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Groups file comment on groundwater regulation

Comments address whether NPDES permit needed for point-source pollutants.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), together with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Assn. and other members of the Ag Nutrient Policy Council, recently submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on the regulation of groundwater. Specifically, the comments were on EPA's Interpretive Statement addressing whether the Clean Water Act's (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program applies to releases of pollutants from point sources to groundwater.

"We strongly support EPA's conclusion that 'the act is best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage and liability under Section 301 of the CWA, regardless of a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and a jurisdictional surface water,'" according to the joint comments.

"We, therefore, urge EPA to follow through on its stated intent to conduct a rule-making in the near future that codifies the agency's current position on the proper scope of CWA regulation: that Congress excluded all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage and liability under Section 301 of the CWA, regardless of whether there is a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and 'waters of the United States,'" the comments noted. 

In related news, NPPC led several trade organizations in filing a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court in May on a case supporting petitioner the county of Maui (County of Maui vs. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al.) involving regulating groundwater under CWA.

The case involves whether CWA requires a permit whenever pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a non-point source such as groundwater. “Should the court uphold the Ninth Circuit's erroneous expansion of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Water Act's long-established agricultural stormwater exemption would be at risk,” NPPC said.

“The loss of that exemption would potentially require pork producers and other farmers to obtain federal permits to apply manure and other fertilizers, pesticides and conduct other routine farm activities. It would significantly increase risk of agency enforcement and citizen suits for millions of agricultural enterprises across the country,” NPPC added.

TAGS: Policy
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