News Feature | December 27, 2013

Water Agencies Lobby EPA To Apply Recent Court Decision Nationwide

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

UrbanDrain

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and other groups are urging the EPA to take the view that a recent court decision applies nationwide. 

In March, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Iowa League of Cities v. EPA.  According to Bloomberg BNA, the court ruled that EPA exceeded its Clean Water Act authority in attempting to restrict the practice of blending.

The EPA's so-called "blending" guidelines regulate a "process where sewage facilities can treat large influxes of stormwater by channeling them through different routes," Law360 reported

The recent advocacy letter to the EPA voiced the opinion that these rulings applied nationwide. Letter signatories included "municipal lawyers, publicly owned wastewater utilities, mayors, and city and county officials," according to BNA. 

But the EPA appears to be on a different page. 

"The appeals court ruling is nearly nine months old, but the EPA remained quiet about its application until the agency's acting assistant administrator for water, Nancy Stoner, confirmed last month that the EPA believes the decision only applies in the Eighth Circuit and that the agency will evaluate permits in other parts of the country on a case-by-case basis," Law360 reported

Some argue the EPA stance creates uncertainty for the water sector. 

In the letter, "the groups said municipal wastewater utilities across the nation are facing confusion in addressing wet weather compliance, resulting in increased local costs," Bloomberg BNA said. 

The court's criticism of the EPA pertained to the procedures the agency used to arrive at its blending policies. The court "ruled that the EPA needed to go through the rule-making process to...prohibit blending of partially and fully treated wastewater inside treatment plants during heavy storms," a previous BNA article said. 

The EPA had already decided not to ask the Supreme Court to review the court decision, BNA noted in an analysis.

Money is a factor in reviewing the EPA's blending expectations.

"Hall & Associates attorneys said compliance with the EPA blending policy alone would have cost the wastewater treatment sector an estimated $150 billion nationwide," the analysis said.

For more EPA regulatory news on stormwater, check out previous coverage on Water Online. 

Image credit: “Urban Drain," © 2010 KOMUnews, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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