U.S. House Tackles Integrated Planning Framework

September 7, 2012

Laws & Regs

On July 25, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard testimony about the framework for integrated Clean Water Act permitting recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A parade of witnesses, including elected officials, as well as representatives from states, municipal agencies, and the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), offered praise for the new framework but expressed concern about how it will be implemented.

Alan Vicory, vice chairman of the WEF Government Affairs Committee, said in his testimony that EPA and states should include integrated, adaptive management principles in all permits, regardless of whether municipalities have developed a specific plan. Vicory expressed support for the framework and pledged WEF’s continued participation in outreach and efforts to assist communities and states with implementation.

The witnesses raised several questions surrounding the new rules.

Vicory and other witnesses, including the mayors of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Lima, Ohio, recommended that integrated planning be addressed as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit process and not through enforcement.

The amount of resources needed to prepare and review integrated permits also drew attention. George Hawkins, general manager of DC Water, said that his agency had already spent $2 million to develop the technical support for a request to reopen DC Water’s 2004 Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan to allow greater use of green infrastructure.

Walt Baker, director of the Water Division of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and president of the Association of Clean Water Administrators (Washington, D.C.), expressed concern that many of the details regarding the states’ primary role in approving integrated plans have yet to be worked out and called for continued dialogue and collaboration with EPA.

Affordability was the common theme in all the witness testimony. Elected officials in particular reiterated their position that the current EPA affordability guidepost (2% of median household income) was an inadequate measure of a community’s ability to pay for meeting Clean Water Act regulatory requirements.

Carter Strickland, commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, discussed a study recently completed by his agency that presents a more robust affordability model. And in her testimony, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner conceded that the 2% median household income was “a” tool but not the only tool for determining what a community can afford.

Integrated Permitting Resources

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
, , ,

Comments are closed.