Year Closes with Raft of Decisions from EPA

There was lots of action on the federal regulatory front in the waning weeks of 2006.

by Carlos David Mogollón

There was lots of action on the federal regulatory front in the waning weeks of 2006. In case you missed any of it, we provide a summary here in reverse chronological order:

Perchlorate dropped from UCMR2, but EPA to require unregulated contaminant monitoring: Yes, it’s true. Since it already set a DWEL (drinking water equivalent level) limit of 24.5 mg/L for it, the agency - as the AWWA recommended - dropped perchlorate from the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 2; but it’s still on the Contaminant Candidate List 2 which may lead to further regulation. Still, about 4,000 community and non-transient/non-community water systems will have to monitor the 25 unregulated contaminants on the UCMR2 list for a year. The final rule was signed Dec. 20.

EPA proposes incentives for clean water permit fees: Due to costs of administering clean water permit programs, the agency is offering up to 3% of state water pollution control grant funds to states that have adequate NPDES permit fee programs. Some already have instituted fees to cover shortfalls, but others have yet do so. The proposal also will allow states to move funds to other critical water quality program activities. It wouldn’t take affect until Oct. 2, 2008.

Agency stresses ecological benefits of regulations: Releasing its Ecological Benefits Assessment Strategic Plan (EBASP), the EPA sought a better way to determine total ecological benefits of regulatory actions. This would go beyond human health to quantify positive results of cleaner air, water and land - and better define the full economic value of environmental protection. Participating are the EPA Offices of Research & Development, Policy, Economics & Innovation, Water, Prevention, Pesticides & Toxic Substances, Air & Radiation, Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

Final rule on Toxic Release Inventory Program released: Announced Dec. 18, it expands eligibility for TRI reporters to use a less detailed certification statement. This is intended to encourage shifts from emissions to preferred waste management practices such as recycling. It backtracks on earlier proposals to extend the reporting period to two-years, but loosens requirements in other areas. The SBA lauded the rule as a reduction in unnecessary paperwork, but the Center for American Progress said the program should be expanded not scaled back, since it has successfully protected the public’s right to know and address potential hazards of toxics in their communities for decades.

Draft guidelines to protect nation’s water supply from attack unveiled: Drafts of the nation’s first voluntary standard guidelines for protecting the public from potential malevolent acts and other threats by enhancing physical security of water and wastewater infrastructure systems were released Dec. 14. Developed by CH2M Hill under guidance from ASCE and AWWA, and with technical input from WEF, as a part of the Water Infrastructure Security Enhancements (WISE) program, the new standards are open for public comment until June 30.

EPA decision on CWA exemption for pesticides decried: A decision announced in November to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act (CWA) was criticized, with environmentalists and agricultural groups threatening lawsuits for opposite reasons. EPA’s ruling allows exemption under two situations where an NPDES permit wouldn’t be necessary: 1) application directly to waters to control pests (such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds); and 2) application to control pests present over or near water with a portion of the pesticide deposited in lakes, rivers and streams.

Draft guidelines for underground storage tank inspections unveiled: The EPA released for public comment draft grant guidelines that will establish requirements for inspecting underground storage tank (UST) systems. States will have to meet the requirements to comply with provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The program’s focus is to reduce leaking underground storage tanks that contaminate water supplies, an issue more critical since MTBE emerged in the late ’90s.

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