EPA to Develop Action Plan for Clean Water Act Enforcement Program

September 8, 2009
Client Alert Newsletter September 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is continuing to focus attention on enforcing the Clean Water Act ("CWA”) on several fronts. On July 2, 2009, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a memorandum to EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance directing her to work with the Office of Water, the EPA Regional Offices, and the states to (1) develop an action plan to strengthen the performance of the CWA enforcement program, enhance public transparency regarding that performance, and transform EPA’s information systems for water quality and compliance information, and (2) report back to the Administrator with her recommendations within 90 days. These steps are necessary, the Administrator notes in her memorandum, because available data shows that non-compliance with CWA permitting requirements is unacceptably high and the level of enforcement activity is unacceptably low in many parts of the country. As part of this effort, the Assistant Administrator started a public discussion forum on EPA’s website that was open until August 28, 2009. The ideas submitted in the forum will be considered in the development of recommendations about the direction of EPA's water enforcement program.

In addition, earlier this spring the Obama administration sent letters to key congressional leaders regarding its support for the enactment of legislation to amend the CWA and broaden the statute's protection of the nation’s waters, including wetlands. Such legislation will likely be introduced this year.