On July 24, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hosted a hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) integrated planning framework. The framework, released in June 2012, seeks to help municipalities prioritize clean water projects. However, no plans have yet been approved, though there are many in the works.
Richmond, Virginia, for instance, began working on an integrated plan in the fall of 2013. They are in the data gathering phase now, aiming to complete the plan by 2018, when their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permits are up for renewal. Read more from Brown and Caldwell. Seattle included the option to submit an integrated plan as part of its consent decree. The city now is waiting for review by EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology and may submit the plan in May 2015 if it is Seattle Public Utilities’ and the city government’s preferred alternative. Read more from Brown and Caldwell.
During the hearing, Ron Poltak, executive director of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, spoke regarding the need for guidance on states’ role in the permit approval process and discussed the need for a model permit developed by EPA. Witnesses and representatives also discussed two bills introduced on the topic of integrated planning as well as draft legislation known as The Water Quality Improvement Act of 2013.
The Clean Water Compliance and Ratepayer Affordability Act (H.R. 2707) and the Clean Water Affordability Act (H.R. 3862) would both lengthen Clean Water Act permit terms up to 25 years and address affordability. H.R. 2707 also would affect consent decree implementation plans and would increase communities’ management options to include more adaptive approaches. Environmental groups including American Rivers, Clean Water Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Environmental Law Center expressed their opposition to these bills in a letter to Representatives Bob Gibbs and Timothy Bishop.