EPA issues final TMDL rule
Director of Government Relations
APWA Washington Office
A controversial final rule aimed at restoring polluted waterbodies in the United States was issued this summer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), despite strong opposition from a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The final rule, signed July 11, 2000, affects EPAs Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program, which requires states, territories and authorized tribes to identify impaired waters and to set pollution budgets to attain water quality standards. Controls established under the program to achieve water quality standards can affect certain public works programs and operations. The Clean Water Act of 1972 first required TMDLs.
When EPA proposed changes to the existing TMDL program in August 1999, it generated more than 34,000 comments and a storm of protest over proposals to subject certain agricultural and forestry operations to federal permitting requirements. Over the course of this past year, EPA made several revisions to the original proposed rule to address these and other concerns raised by states, Congress and some environmentalists.
Despite the revisions, some in Congress remained adamantly opposed to the rule and sought ways to delay its promulgation. During conference proceedings, a legislative rider was added to an appropriations bill, prohibiting EPA from using any funds to finalize or implement the rule before October 1, 2001. Nevertheless, the TMDL rule was signed, i.e. finalized, the day before the appropriations bill was enacted into law, prompting the introduction of legislative initiatives to nullify the rule.
By the start of the month-long August recess, Congress had enacted no further action affecting the final rule. Barring some form of congressional response in September, the rule remains final, but EPA is prohibited until the end of fiscal year 2001 from taking such actions as disapproving TMDLs or making decisions under the new rule. Conducting workshops or conferences to assist agencies and officials with complying with the new rule also would not be permitted.
Although EPA activities under the rule are restricted, deadlines for listing impaired waters under the rule are not postponed because of the congressional delay. Accordingly, some states will meet their first deadline for listing impaired waterbodies in April 2002.
Following is a brief overview of some of the important final TMDL rules provisions which directly or indirectly affect public works.
The final rule was published July 13, 2000 in the Federal Register. It can be viewed at http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/finalrule/finalrule.pdf.
For more information, contact Jim Fahey at 202-408-9541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.