The Local Government Advisory Committee’s (LGAC) Protecting America’s Waters Workgroup on November 5 issued its report on the proposed Waters of the United States rulemaking. The LGAC’s summary of its public outreach on the proposed rule was conveyed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a November 5 letter that accompanied the release of the report.
The LGAC, which is comprised primarily of state and local elected officials and is a formal advisory committee to U.S. EPA, in recent months held a series of public outreach meetings on the proposed rule. The LGAC letter to the Administrator notes that they heard strong agreement from meeting participants that clean water is an essential foundation for public health, recreation and commerce.
Key concerns with the rulemaking were reported in the following areas:
- Permitting - Need for a clear and predictable permitting process as the foundation for any new regulatory proposal.
- Clarity – Strong sentiment expressed that the proposed rule does not, as written, provide clear definitions nor achieve the objective of clarifying the extent of federal jurisdiction over local water bodies.
- Exemptions – The LGAC noted questions over what is and what is not a Waters of the US – and critical questions concerning agricultural exemptions and the status of MS4 permittees.
The LGAC report provided the following recommendations:
- Permitting process deficiencies must be addressed.
- Rule must be clear so that local agencies, States, EPA and USACE all understand clear definitions and the scope of federal jurisdiction so that implementation is predictable.
- Agricultural exemptions must be explicitly and clearly stated.
- Cost remains a concern
- Significant regional differences must be considered and addressed in the rule.
- There are many local, state and federal (specifically MS4) programs and regulations to protect the nation’s water quality. The rule should acknowledge and incentivize best management practices already underway.
The LGAC closed its letter to the EPA Administrator by recommending that the agency continue to engage State, local and tribal agencies in the rule development process.