Last week, the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC), a policy-oriented committee tasked with providing policy advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, has issued its Initial Findings and Recommendations. The Committee expressed concerns about remaining uncertainties and local government implementation, especially regarding stormwater infrastructure. The Executive Summary of the LGAC Report reads as follows:
The LGAC has been charged with providing advice and recommendations on the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. In order to gain input from other local governments, the Workgroup convened public outreach meetings in St. Paul, Minnesota; Atlanta, Georgia; Tacoma, Washington and Worcester, Massachusetts. These regional meetings provided an excellent cross section of perspectives from across the country.
In summary, all agreed that clean water is essential for public health, recreation and commerce. However, the Workgroup also heard a strong theme that the proposed rule, as written, does not achieve the clarity intended, which causes great concern over implementation at the local level.
Yet, despite the implementation concerns, many are willing to collaborate to develop a rule that works at the local level. State, tribal and local governments are where clean water policy meets action. This report reflects the innovation and creative thinking that resulted from the Workgroup outreach process. Additional collaboration with local agencies and subject matter experts can further evolve the rule to achieve optimum results.
The Workgroup, in cooperation with the Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee, the Environmental Justice Workgroup and the entire membership of the LGAC, has prepared detailed recommendations regarding clarity of definitions and agricultural parameters. Regional differences will require flexibility and creativity in the permitting framework. Also noted is that Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permittees are a potential source of best management practices, especially in the realm of green infrastructure, which can be incentivized through the proposed rule.
This public outreach process has revealed that the proposed rule is a starting point. Considerable work remains if the rule is to be embraced locally. Fortunately, there is strong interest at the local level to work with EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to craft a rule that will be effective and facilitative.