Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Republicans On House Environmental Committee Vote To Recommend IRRC Disapprove Triennial Water Quality Standards/ Stream Designation Regulation

On January 22, Republicans on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee voted to send a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission recommending they disapprove the final EQB Triennial Water Quality Standards/ Stream Redesignation Regulation.
The IRRC is scheduled to meet January 31 to review and approve or disapprove this final regulation.  The IRRC has received one pubic comment on the regulation from the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition, a business landowner group that has been challenging DEP stream redesignations for several years in the Poconos.
DEP is required to review, revise and update, as needed, at least once every three years, water quality criteria and standards to reflect the latest scientific information and new federal guidelines for criteria development, and other implementation guidance.
The EQB adopted the Triennial regulation for comment in April of 2017 and held four public hearings on the proposal.  It was adopted as a final rule in November, 2019.
Among other issues, the regulation deals with setting standards for ammonia and bacteria, makes changes to stream designations for a variety of streams and providing for exceptions for fishable and swimmable waters.
The letter by Republicans on the Committee says DEP did not identify the types and numbers of entities affected by the regulation. 
The letter says this response is “completely unacceptable” and “violates the law.”
DEP said “All persons, groups, or entities with proposed or existing point source discharges containing the pollutants that are included in this final rulemaking into surface waters of the Commonwealth must comply with the regulation.” 
[Put another way, DEP cannot reasonably anticipate which entities might apply for permits in the decades after a stream is reclassified.]  (Questions 15-19, Regulatory Analysis Form.)
DEP also said it was not possible for them to identify the costs to these entities because site-specific considerations must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis because it depends on the size, flow volume and chemical, biological and physical properties of both the receiving water and effluent discharges. (Questions 15-19, Regulatory Analysis Form.)
The Committee letter also refers to information from a January 15 meeting the Committee held at the request of the American Forest and Paper Association and the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition, a group of business landowners. The Committee did not hear from DEP at the meeting.
It notes comments by the American Forest and Paper Association the human health water quality criteria used to set the water quality standards in the regulation “do not reflect the waters and citizens of the Commonwealth.”
“The HHWQC developed by the EPA rely on overly conservative assumptions, many of which are patently absurd as indicators of behaviors of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians.  Adopting these HHWQC will generate negligible health benefits, while the use of these criteria may create stringent permit limits and higher compliance costs, which will directly harm our business community.”
The letter also notes the final regulation does not include a recommendation made by the Monroe County business group to give appropriate notice to landowners and municipalities of DEP’s stream classification activities.
“DEP has been making changes to stream classifications without consulting with or giving any opportunity to participate to local individuals who know the most about their streams.”
In its comments to the Committee on January 15, the Monroe County business group pointed to a specific project to develop a $250 million Pocono Springs Village a retail-entertainment destination in Monroe County where the classification of the stream resulted in sending wastewater from the project to a municipality several miles away, instead of discharging wastewater to an exceptional value Swiftwater Creek.
Duncan noted the wastewater issue did not stop the project from being being developed, but it might for others in the region.
[In the case of Swiftwater Creek in Monroe County, the Brodhead Creek Watershed Association submitted a petition to redesignate the stream in 2007 and the Environmental Quality Board accepted the petition for study on October 16, 2007.
[DEP conducted an aquatic life use and stream survey work on the creek May 1-2, 2008.
[The townships affected by the proposed designation were notified on May 14, 2010.  The formal solicitation for technical information notice about the proposed redesignation was published on May 12, 2012 by DEP.   
[The final draft designation report was made available for public comment on September 4, 2015.  Click Here for a copy of DEP’s Swiftwater Creek Stream Evaluation Report published in 2016.]
A copy of the regulation, supporting documents and DEP’s presentation to the EQB can be found on the Environmental Quality Board 2019 meetings webpage for November.
One Bill Approved
The Committee also voted to report out House Bill 1779 (Wentling-R-Erie) exempting privately constructed shoreline stabilization groin structures from submerged land lease fees covering Commonwealth-owned land.
Click Here to watch a video of the Committee meeting [when posted].
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:
Related Article:
[Posted: January 22, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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