D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe
(R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee,
today issued the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) new rule that will raise Clean Water Act fees.
"I'm very disappointed in Assistant
Administrator Grumble's decision to defy Congressional wishes by unilaterally
creating a program aimed to raise Clean Water Act fees,"
Senator Inhofe said. "I,
along with several of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, have asked that
EPA work with Congress to establish any new National Pollution Discharge
Elimination Permit fee or incentive program and they simply have ignored our
request. States should continue to have the ability to make their own financial
decisions without the fear that future federal funding will be withheld. It is
Congress's job to make tax decisions, not the federal bureaucracy."
26, 2007, Senator Inhofe, along with Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Ron
Wyden (D-OR), sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, requesting
"that the EPA reconsider promulgating a rule proposing changes in the manner
that Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 106 funding is allocated to the states.”
This rule, the Senators write, “would fundamentally alter the way that Section
106 grants flow to the states and penalize those that fail to fund at least 75%
of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit programs
through user fees."
the full text of the letter:
writing to request that the EPA reconsider promulgating a rule proposing changes
in the manner that Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 106 funding is allocated to the
states (72 Federal Register 293, January 4, 2007). This rule would
fundamentally alter the way that Section 106 grants flow to the states and
penalize those that fail to fund at least 75% of their National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit programs through user fees.
CWA is a federal mandate, states are primarily responsible for permitting,
monitoring and enforcing their water quality management programs. Today, each
state's NPDES program receives a portion of its funding from CWA Section 106
grants, based on the extent of the water quality problems in each state. States
supplement EPA's 106 grants to meet their overall administrative funding needs
with user fees and other discretionary funding.
EPA's authority to execute the proposed change. The Clean Water Act does not
require the use of fees to fund state NPDES programs. While states may charge
fees to pay for the cost of administering their programs, the authority to
require such fees is under the jurisdiction of Congress, not EPA. In addition,
EPA does not unilaterally have the authority to establish a national policy
encouraging states to levy user fees on or tax municipal governments. Nor does
EPA have the authority to divert program funds for a purpose - such as creating
a set-aside for the sole purpose of promoting user fees --- that is not
authorized by the Act.
proposed rule also strongly suggests that EPA plans to discontinue funding for
state NPDES programs in the future. The proposed rule diverts funding above FY
2006 levels to a set-aside account. States could compete for a share of this
set-aside only if more than 75% of their program costs are funded through permit
fees. To receive the maximum incentive, states must fund 100% of their program
costs through permit fees. It appears that the point of the incentive program
is to wean states from federal funding for their NPDES programs. We recognize
that the federal government cannot bear the entire burden of the NPDES permit
program; however, it is not appropriate to ask the states to fully fund a
federally-mandated program through a single "acceptable" mechanism - user
stakeholders have approached us with their concerns about EPA's proposed rule.
Although the rule is currently in a public comment period, it is our
understanding that they contacted the Agency earlier in the process to explain
the undue burden it would impose on businesses and communities faced with higher
user fees. EPA's proposal makes it clear that these concerns were not taken
therefore, respectfully request that EPA reconsider continued work on the
proposed rule. If the Agency seeks to change the manner in which Clean Water
Act programs are funded, then EPA has the burden of submitting a legislative
proposal to Congress for its review and consideration.