City Leaders Express Concern About Implementation of EPA’s Integrated Planning Framework

Press Release
Press Release

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing last week to discuss the impact of the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Planning Framework on cities across the country. 

The committee heard testimonies from city leaders and municipal environmental leaders, including David Berger, Mayor of Lima, Ohio; Todd Portune, Commissioner for Hamilton County, Ohio; and Steven Meyer, Director of Environmental Services for the City of Springfield, Mo. 

Developed in 2012, the EPA’s Integrated Planning Framework is intended to provide cities with some flexibility in how they manage their regulatory and enforcement mandates under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under the framework, cities have the opportunity to prioritize certain CWA obligations in order to reduce their cost burdens.

However, both the committee members and the witnesses expressed concern that though over two years have passed since EPA announced its Integrated Planning Framework, little has been done to successfully implement it. 

“Though over a dozen local governments are working on integrated plans, no integrated plan has been approved by the EPA and one has been disapproved,” said Mayor Berger. 

Mayor Berger, Commissioner Portune, and Mr. Meyer also brought attention to the fact that the Integrated Planning Framework is not doing enough to address the financial strain put on cities by the CWA’s unfunded mandates. Each called on Congress to take action in order to make compliance with the regulatory requirements more effective and affordable.

“We are looking for legislation that can benefit all cities and that does not leave relief for local governments subject to the discretion of the EPA,” said Mayor Berger. “EPA discretion is what we have right now – and we are not seeing EPA use its discretion in ways that recognize that environmental improvements must be affordable.”

Commissioner Portune also affirmed the need for stronger Congressional oversight to ensure that the EPA Framework is applied fairly and consistently across cities.

“While we believe the EPA Framework could prove to be a solid approach towards providing more flexibility under the CWA, we question EPA’s willingness to apply their Framework consistently, through changing leadership inevitable over time, in a long-term, broad, transparent, programmatic, fair and balanced manner, absent specific legislative direction,” Commissioner Portune said.

This was the subcommittee’s third hearing on the EPA Integrated Planning approach. NLC continues to monitor and assist communities as they develop integrated plans and is engaging with EPA on a new methodology for determining residential and community affordability in meeting CWA regulatory requirements.