainty when making long-term capital clean water infrastructure investments.  

During the hearing, Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) questioned Conway on the importance of Congress providing clean water utilities with a CERCLA PFAS liability exemption. Conway responded by noting utilities’ role as passive receivers of PFAS and the importance of Congress providing an exemption to protect local ratepayers from undue liability, explaining that without such an exemption utility customers are “effectively paying to be poisoned.”   

During the next round of questioning, Congresswoman Hillary Scholten (D-MI) highlighted her concerns over PFAS contamination and remediation costs that cities and towns will incur and questioned Conway on the financial impact of cleaning up PFAS and what those costs are for local communities. In response, Conway discussed challenges related to testing methodologies and lab capacity and costs, a heavier burden on smaller systems, the importance of having federal funds available for monitoring and testing, and the long-term operational costs and challenges associated with managing PFAS.   

NACWA appreciates Conway’s continued leadership and for his willingness to testify on behalf of the Association. NACWA also thanks the T&I Committee for the opportunity to provide testimony. A recording of the full hearing and links to all the witness testimony can be found here

Please contact NACWA’s General Counsel, Amanda Aspatore, or NACWA’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Jason Isakovic, with any questions or to discuss further.  

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