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NCLM News & Political Report

Regulatory reform has become a cause célèbre in both state and national political circles. Proponents offer regulatory reform as a panacea for the country's continuing economic woes, while opponents worry the effort will lead to a dilution of protections written into state and federal rules.

N.C. Legislators Pursue Regulatory Reforms

Legislative leaders of the N.C. General Assembly believe in regulatory reform, so much so that they formed the Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform after last year's long session to examine the subject in depth. Reforms in North Carolina have gone many ways, from a comprehensive rewrite of the way regulations are made to specific changes to state law (see "Regulatory Reform Takes Many Directions, Most of Them Environmental," below).

Nutrient Forum Impresses Reforms on Attendees

State regulators and other attendees of the N.C. Nutrient Forum on Over-Enrichment, held May 29-30, learned of more specific reforms of the traditional measures taken to reduce the presence of nutrient pollutants in the state's waters. (Read this May 2012 EcoLINC post for more background on the forum and the issue of nutrient impairment.)

Rather than a top-down approach developed by a state agency, presenter after presenter at the forum suggested involving all affected stakeholders from the beginning. They also advised that scientific developments show the basis of regulation should not be based solely on the presence of a regulated nutrient, but should also take into account the effects on aquatic life in the receiving waters. These reforms realign decades of a singular approach toward reducing water body impairment by limiting pollutant inputs to waters via permits held by municipalities and other industries.

Direct White House Input by NCLM

The League has also had a select opportunity for personal input on regulatory reform at the federal level. In early June, League Executive Director Ellis Hankins attended two intimate meetings with various White House officials.

In the first, Hankins and his counterparts at the California League of Cities and the Colorado Municipal League met with David Agnew, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The League directors carried specific suggestions for reform of federal regulations -- most of them environmental -- that would have a large impact on cities and towns across the country. The topics of nutrient regulation, the impending post-construction stormwater rules, and the use of stormwater flow as a surrogate for a measurable regulated pollutant were at the top of the N.C. list of concerns.

The second meeting with the same group of federal officials focused on North Carolina, and Hankins was joined by N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman and N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. For this meeting, the N.C. trio impressed the importance of limiting regulations that stifle economic growth in the state.

Regulatory reform will likely continue as a state and federal hot topic with most of the focus on reform of environmental regulations.

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League Files Comments on Mercury TMDL, Strategy

The League filed comments on the state's proposed mercury water body clean-up plan and wastewater permitting strategy Friday. In the comments, the League reiterated its opposition to this unprecedented plan and urged modifications of the accompanying wastewater permitting strategy.

The water body clean-up plan -- generally called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), its name in the federal Clean Water Act -- was developed in response to measured accumulations of mercury in large-mouth bass in N.C. waters. As with other TMDLs, the state Division of Water Quality (DWQ) proposed requiring reductions from municipal wastewater treatment systems through limits in their federal discharge permits.

Wastewater dischargers -- both municipal and industrial -- would be the only two classes of permit-holders targeted by the wastewater permitting strategy.

DWQ estimated that wastewater dischargers contribute two percent of the mercury load to the state's waters, while airborne mercury that reaches the ground via rainfall contributes the remaining 98 percent. Unlike wastewater discharges, permitted sources of air emissions would not be affected under this plan. In addition, DWQ would not require any reductions from permitted stormwater programs.

League Comments

While registering general objections to the TMDL as a whole and offering alternative courses of action to the TMDL, the League nonetheless offered comments on the wastewater permitting strategy:

  • Support for not including stormwater permittees in the permitting strategy, agreeing with DWQ that the appropriate place for mercury regulation is at the source of air emissions, not the mechanism ultimately carrying those emissions to the state's waters (stormwater).
  • Agreement that requiring wastewater dischargers to take steps to reduce mercury entering treatment plants, through a method called a mercury minimization plan, was an appropriate regulatory tool for controlling mercury.
  • Support for provisions that would allow adjustment of wastewater permit limits for discharges to water segments where attainment of water quality standards can be demonstrated.
  • Opposition to another feature of the strategy that would place a statewide cap on mercury discharges from all wastewater point sources, arguing a cap was unnecessary given the magnitude of the mercury contributions from the air and the potential to slow economic growth in the state.

DWQ has promised to provide a report to the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) on all comments received for the July EMC meeting. Then, the EMC may also take a vote on the plan and permitting strategy.

The draft mercury TMDL, released by DWQ in late April, applies to all waters in the state and is the first-ever statewide TMDL for North Carolina. Read the March 2012 EcoLINC article for more background on this unusual TMDL, and the April 2012 EcoLINC article on the unprecedented planned EMC vote on the plan.

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Legislators to Cities: Give Us Your Input on Natural Gas Extraction

NOTE: Portions of this article originally appeared in the League's advocacy blog June 7 and the LINC Bulletin June 15.

The natural gas extraction industry may soon be able to establish wellheads in North Carolina, following votes by both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly in favor of a bill legalizing the practice. However, no extraction would take place without years of writing regulations and consulting with various groups, including cities and towns.

The House approved SB 820 Clean Energy and Economic Security Act (Rucho) after nearly four hours of debate last week. Senators approved a similar version after extended debate the week before, and they will likely vote to concur with changes made by the House in a vote scheduled today. Then, the bill will head to Governor Perdue for further action. Some environmental activist groups believe the close vote count, especially in the House, could thwart a veto override vote if the Governor chooses to veto the bill.

Bill Creates Framework for Regulation

The bill would allow natural gas extraction and put in place a framework for creating the rules and regulations surrounding the practice. The rules would need to gain legislative approval before going into effect. Only then would the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources issue permits.

Thanks to the many League members who called legislators and testified during committee meetings over the past few weeks, the League successfully fought back attempts to preempt all local government authority to set restrictions around this industrial activity, and gained a municipal seat on a newly-created Mining & Energy Commission. The Commission would write and oversee all natural gas extraction regulations.  

Process Promises Opportunities for Local Input

In tandem with the rulemaking process laid out in the bill, local governments, through the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, would participate in three separate stakeholder groups. Two of these groups -- one studying the issue of local ordinances to regulate the industry, with the other studying industry funding of local impacts (road damage primarily) -- would make legislative recommendations to a new Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy. A third and larger stakeholder group would include the League in discussions that would lead to the rulemaking proposals for the Mining & Energy Commission.

Initial drafts of this bill completely removed both city and county governments' authority to use land use or nuisance ordinances to control impacts of this new industry on their communities. The League strongly opposed this elimination of municipal authority, speaking to the first committee to take up the bill in favor of retaining a city government's ability to make local decisions regarding industrial practices.

Also, two Senators from Wake County, Sen. Richard Stevens and Sen. Josh Stein, expressed concerns in the same meeting about the lack of local control over a presumably heavy-impact industry. Following those expressed concerns and many conversations with legislators by city officials, subsequent versions of the bill did not include this objectionable language.

The bill passed both chambers despite concerns from environmental and consumer protection interests that more study is necessary before moving forward with the rulemaking that would allow natural gas extraction activities to begin.

Select media coverage of the bill:

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Local Control of Water/Wastewater Systems Under Fire

Legislators have considered several pieces of legislation that, in various versions, would restrict a local government's ability to control certain aspects of water and wastewater system operations. The League and affected communities have been in close discussions with legislators regarding these issues.

Asheville Water/Buncombe MSD

Continuing a discussion regarding the separate Asheville water system and Buncombe Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD) wastewater system begun last session, the N.C. House passed H 1009--MSD Amendments (McGrady) last night. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The bill accomplishes two significant changes to the MSD statutes:

  • Grants any MSD the same powers and authorities as a Metropolitan Water District
  • Rewrites the board composition for an MSD

These amendments would pave the way for possible 2013 legislation that would mandate the merger of Asheville's city-owned water utility with Buncombe MSD, a regional wastewater utility. Under the current bill language the City of Asheville would have three representatives on the governing board of any merged system.

The Asheville water system and Buncombe MSD have an opportunity to provide input on any future legislation, according to an interim study committee report issued in April. The report states that if the utilities and their governing bodies develop their own merger plan, "due consideration would be given."

The League opposed the proposal recommended by the interim study committee and delivered this letter to the committee and House Speaker Thom Tillis, arguing against any legislative actions that would force a city to transfer its existing assets to another entity.

Read this background article in the Carolina Public Press (Asheville).

Boone Water Intake

Late last week, Rep. Jonathan Jordan filed H 1227--Disapprove New River Basin Rule (Jordan), a bill that would reverse an action granting Boone the ability to construct a new four million gallon-per-day water intake structure on the South Fork New River.

The bill would reverse a January vote by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) approving a reclassification of this segment of the New River to "Water Supply Critical Area" and "Water Supply Protected Area." Under state law, after final approval of a rule, if the Rules Review Commission receives ten or more letters of objection, the legislature may introduce a bill to overrule the agency action. In this EMC action, 59 people submitted letters of objection, allowing Jordan the opportunity to file this bill.

The EMC public hearing report characterizes the watershed surrounding the proposed intake as "rural in character, with primarily forested land, agricultural land, and residences." With the EMC reclassification approval, those lands in the watershed became subject to certain development restrictions for development that disturbs more than one acre, as part of the N.C. Watershed Water Supply program.

The town requested the reclassification in order to build a new drinking water intake structure to meet demands on its water system. The town had exceeded 80 percent of its capacity, which is the trigger in state law requiring a plan for system expansion. Planning for this project began in 2005. One major user in the Boone public utility service area is Appalachian State University, and the system also supports the area's robust tourism economy.

To fund this project, Boone secured a $20.5 million USDA Rural Development loan and grant. And in 2008, voters approved a $25 million bond issue, supplementing the USDA funding. Terms of the USDA loan and grant give the town until September to submit final plans and specifications to the applicable regulatory agencies for review.

The town, Watauga County and Ashe County all supported the reclassification. The limited public comment received during the EMC public hearings included concerns over availability of water during drought. However, the intake will withdraw less than one percent of the stream's flow.

Read more in these news articles:

Rate of Sea Level Rise

National media attention in the past few weeks has focused on an N.C. legislative effort to proscribe the method of calculating sea level rise, which in turn could affect local government utility planning.

New language introduced to H 819--Coastal Management Policies (McElraft) this session would limit the data used in calculations of sea level rise for the N.C. coast to those that are "from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends." The legislation would otherwise disallow government use of a scenario that included accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

For infrastructure planning purposes, coastal communities typically consider the effects of possible future sea level rise. These communities need the best science available to ensure they design large public infrastructure projects with the appropriate level of safety and durability against any future sea level rise. These infrastructure projects can include water and wastewater treatment plants and underground infrastructure, stormwater control devices, roads, and bridges.

Early versions of this bill would have forced local governments to use only a state-developed rate of sea level rise, which in turn could only use historical data in determining the rate. However, the House Environment Committee voted last week to approve a version that removed local governments from the bill. Now, the restrictions on sea level rise rates would only apply to state agencies such as the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) and the N.C. Department of Transportation, among others.

Supporters of the bill, spearheaded by the coastal development group NC-20, wrote in this memo that "investment and construction would be severely impacted" by a level of accelerated sea level rise proposed by the CRC last year. The group and several N.C. local governments had expressed concerns that the CRC rate would increase coastal property insurance rates, drive up construction costs, and restrict development in redefined flood plains.

The League appreciates the bill sponsors' recognition that local governments are best-suited to make local decisions regarding large public investments such as those in public utility systems. A sampling of the extensive state and national media coverage of this bill includes:

Water Systems & Municipal Incorporation

Legislators are also set to consider S 231--Municipal Incorp Standards/Water Extensions (Hartsell), a bill that would institute more rigorous standards for municipal incorporation. This new language completely replaces language from last session related to interconnection of water systems.

Part of the bill would prohibit extension of water and sewer service outside municipal boundaries by a competing system under various circumstances, unless certain permissions were granted by the municipal governing board. The League has worked very closely with the bill sponsors and expects this language to be removed when legislators next consider the bill.

The bill responds to one of the League's Core Municipal Principles, which states, "The legislature should not permit a new incorporation whose primary purpose is to prevent a proposed annexation without evidence of its ability to provide the necessary services." Conditions for incorporation would include that within three years of incorporation, a municipality would provide police protection; fire protection; wastewater treatment, collection, or disposal; and water distribution.

For a local perspective on how this bill would affect a Durham project, read this article in The Herald-Sun.

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Regulatory Reform Takes Many Directions, Most of Them Environmental

NOTE: This article was updated after the July 3, 2012, adjournment to reflect additional changes to the bill.

After overhauling the state's regulatory process last session, legislative leaders have advanced S 810--Regulatory Reform Act of 2012 (Rouzer) this session to further tweak the overhaul of the rulemaking and contested case processes and make other miscellaneous changes to state law under the guise of regulatory reform. Most of the miscellaneous changes are to environmental laws and procedures.

As with other "umbrella" bills like the traditional ones tackling environmental technical corrections or environmental amendments, this bill has gone through many revisions as legislators have amended the bill to include ever-more discrete changes to state law and agency process in recent weeks. The original bill came out of the Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform, which met periodically throughout the interim period between sessions.

Bill Provisions

The bill makes the following changes of interest to municipalities:

  • Qualifications for appointments to the Mining & Energy Commission. The bill swaps two sets of qualifications for members of the newly-created N.C. Mining and Energy Commission between legislative and gubernatorial appointments.
  • APA changes. The bill makes clarifying adjustments to the N.C. Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which received an overhaul last session in the Regulatory Reform Act of 2011. These adjustments include a clarification that prior to publication of a rule in the N.C. Register, a rulemaking body must "pre-clear" the rule with the Office of State Budget & Management for conformity with certain aspects of the APA. The adjustments also clarify that a rulemaking body must approve a fiscal note prior to submitting a rule for publication in the Register.

    Finally, the bill identifies the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) as an agency for the purposes of administering programs under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), a change needed to ensure the state retains its ability to implement the law when OAH makes final decisions on contested cases arising under the CWA.
  • Definition of "discharge." Coming out of the Rose Acre Farms contested case, a potentially precedent-setting animal operation permitting case, the bill includes a provision that would limit a "discharge" or "discharge of waste" to not include an "emission" as defined in the federal Clean Air Act.

    This change therefore would limit the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in its efforts to control pollutants from animal operations that are initially emitted into the air but settle in nearby waters, such as feathers, dust, and ammonia. If passed, those pollutants may not be regulated by DENR under any provision of the federal Clean Water Act.
  • Wastewater permitting in Jordan/Falls watersheds. This provision offers relief to wastewater facilities that discharge to the Jordan or Falls Lake watersheds and are subject to the associated nutrient strategies. An oversight now fixed in both sets of rules had resulted in more stringent permit limits for metals and other non-nutrient parameters.
  • Permit tracking. The bill directs DENR to track permitting process times for those permits submitted under the following programs: One-Stop, Express Permit, and Certification Reviews. In doing so, DENR would measure (1) the total time from when initial permit application is received to decision on permit application, as well as (2) total time from when a complete permit application is received to decision on permit application. Further, before January 15, 2013, DENR would inventory all of its permits, licenses, and approvals, and report back to the legislative Environmental Review Commission which of them should be subject to the same tracking of permit times.

    This directive builds on a DENR effort in its initial stages to offer a searchable permit tracking database to the public. The system will initially track twenty-five different permits, including National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater, state stormwater, wastewater collection systems and gravity sewer extensions, and water resources capacity use permits. The database will allow a search by location, permit type, facility name, permit number, and other milestones to track progress of the permit review.
  • Landfill and transfer station permitting. Offers operators of sanitary landfills or transfer stations the option of applying for either a five-year permit or a ten-year permit. For facilities pursuing a ten-year permitting option, DENR may conduct a limited review of the permit after the first five years, and may also review the permit five years after amendment to any permit that accommodates growth at the facility.

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Conglomerate Environmental Amends Bill Offers Dozens of Changes

NOTE: This article was updated after the July 3, 2012, adjournment to reflect additional changes to the bill.

With S 229--Amend Environmental Laws 2012 (East), the annual tradition of massing many environmental law rewrites into one mega-bill, legislators have proposed dozens of changes to the state's environmental laws. As of the July 17, 2012, publication date of EcoLINC, Governor Bev Perdue had not yet signed the bill into law or vetoed it. 

Changes Affect Permitting & Programs

Measures of interest to municipalities touch on water quantity, water quality, stormwater, and solid waste permitting and programs. They include, in bill order:

  • Stormwater capture & reuse. Directs the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to annually report to the legislative Environmental Review Commission the progress on integrating stormwater capture and reuse in state and local stormwater programs.
  • Kerr Lake reallocation. Directs DENR to conduct a two-year study of the potential to reallocate water in Kerr Lake, which straddles the N.C.-Va. border, from hydropower uses to water supply uses. DENR would consult with Virginia, the Roanoke River Basin Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify future water supply needs from the lake.
  • Compost permitting. Narrows permitting for municipal yard waste compost facilities. The League worked to limit permitting of Type I compost facilities to state and/or federal stormwater permitting actions (except industrial stormwater permits), but not wastewater permitting. Regulating these facilities came due to 2009 legislation, which passed in response to concerns of contaminated stormwater runoff from the facilities' piles of yard waste, windrows, and finished compost. This change does not modify the permitting requirements for Type II, III, and IV compost facilities, as negotiated in a 2010 stakeholder group.
  • Airport stormwater control. Carves out airports as an industrial activity that may take advantage of alternative stormwater control devices, as detailed in the N.C. Stormwater Best Management Practices manual. Devices that promote standing water, such as stormwater detention ponds, would no longer be required within five miles of the airport. Allowing alternatives to the state's standard stormwater post-construction rules instead would alleviate worries by airport operators of excessive wildlife flocking to ponds near landing strips, which could cause an aviation hazard.
  • Non-contiguous parcels. Mandates that local governments must treat two non-contiguous parcels as one single parcel if eight conditions are met, for purposes of water body protection. The conditions relate to buffers, stormwater controls, and terms of development within the non-contiguous parcels. This exception applies to local governments implementing a water supply watershed program rule and could possibly result in less stormwater protections for the affected properties.
  • Treatment of lands in riparian buffers. Prohibits a local government from treating land in a riparian buffer as if the land is property of the State or one of its subdivisions, unless the land or an interest in the land has been acquired by the State or one of its subdivisions. Included in the bill at the request of a developer, it is unclear how this provision will work in practice.
  • Development in Neuse, Tar-Pam buffers. Eases restrictions on placement of single-family residences and their associated infrastructure in areas subject to the Neuse or Tar-Pam buffer riparian buffer rules. Adds measurement of setbacks from "top of the bank, rooted herbaceous vegetation" to the list of applicable starting points of measurement. Formerly only included the "normal high-water level" or "normal water level."
  • Wastewater facilities in NSW waters. Removes time limitations on compliance dates for wastewater treatment facilities that were permitted (or authorized for construction) prior to a classification of the receiving waters as Nutrient Sensitive Waters (NSW). The statute previously limited the timetable for compliance with stricter discharge limits to no more than five years after an NSW classification.
  • NSW goals. Removes statutory requirement that basinwide plans include a five-year plan to meet established nutrient reduction goals for NSW waters. Also removes a requirement that basinwide plans demonstrate progress toward a nutrient reduction goal each year.
  • Basinwide planning cycle. Changes the timing of the state's basinwide planning cycle from every at least every five years to at least every ten years.
  • Jordan Lake new development rule delay. At the request of the Greensboro and Burlington, implementation of the new development rule portion of the Jordan Lake Rules moves (1) from August 2012 to August 10, 2014; (2) within three months after approval of a local program by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission; or (3) upon DENR's first renewal of a local government's NPDES stormwater permit, whichever occurs later.
  • Community water system definition. Narrows the definition of "community water system" by defining it as a system that serves at least fifteen connections used by year-round residents. This provision will likely affect areas with seasonal tourism economies.
  • Private drinking water well setbacks. Details a process for granting a variance to setback rules for private drinking water wells. Requires the N.C. Commission for Public Health to adopt verbatim the language set out in the bill when writing the associated rules.
  • Leaking underground storage tank clean-up. Switches the funding source for leaking commercial tanks to the Commercial Leaking Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund (previously paid from the Noncommercial Fund). Applies only if a discharge has not yet occurred but is imminent and poses an environmental hazard if the owner/operator cannot be located, or if a known owner/operator takes no cleanup action within 90 days of being notified about the hazard.
  • New septage pumper truck notification. Requires owners of a septage pumper truck that is newly placed into service to notify DENR within 10 days and make the truck available for inspection by DENR.

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Comment Now on Flexibility of Groundwater Quality Standards

Municipalities have a unique opportunity to provide input on whether the state's groundwater quality standards should include measures to allow flexibility in standard-setting. The public comment period ends July 2.

N.C. groundwater quality standards come as part of a state, not federal, program. The standards exist to protect groundwater as a drinking water supply. Due to inflexibility in state rules, however, the standards are often set much more stringently than federal drinking water standards. The League and other groups have long sought to address the policy inconsistency in the goal of the rules and the resulting over-regulation, given that they exist to protect groundwater as a drinking water supply.

Revise Current Law

Current state regulations require the groundwater quality standard to be set at the lowest of six criteria listed in 15A NCAC 02L .0202(d), one of which is a drinking water-related standard. However, in response to a long debate at the March N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) meeting, the public will have an opportunity to offer proposals to add flexibility in the state rules:

"The EMC seeks other proposals that allow flexibility in implementation of 15A NCAC 02L .0202(d) while maintaining or achieving appropriate water quality and public health standards, recognizing that any such proposal, if acted upon, might constitute a substantial change from the proposed rule amendments described in detail in this public notice, and might require an additional rule-making procedure."

Unusual Request for Comment

This public comment period is unusual in that any proposals submitted pursuant to the notice above would not expressly address the proposed rule. While related, the proposed rule associated with this comment period comes as a result of a petition for rulemaking asking for a less stringent groundwater standard for the chemical 1,1 dichloroethylene. The petition is related to the standard flexibility issue in that it grew out of a lack of flexibility in groundwater standard-setting regulations.

While EMC commissioners on the whole did not express many concerns with the proposed rule, they struggled with the related issue of groundwater standards flexibility. Read the full account of their discussion in the March 2012 edition of EcoLINC.

If you plan to submit comments, please email Erin Wynia to coordinate with the League's own comments.

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N.C. Officials Support Pesticide Amendment to U.S. Farm Bill

As the U.S. Senate prepares to bring S. 3240--The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 -- known as the farm bill -- to a floor vote, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Dee Freeman has offered the state's support of an environment-related amendment to the $969 billion bill.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), would undo a 2009 court decision (summary here) requiring double-permitting of pesticide spraying over water. It would also direct a one-year study of the issue by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar amendment, without the one-year study, last year.

Pesticide use has long been regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and environmental groups won a victory in the 2009 court case directing EPA and states to further permit pesticide spraying over waters under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). While DENR currently runs a CWA permitting program, Freeman stated support for returning to permitting only under FIFRA.

"Our judgment -- based on extensive experience administering Clean Water Act regulations in North Carolina -- has always been that the FIFRA review and approval of pesticides provides adequate protection to water quality and human health, since that review specifically contemplates the environmental effects on water resources," Freeman wrote in a letter Wednesday.

N.C. Amendment is One of Many

The Hagan-Crapo amendment is one of hundreds of proposed amendments to the farm bill, which expires this year on September 30. Such amendments are typical in the farm bill process, and historically, many have targeted environmental laws affecting the agriculture industry. As the primary agricultural and food policy federal law, the bill governs everything from commodity programs to trade to conservation and agricultural research activities and lasts for five years. (Read further background on the farm bill.)

Senators have also offered farm bill amendments to address pending EPA rules and guidance. The anticipated national post-construction stormwater rulemaking would not proceed until EPA completed a study of the issue under one amendment. Several other amendments offer competing visions of how to address EPA's anticipated guidance to clarify the scope of federal jurisdiction in waters.

Other amendments seek to influence EPA's regulatory activities over agricultural operations. One amendment would create an office of Chief Agriculture Counsel to advise EPA on the effects of its activities on the agricultural sector. Another would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to recommend up to three persons for seats on EPA's Science Advisory Board.

Senate leaders are working to narrow over 250 amendments to a list of 40 that they intend to bring up for a floor vote. They have stated a preference to limit amendments only to those germane to the farm bill. Debate could begin this week, though the U.S. House of Representatives would still need to consider any bill as well.

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Regulatory Briefs

If you must submit a Stage 2 Disinfection By-Products Implementation Plan later this year -- the next deadline of July 1 is for systems serving 50,000-99,999 people -- look to a guidance document offered by DWR...Citing mistaken facts, the U.S. Solicitor General has urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to take up a case centered on the Los Angeles MS4 system's obligation to control for pollutants that did not originate in that stormwater system; the Court could decide to take the case by Thursday...Dan Mikkelson, Engineering & Development Services Director for Salisbury, has been named a 2012 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year by the American Public Works Association in recognition of his career achievements...Public water supply systems applying to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund must follow the steps in a new, expanded checklist...According to this announcement, DWQ will accept comments on whether to offer stormwater credit for permeable pavement BMPs until August 1...EPA has released its integrated stormwater/wastewater permitting framework, allowing strained systems to prioritize funding of water quality infrastructure projects.
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NCLM and State Government Environmental Meetings & Events