New water rule limits total amount of pollutants -- applies Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)
Fair Use Statement
Source: ENS News
New Water Pollution Rules Get Rocky Launch
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2000 (ENS) - In clear defiance of
Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new
rules intended to stem the flow of pollution into the nation’s
waterways. The move Tuesday, timed to circumvent Congressional
attempts to block implementation of the regulations, set off a storm
of protests by industry and business groups, as well as by members
The sweeping new rules will require
states to make comprehensive
pollution surveys of more than 20,000
bodies of water over the next 15
years. Those surveys would be used
to set Total Maximum Daily Load
(TMDL) limits on the amounts of
pollutants that a polluted lake, river
or stream can carry as part of a long
term cleanup plan.
A TMDL is essentially a "pollution budget" designed to restore the
health of the polluted body of water. It targets individual pollutants
and polluters, and specifies reductions in the amounts to pollutants
necessary to meet federal clean water standards.
For the first time, the rule will give EPA the authority to control not
only pollution from particular point sources like sewage pipes, but also
non-point source pollution, including runoff from industrial and
construction sites, farms, logging areas and even suburban streets
and lawns. Currently, the states regulate non-point source pollution.
"Today the Clinton-Gore Administration is taking action geared to
finish the job of cleaning up America's rivers, lakes and streams," said
EPA Administrator Carol Browner. "Americans want and deserve clean
beaches and safe waters in which to swim and fish. Yet, 40 percent
of America's waters are still too polluted."
"Some 20,000 river segments, lakes and estuaries across America do
not meet water quality goals for protecting health. More than 90
percent of all Americans live within 10 miles of a polluted body of
water. This program is designed to control the greatest remaining
threat to America's waters - polluted runoff. The time has come to
move forward and live up to the promise of the Clean Water Act by
making our waters fishable and swimmable once again," said Browner.
The rule is aimed at protecting the health and livelihood of the more
than 90 percent of the American population that lives within 10 miles
of a polluted body of water. The EPA says its action is geared to
address the greatest remaining source of water pollution in the
United States - uncontrolled runoff.
The plan builds on the successful
cleanup models of the Great Lakes
and the Chesapeake Bay, using
measurable targets to achieve
reductions in water pollution. To
help make the program cost
effective, it includes a pollution credits trading system under which
companies or individuals who exceed minimum pollution reduction
requirements can sell credits to companies that are not meeting the
EPA is asking states to prioritize their cleanup plans, giving higher
priority to polluted waters that are sources of drinking water or
support endangered species.
President Bill Clinton announced the proposed new rule last August.
The final program announced and signed Tuesday comes after four
years of extensive consultation with states, local communities, and
agricultural, environmental and industrial groups.
"Today’s action by the Environmental Protection Agency to
strengthen water quality protections nationwide is a critical, common
sense step to ensure clean, safe water for all Americans," said
Clinton. "While we have made tremendous progress over the past
quarter-century, too many of our rivers, lakes and bays are still too
polluted for fishing or swimming. With the new strategy we launch
today, we will work in close partnership with states and communities
to tackle our remaining pollution threats and complete the job of
cleaning up America’s precious waterways."
The plan faces opposition from groups that will be affected by the
new rule. Complying with the new runoff rules could cost the
forestry, manufacturing, construction and agricultural industries
billions of dollars.
On June 30, Republican
members of Congress attached
a rider to the final version of
an emergency supplemental
spending bill that would prevent the EPA from using any funds to
implement the new rule. The measure would effectively block the
regulation for 16 months, or until October 2001.
President Clinton countered by urging the EPA to hastily complete the
rule before he signs the spending bill, which he must do by July 13.
The release of the new rule now makes the Congressional rider moot
- it cannot apply to any rule that is already on the books.
However, the EPA chose to impose its own delay on the new
regulation, setting its effective date to coincide with the end of the
moratorium that Congress had sought. The rule will now take effect
October 1, 2001. This will give Congress "ample time" to review the
program, EPA said, which is precisely what Congress said it wanted.
The EPA’s announcement still met immediate opposition.
Representative Jo Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican, released a
statement along with the Pulp and Paperworkers' Resource Council
criticizing EPA’s action.
"The President is intentionally skirting around Congress to implement
a regulation that the people of this country and their elected leaders
do not want," said Emerson. "There is no scientific basis for this
regulation. Even the EPA Regional Director from Texas admits this. It
is simply rhetoric to temporarily satisfy the environmental elitists
without consideration of the to cost jobs and the very livelihood of
Senator Tim Hutchinson, the Arkansas Republican who helped push
through the rider to block the EPA rule, blasted the EPA’s decision.
"Today's signing of the final TMDL rule is a slap
in the face to Arkansas farmers, business
owners and private landowners," said
Hutchinson. "The White House has gone too far
in their zeal to overregulate and impose
unreasonable regulations on our property
owners, and thousands of Arkansans are going
to be outraged about today's news. I would
encourage the Administration to explain why
they felt the need to disregard congressional intent and serious
public concern to push the finalization of this rule through at the last
Hutchinson also said he would try to add a rider to a fiscal year 2001
funding bill to block enforcement of the new regulations.
In an attempt to pacify Congress and industrial opposition, the EPA
agreed to a number of changes in the program. In general, the
changes provide the states with significant new flexibility in
implementing the program.
These changes include:
dropping provisions that could have required new permits for
forestry, livestock, and aquaculture operations
enhancing state flexibility in meeting the rules
giving states four years instead of two years to update
inventories of polluted waters
allowing states to establish their own schedules for when
polluted waters will achieve health standards, not to exceed 15
But two members of the House Agriculture Committee - chair Larry
Combest, Republican of Texas and ranking minority member Charlie
Stenholm, a Texas Democrat, sharply criticized the EPA’s rule for its
potential effects on the agriculture industry.
"Farmers still have no way of
knowing from EPA if they must get
federal permission for irrigation of
their crops, or whether a heavy
rain washing over their fields will
turn landowners into lawbreakers,"
said Combest and Stenholm in a joint statement. "EPA’s rule change
is a public policy debacle with the potential for a national cost in
billions of dollars and lost credibility."
The two Representatives pointed to a report by the National
Research Council that criticized the EPA’s poor use of science in
crafting new regulations, saying the study demonstrates that the
new TMDL rule may not be based on "good science."
The American Farm Bureau Federation warned that the plan "would
cripple farms, ranches and forestry operations at a time when
producers can least afford new regulations," said Bob Stallman, the
"Farmers and ranchers have made much progress in improving water
quality through voluntary, incentive based programs. This progress
would be halted by EPA's unworkable proposal - a plan that runs
counter to many successful local initiatives. It will, in fact, result in
much litigation and further delays in improving water quality,"
National Association of Home
Builders (NAHB) president Bob
Mitchell said the EPA rule "will bring
new burdens to home builders and
land developers trying to meet
demand for new affordable homes,
a federal takeover of water quality obligations for local and state
governments striving to maintain healthy, livable communities, and
utter chaos for local environmental agencies such as state and
interstate water pollution control administrators, who in a June 29th
letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner, called the new set of rules
‘technically, scientifically and fiscally unworkable.’"
"Despite a personal request from NAHB's leadership on Friday to delay
the rule, the EPA has rushed through a regulation that will only dirty
the waters of federal, state and local government cooperation on
river, lake and stream protection," Mitchell concluded.
The chemical manufacturing industry, represented by American
Chemistry Council president and CEO Fred Webber, called the
decision "contrary to common sense. Moreover, the process used to
finalize the rule constitutes a possible violation of the law. EPA should
stop politicizing efforts to improve water quality."
"By ignoring the states' input on this rule, EPA's decision is actually
bad for the environment and will result in a needless waste of
taxpayer dollars and private sector resources," Webber argued. "The
American Chemistry Council will seek all appropriate remedies to EPA's
decision," he warned.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s
largest business federation, called the move
"underhanded," and said it will carry "enormous
costs and questionable benefits."
"Congress had justly sought to prevent EPA
from taking over state control of local surface water quality, with a
new federal program that would force massive costs on communities
for uncertain results," said Thomas Donohue, Chamber president and
CEO. "For months EPA has ignored industry concerns and now they’re
ignoring Congress as well. EPA’s end run around congressional
authority is a clear example of an agency out of control."
The final TMDL rule is available at:
http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/finalrule/finalrule.pdf (warning this is a large PDF file - 617K)
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