HTML _ RL30573 - Changes Recently Announced by EPA to Its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Proposal
31-May-2000; Claudia Copeland; 6 p.

Abstract: In August 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations to clarify and strengthen the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Section 303(d) requires states to identify surface waters for which wastewater discharge limits are not stringent enough to achieve state-established water quality standards, even after application of required pollution controls. For each of these waterbodies, states are required to set a total maximum daily load of pollutants at a level that ensures that applicable water quality standards can be attamed and maintained and to allocate further required pollutant reductions among sources. EPA is required to take these actions if a state fails to do so. EPA's 1999 proposal was intended to invigorate a program which had languished before a number of lawsuit were brought over EPA's and states' failure to implement section 303(d). The proposed TMDL changes have been widely criticized, and EPA has attempted to explain, clarify, and defend many individual aspects of the proposal. The proposal has few strong supporters, and a number of groups and individuals have urged EPA to withdraw it and start over, yet EPA has indicated that it plans to issue final rules this summer. Recently, EPA has attempted to signal flexibility on some points that have been most contentious. In an April 5 letter to key congressional leaders and a May I Joint Announcement with USDA, EPA announced additional changes intended to address specific criticisms. Through this somewhat unusual procedure of signaling changes to a not-yet-final regulation, EPA is trying to defuse much of the recent criticism. This report discusses the nine parts of the rule that EPA has said it expects to modify. Three of them relate to identification or listing of impaired waters; three relate to TMDL development; one concerns a public petition process; one concerns offsets for new or expanded discharges; and one concerns forestry. While the proposed revisions address some areas that have been most heavily criticized, most of the revisions are not highly significant to EPA's overall proposal. Some of the announced changes are themselves being criticized. Further, so far EPA has not addressed other major parts of the proposed rule that also have been controversial, such as requiring TMDL implementation plans and the form and timing of such plans. Major questions also remain unanswered about what criteria EPA will use to approve state lists of impaired waters, TMDLs developed by states, or measures that states expect will demonstrate progress towards attaining water quality standards. Thus, since ¨the devil is in the details,¨ affected interest groups and individuals are sure to closely examine EPA's final revisions, when they are published. [read report]

Topics: Water, Pollution, Agriculture

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