Delegation of NPDES Program

In this space in the August 2016 Newsletter, we heralded Governor Baker and MassDEP’s efforts to secure from EPA delegation to administer the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Proposed legislation was sent to die in study at the end of 2016 legislative season by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. On March 8, 2017, Governor Baker filed An Act to Enable the Commonwealth’s Administration of the Massachusetts Pollutant Discharge Elimination System that will allow MassDEP to administer the NPDES program as in 46 other states. The legislation will make changes to the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act, which are required for MassDEP to apply to EPA. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal includes a $1.4 million “seed” investment to support the NPDES program. The appropriation will increase to $4.7 million in FY 2019. The initial funding will allow MassDEP to hire 12 new staffers to phase-in NPDES program development and conduct water quality analyses.
In addition to this legislation (if passed), MassDEP must demonstrate to EPA it has an effective plan for managing the NPDES program, the Clean Waters Act will meet federal requirements, and a funding plan is in place. EPA personnel and budget cuts proposed by the POTUS support the delegation plan. It is hoped that MassDEP will engage more closely with municipalities and other permittees, and be more flexible and collaborative in an interactive process that will consider what is technically and economically feasible to attain water quality standards. Delegation may also put MassDEP squarely in the litigation crosshairs of environmental groups which are unhappy with the manner or speed with which MassDEP implements the NPDES program

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