Permitting for environmental results launched

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a major initiative to strengthen its core wastewater permitting program under the Clean Water Act.

Nov. 4, 2003 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a major initiative to strengthen its core wastewater permitting program under the Clean Water Act.

On Aug. 15, 2003, Assistant Administrator G. Tracy Mehan III announced the Permitting for Environmental Results (PER) Strategy in recognition of the numerous challenges facing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program - including continuing impairment of the nation's waterways, a backlog of expired NPDES permits, and legal challenges to state permitting programs.

The PER Strategy describes an ambitious partnership between EPA permitting and enforcement authorities, and their state counterparts, to improve the environmental effectiveness, efficiency, and fundamental integrity of the NPDES program. It has three key components:

• Permit prioritization: Giving priority to issuance of the most environmentally significant permits in a watershed

• Permit streamlining: Encouraging practices that improve the efficiency of permit issuance

• Program integrity: Using a management system to continuously assess and improve the performance of state and EPA permitting programs.

In an Oct. 9, 2003, memorandum Mehan addressed the program integrity component of the PER Strategy by initiating the Program Integrity Management System - a set of tools that will enable EPA and states to assess the integrity of the NPDES program, identify strengths and shortfalls, and promote continuous improvement.

Between now and next spring, EPA and state NPDES authorities will use state self-assessments and data on program performance to prepare state profiles highlighting the strengths and shortfalls of individual permitting programs. The management system also provides for periodic reassessments and discussions to measure progress and to evaluate lessons learned.

Mehan's memo announcing the PER strategy is available on EPA's web site at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/final_per_strategy.pdf.

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