The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is encouraged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent Memorandum committing to a dialogue with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, NACWA, and other key stakeholders on the financial capability of communities to meet their Clean Water Act (CWA) obligations.
EPA’s memorandum, released Jan. 18, comes at a time when communities across the United States are struggling to meet their CWA obligations due to pressing economic issues. NACWA and the Conference of Mayors have been outspoken critics of EPA’s approach to assessing financial capability and, more broadly, to the agency’s implementation and enforcement methods. This approach is putting unprecedented costs on communities and ratepayers, sometimes without regard to other less expensive alternative approaches that may be more effective.
”EPA’s commitment to an ongoing dialogue is an important step forward,” said Ken Kirk, executive director for NACWA. “It is critical, however, that EPA uses this opportunity to gather additional input and address many of the long-standing concerns that NACWA has been raising regarding affordability. NACWA recognizes the critical work of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise awareness of this key issue with EPA.”
EPA’s memo builds on its June 2012 Integrated Planning Framework, which was intended to help communities prioritize and better sequence clean water investments to address some of these concerns. The Framework’s reliance on financial capability considerations, however, underscored the need to update and refine the outdated approaches outlined in EPA’s 1997 guidance for financial capability. Many limitations of EPA’s current financial capability analysis need to be addressed.
EPA also has committed to providing further clarification on key issues, which will help to ensure consistent implementation among EPA regional offices. This guidance is expected to be finalized over the coming months based on input gathered from the ongoing dialogue.
NACWA will continue its legislative efforts on financial capability, including work to help reintroduce and move Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D–OH) Clean Water Affordability Act. NACWA has been an outspoken supporter of this legislation which, among other things, would require EPA to undergo a comprehensive revision of the 1997 financial capability guidance.