Consent Orders Subject to Pre-Enforcement Review, U.S. Supreme Court Rules
On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that consent orders issued under the Clean Water Act (CWA) can now be challenged under the Administrative Procedure Act. This gives parties receiving the consent order a new opportunity to contest a it without risking civil and criminal penalties. Before, they could simply comply or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would sue to enforce compliance. Legal details still have to be worked out regarding the scope of the court's decision.
The case — Sackett v. EPA—originated when EPA alleged that Michael and Chantell Sackett illegally filled in wetlands without a permit. While the Supreme Court’s ruling on this case speaks to the consent order process, the court is pressing Congress to clarify the reach of CWA, specifically EPA’s jurisdiction over wetlands. CWA loosely defines EPA’s jurisdiction as “waters of the United States,” but the agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released draft guidance further defining this jurisdiction in early 2011. The Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing both this and EPA’s TMDL memo, which the agency received comments on last spring.
WEF Launches Water’s Worth It Campaign
On March 22, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) launched Water’s Worth It, a public messaging campaign and website. The campaign goal is to show that water should be clear but not invisible, as it is indispensable to jobs, the economy, our health, and our communities. “It’s time that water takes its rightful place in the national conversation,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. “It’s an issue that demands attention, understanding, and support. WATER’S WORTH IT was created to address that compelling need and to raise the profile of the water professionals who are on the front lines every day protecting public health and the environment.” Read more and check out the website for materials to customize your own Water’s Worth It campaign.
Remember that WEF also has a stormwater bill stuffer and a variety of free stormwater outreach resources.
U.S. EPA Releases New Resources for 2012 Construction General Permit
During March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted two webcasts on the recently released 2012 Construction General Permit (CGP). Notes from the webcast are available, and a copy of the presentation will soon be archived on EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System training and workshop site. EPA has also developed a template to help construction operators develop custom stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) to meet the 2012 CGP requirements. The SWPPP is a necessary prerequisite to filing for a CGP in which operators must describe plans to control stormwater runoff, erosion, and sediment from construction sites. Find the template and other SWPPP resources here. EPA also plans to update its guidance document and SWPPP examples, and will create a new template for submitting corrective action plans.
U.S. EPA Requests Letters of Interest for Green Infrastructure Projects
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering direct assistance through contract support for green infrastructure projects in areas with significant water quality degradation due to stormwater. Those interested should provide letters of interest to EPA by 5 p.m. on April 6. EPA expects to fund 10 to 20 participants at approximately $50,000 to $100,000 each. Read more for submission details.
U.S. Interior Department Announces Funds for Water Basin Studies
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation announced March 24 that $2.4 million will be available for water basin studies through the WaterSMART Basin Study Program. Studies will aid comprehensive water management plans that ensure water supplies for all purposes while protecting ecosystems. Study areas will include the Sacramento–San Joaquin river basins and Los Angeles River basin in California, the Pecos River basin in New Mexico, the Upper Washita River basin in Oklahoma, and the Republican River basin in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Read more
State, City Environment Agencies Agree on Green Infrastructure Plan for New York City
On March 13, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) agreed to modify their original consent order to use more green infrastructure. Overall, New York City will spend $2.4 billion on green infrastructure and $1.4 billion on traditional infrastructure to reduce the city’s combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The new green infrastructure plan will help save city taxpayers $1.4 billion and another $2 billion in deferred costs. It will also reduce CSOs by an additional 7.6 million m3 (2 billion gal) per year, compared to the all-traditional infrastructure plan. In sum, the city expects to reduce CSO flows by 5.7 million m3 (1.5 billion gal) by 2030. To do so, DEP will require that green infrastructure be used to control the first inch of rain from 10% of the city’s impervious areas. Read more
Australian Group Releases Green Infrastructure Rating Tool
The Australian Green Infrastructure Council released an updated version of its green infrastructure rating tool on March 16. The tool known as IS, is used to rate sustainability across design, construction, and operation in the transportation, communication, water, and energy sectors. IS uses a framework consisting of 15 categories under six broad themes: management and governance; emissions, pollution and waste; people and place; ecology; innovation; and using resources. Read more
U.S. Rep. Doggett Introduces Coal-Tar Sealants Ban
In response to mounting research, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D–Texas) introduced the Coal Tar Sealants Reduction Act of 2012 (H.R. 4166), along with four co-sponsors. The legislation specifies that, after enactment, manufacturing of coal tar sealants would phase out during the course of 1 year, distribution would stop after 1.5 years, and all sales would cease within 2.5 years. Find more information about coal-tar sealants in this U.S. Geological Survey fact sheet or this public information piece by the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center.
WEF Supports Urban Forests
Not all trees are equal at minimizing urban runoff. In fact, bigger, mature trees confer better benefits, as reported in the March edition of Water Environment & Technology. The article discusses the benefits of trees and how to maximize return on investment—not only in monetary terms but also by optimizing an urban forest’s stormwater reduction potential. The article also mentions i-Tree, a freely available tool provided by the U.S. Forest Service that can quantify the environmental services of urban forests, including urban runoff reduction and water quality benefits.
On March 16, The Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) also joined the Sustainable Urban Forestry Coalition in their advocacy day, supporting urban forests, i-Tree, and the Vibrant Cities report.
Healthy Waters Coalition Provides Farm Bill Recommendations
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) on March 6 joined the Healthy Waters Coalition, a diverse coalition of water-sector stakeholders, in announcing Farm Bill recommendations to improve water quality. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 50% of rivers, streams, and lakes and nearly 60% of bays and estuaries are nutrient-impaired. The dominant source of this impairment is agricultural runoff, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The coalition also drew information from Controlling Nutrient Loadings to U.S. Waterways: An Urban Perspective, a report prepared by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies with funding from WEF and the Turner Foundation. The report concludes that removing a pound of nitrogen or phosphorus from wastewater typically costs four to five times (sometimes up to 10 to 20 times) more than controlling nutrient runoff from farmland. For more information, check out EPA’s new website on nutrient pollution policy and data.
Urban Waters Federal Partnership Launches Ambassadors Program
On March 2, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership launched the Urban Waters Ambassadors program. The program’s first ambassador will serve the Los Angeles River watershed, with local representatives to follow for the partnership’s seven first-phase pilots. The role of the ambassador will be to connect federal tools and resources with the needs of the local pilot project. In addition, ambassadors will build partnerships and lay a foundation for each project’s continued success. Read more
Alliance for Water Stewardship Releases Draft International Water Stewardship Standard
On March 13, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) released a draft International Water Stewardship Standard. The draft standard covers four main water principles: governance, balance, quality, and important water areas. The document also delves into more-detailed actions, metrics, and targets that can be used to achieve three levels of certification.
AWS is dedicated to developing the standard, as well as a corresponding program to help water users meet the standard targets. AWS is made up of 10 board organizations, including the Water Environment Federation. The standard was created by a 15-member group representing diverse water stakeholders from across eight international regions. Comments will be accepted on the first draft until June 15. Another draft will be released in late 2012, with a final standard expected in mid-2013.
U.S. Senators Introduce Legislation to Halt Clean Water Act Guidance
On March 28, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R–Wyo.) and 29 Republican senators introduced the Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act, which would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing their joint Clean Water Act guidance. The senators express concern that the guidance is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because it expands the scope of federal jurisdiction through guidance rather than rulemaking and would apply to all Clean Water Act programs, not just the dredge-and-fill permitting programs. The bill will be referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Check It Out!
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District in Deephaven, Minn., is using an innovative sand-and-iron filter to remove phosphorus from stormwater. Unlike traditional stormwater management ponds that let phosphorus settle to the pond bottom, this filter will capture dissolved phosphorus. Read more