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EPA considering delegation of Clean Water Act permitting authority to State of Alaska

Release Date: 07/21/2008
Contact Information: Christine Psyk, Associate Director, EPA Office of Water & Watersheds, (206) 553-1906, psyk.christine@epa.gov Michael Lidgard, EPA NPDES Program, (206) 553-1755, lidgard.michael@epa.gov Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203, brown.anthony@epa.gov

(Seattle, Wash. – July 21, 2008) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is evaluating a request from the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) to run the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The NPDES program would give the state environmental regulators the ability to write wastewater discharge permits for local business and industry, as well enforce those permits to insure compliance.

Today, Alaska is counted among a handful of states that do not currently possess water quality permitting authority for local waters. Forty-five other states have already received the okay from EPA to run the program.

According to Elin Miller, EPA Regional Administrator in Seattle, this would give the responsibility for water quality protection to the “front line” state managers and staff, with EPA retaining its federal monitoring and oversite role.

“We continue to work closely with ADEC as we move forward with this important delegation proposal,” said EPA’s Miller.

“With the protection of Alaska’s pristine waters in the balance, it’s critical that we build appropriate capacity in Alaska to implement a strong and defensible NPDES Program,” said EPA’s Miller. “A key part of this deal is Alaska’s solid financial commitment to build a strong, robust water quality permitting program that protects both present and future generations of Alaskans.”

If EPA grants Alaska the authority to implement the program, ADEC will write and issue NPDES permits and conduct compliance and enforcement for permits. Permits issued by EPA will continue to be in force until the State starts issuing permits.

Upon approval, Alaska will phase in implementation of the NPDES Program over three years. EPA will continue to write permits for those facilities that Alaska does not take on during this period. Alaska plans to phase-in the permit workload as follows:

  • Phase I: Domestic Wastewater Discharges, Timber Harvesting, Seafood Processing
  • (Upon delegation)
  • Phase II: Federal Facilities, Stormwater Program, Pre-Treatment Program (One year after delegation)
  • Phase III: Mining (Two years after delegation)
  • Phase IV: Oil and Gas, cooling water, and all other remaining facilities (Three years after delegation)

According to Larry Hartig, Commissioner of ADEC, securing NPDES authority has been a long-sought goal of the Department.

“When Alaska became a state fifty years ago it was with the expectation and promise we would be full partners with the other states,” said ADEC's Hartig.

“We should not be dependent on federal agencies thousands of miles away to run programs and make decisions that could and should be made by the state,” said ADEC's Hartig. “Achieving NPDES primacy and implementing a strong program accountable to all Alaskans uphold this promise. We appreciate EPA's efforts in helping us reach this important goal.”

EPA’s role after Alaska’s program is authorized:
  • EPA will have oversight of State’s program;
  • Conduct periodic program reviews;
  • Discretion to review any permit;
  • Authority to object to permits that are not protective and/or inconsistent with CWA requirements;
  • Federalize a State permit if the State does not adequately address EPA’s objections(s);
  • EPA retains enforcement authority over all dischargers; and
  • EPA can withdraw Alaska’s NPDES authorization if the State is not meeting CWA requirements.

EPA issued a notice in the Federal Register and Alaska newspapers on June 18, 2008, informing the public of the 60-day public comment period on Alaska’s application.

Public comment period began on June 18, 2008 and ends August 18, 2008. Public meetings will be held on the following dates and locations:
  • July 21, 2008: Regency Fairbanks Hotel, 85 10th Avenue, Fairbanks, AK
  • July 22, 2008: Centennial Hall, 101 Egan Drive, Juneau, AK
  • July 23, 2008: Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 239 W. 4th Ave., Anchorage, AK

At each public meeting there will be an NPDES Technical/Educational Public Workshop (EPA and ADEC will both participate) from 4-6 p.m.; followed by the Public Hearing, starting at 7 p.m. and ends when all testimony is heard or until 10 p.m., whichever is earlier.

The NPDES permit program, a key part of the federal Clean Water Act, controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States.

For more information about EPA’s NPDES discharge program, visit:
http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/index.cfm

For more information about Alaska’s NPDES Program, visit EPA’s Region 10 NPDES website: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/NPDES+Permits/Permits+Homepage

Or visit ADEC’s website to view Alaska’s NPDES Authorization Application and other related documents: http://www.dec.state.ak.us/water/npdes/index.htm

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