EPA Workshops Focus on Integrated Planning

March 5, 2012
by Carolyn Berndt

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is building a framework to guide local governments in developing an integrated plan for municipal stormwater and wastewater systems to meet the water quality objectives of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

While an overarching principle of the framework is to maintain existing CWA regulatory standards, an integrated planning approach will allow local governments to meet those requirements in an efficient and cost effective manner. 
Recognizing that many local governments face difficult financial conditions, the framework would allow local governments to prioritize their stormwater and wastewater investments in a manner that maximizes water quality gains.

During the past two months, EPA held a series of workshops across the country to obtain feedback from stakeholders, including NLC, on the Draft Integrated Planning Approach Framework.

Jean Godden, council member for the City of Seattle represented NLC at the Seattle workshop on Feb. 13 and Joe Reardon, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County represented NLC at the Kansas City workshop on Feb. 15.

"Cities and the federal government share a goal," said Godden. "We each want to ensure that the public's money is spent to assure the greatest protection of our local waterways. I'm encouraged that the EPA is bringing forward innovative and workable solutions to address pollutant discharges because cities will need to prioritize if we are going to succeed."

At the EPA workshop in Kansas City, stakeholders around the table focused on the issue of affordability and how increasing water rates hurt low-income households the hardest, the need for flexibility to address changing technology and a flexible timeframe for implementation and the use of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit process as the main implementation vehicle, rather than consent decrees.

NLC submitted written comments to EPA on the Draft Integrated Planning Approach Framework addressing these issues.

Mayor Reardon emphasized that clean water is the highest priority to cities. He also said that local elected officials must be accountable to their citizens and for every dollar collected, and the city must provide a "return on investment" in terms of the services it provides. He also called for a greater partnership with the federal government, a "true partner to help find solutions."

Bob Roddy, director of public works for the Unified Government of Kansas City and Wyandotte County said that EPA was establishing "artificial compliance schedules" through the use of consent decrees, noting that cities were built over the course of 100 years, but today consent decrees often involve undertaking huge public works projects over the course of 20 years.

Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, will speak about the integrated planning approach framework at the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee meeting at the upcoming NLC Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 11. 

Details: To view NLC's comments, visit Influence Federal Policy - Regulatory Environment. To learn more about EPA's integrated planning effort, visit http://www.epa.gov/npdes/integratedplans.