Cooperative Federalism Highlighted at 2017 National Clean Water Law Seminar and Enforcement Workshop

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(November 21, 2017) – Cooperative federalism became a recurring theme among the many critical legal issues addressed at the 2017 National Clean Water Law Seminar and National Water Enforcement Workshop last week in Savannah, GA, which drew clean water professionals from around the country.  This year’s Seminar and Workshop featured presentations by expert clean water attorneys, utility leaders, and federal/state regulators on critical Clean Water Act (CWA) legal and enforcement developments, covering timely issues that included arid state/water quantity-quality nexus concerns, energy generation legal/policy considerations, administrative law, and public records laws.

On cooperative federalism, Dennis Lee Forsgren, Jr., Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Water, emphasized that EPA should not substitute Agency judgement for that of a state if the state is acting within the four corners of the CWA. Mr. Forsgren also shared that EPA remains focused on failing systems and wants to continue to work with NACWA on the issue of governance, including how to address fragmentation in the water sector. He also noted that the Agency is seeking to move toward a compliance-based system as opposed to an enforcement-based approach, favoring partnership with the regulated community where possible. The Agency is also considering a proposed policy statement to incentivize larger systems to partner with small, failing systems by reducing monetary penalties for the failing systems.

In his luncheon address at the Workshop, Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice, discussed the importance of working cooperatively with states and NACWA members:

“[E]nforcement actions involving combined sewer overflows (known as ‘CSOs’) or sanitary sewer overflows (or ‘SSOs’) are often highly complex and resource intensive.  The best solution is for EPA, the States, and municipalities to work together cooperatively to address these problems, so that compliance with the Clean Water Act is achieved as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.  ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ and we understand that fixing water infrastructure problems won’t happen overnight either.  ENRD appreciates the commitment of NACWA and its members to achieving the goals and objectives of the Clean Water Act in these cases.”

Presentations and materials from the Seminar and Workshop, including the Top Clean Water Act Cases of the Year Handout, are available on NACWA’s website.

NACWA thanks all participants in and sponsors of this year’s events.