By Gary Thomas
On May 31, 2012, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) held a panel discussion to mark the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) 40th anniversary.
They are raising questions on whether the Act has to be amended or change the way EPA implements it for continued progress for clean water.
Joy Cooper, the Hallandale Beach, FL Mayor and Chair of the USCM Environment Committee, Michael Bissonnette, the Chicopee, MA Mayor and Vice-Chair, Ron Littlefield, the Chattanooga, TN Mayor, Jim Suttle, the Omaha, NE Mayor and Dave Berger, the Lima, OH Mayor took part in the discussion.
Cities are facing increased long-term debt, lower municipal funds and the burden of unfunded water mandates. Rate hikes are affecting the taxpayers. In October 2011, the EPA had announced a new Integrated Planning and Permitting Policy (IP3) for storm water and sewer overflow management. But the way of implementation of the Clean Water Act that calls for higher investments to ensure compliance does not seem to consider the limited funds.
Wastewater infrastructure and provision of sufficient and safe water has been a significant expenditure for cities. Aging infrastructure, population growth and inflation are increasing the required investment. The EPA is advancing new regulations that are increasing a city’s responsibilities, while providing marginal benefits.
The mayors are calling for amendments to the Clean Water Act that includes a congressional cap on water compliance costs, consideration of incentives for smart investments, flexibility, and consideration of affordability to match compliance. Further, EPA accountability should be required for making an account of the benefits and for identifying the cost impact of wastewater and water mandates.
Further, the EPA should change its regulatory approach and act as partners instead of prosecutors and the initiatives for Clean Water must be measured based on results, the mayors said.