EPA Administrator Testifies Before Congress on New Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared October 15 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to discuss the Clean Water Act's (CWA) permit program and EPA's immediate plans to strengthen its enforcement efforts. Jackson specifically called out construction sites as one of "the biggest threats" to our nation's waters, adding that EPA needs "to target enforcement to the most serious violations and the most significant sources." To address what she describes as an "unacceptably low" level of enforcement activity, Administrator Jackson announced the release of EPA's new action plan to strengthen federal and state CWA enforcement.
In her testimony to the Committee, Administrator Jackson stated that "it is long overdue for EPA to reexamine its approach to Clean Water Act NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] enforcement to...address the water pollution challenges of this century." Recipients of all types of NPDES permits can expect to see increased enforcement by EPA - including criminal and civil penalties for noncompliance - as well as more reporting and public oversight. The Administrator went on to highlight EPA's new "Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan" that calls for the following actions:
- Target Enforcement to the Most Important Water Pollution Problems - EPA will tackle violations of existing law by the sources of pollution posing the biggest threats to water quality.
- Strengthen Oversight of State Permitting and Enforcement Programs - In situations where states are not issuing protective permits or taking enforcement to achieve compliance, EPA needs to act to strengthen state programs and to pursue federal enforcement actions as necessary.
- Improve Accountability and Transparency - EPA believes that making information on environmental discharges available to the public will increase the pressure on regulated facilities to self-police and reduce their pollution.
During the course of the hearing, Administrator Jackson was asked about the EPA's position on the S. 787 the Clean Water Restoration Act. She responded that the Obama Administration believes that Congress could bring more clarity to the permitting issues that have been the subject of confusion regarding jurisdictional issues between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA and related Supreme Court decisions. Chairman Oberstar noted that he has not introduced companion legislation to S.787 yet. Several Committee members expressed concerns about removing the term "navigable" from the Clean Water Act. AGC has actively opposed this legislation because it would give EPA and the Corps jurisdiction over all wet areas-however remote or intermittent. At a recent hearing before the Small Business Panel on Waters and Wetlands Regulations, AGC testified that the bill would require construction contractors and project owners to obtain and be regulated by federal Clean Water Act permits far more frequently than is currently required.
Administrator Jackson was also asked about the Obama Administration's position on the creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund. Jackson indicated that the Obama Administration did not have a position for or against the "Trust Fund," but acknowledged that there was a major gap in the current investment in clean water infrastructure.
AGC has been involved in direct talks with the EPA's enforcement arm, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance (OECA), and will continue to engage in discussions with EPA and the T&I Committee to ensure that the construction industry's concerns are heard and that EPA efforts include increased compliance assistance and industry outreach in addition to increased enforcement actions.
To view Administrator Jackson’s and other testimony and video of the hearing, click here. To view EPA’s Clean Water Enforcement Action Plan, click here.
For addition information, please contact Leah Pilconis at email@example.com.
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