Vermont's Clean Water Initiative

This was perhaps the best and most concise presentation of the Clean Water Initiative that I have heard. The presentation explains the reasons for and history of the EPA's actions as well as Vermont's response and the consequences of not doing what is required.

The overriding concern is how the initiative will continue to be funded. One way or another the investments in clean water have to be made. It's a question of who pays how much and for what. The burden will fall on the federal government, the state government, municipalities, businesses and individuals. Finding the most efficient and fair way to fund the continuation of the work is a daunting task that needs immediate attention

Here's a link to a PDF of the original presentation.

History

  • 1972 Congress and President Nixon pass the Clean Water Act (CWA) - This created lots of required permits when waterways are involved.
  • 1974 EPA says Vermont can have permitting authority for the state, though EPA has over site.

CWA Requirements

  • State must establish standards
  • State must report every two years on water quality of Vermont's waterways:
    • 7,100 miles of rivers and streams
    • 230,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds
    • 300,000 acres of wetlands
  • Every three years the state must determine which waters do not comply.
  • Must develop a plan for impaired waters.

TMDL

Total Maximum Daily Load - is a target or goal that, when reached, should result in the cleanup of the water so that it meets the State water quality standards and is no longer impaired. It is the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a water so that the water will meet and continue to meet water quality standards.

Every watershed in Vermont has impaired waters and there are many TMDLs for the state.

The state must also develop an Implementation Plan for the TMDL in order to fix the problem. The TMDL and the plan must be approved by the EPA

Lake Champlain's TMDL

Funds for Vermont's Clean Water initiative are spent throughout the state, not just around Lake Champlain. But one-half of state land mass drains into the lake so the Lake Champlain TMDL is particularly important.

  • 2002 - EPA approved the Lake Champlain TMDL developed by the state.
  • 2010 - The Conservation Law Fund petitioned the EPA asserting that Vermont was not meeting the minimum requirement for TMDL approval.
  • 2011 - The EPA agreed and allowed Vermont to put together a new implementation plan that would fix the problems identified by the CLF.
  • 2015 - Vermont legislature passes and the governor signs Act 64, Vermont's Clean Water Act in order to fulfill the state's TMDL obligations throughout the state and to maintain the state's water quality standards.
  • 2016 - With Act 64 in place the EPA approves the new Lake Champlain Phosphorous TMDL.

Funding the Clean Water Initiative

The Lake Champlain TMDL describes the need for long-term revenue sources for the cleanup of Vermont's waters. Act 64 passed that off to the State Treasurer and required her to make recommendations.

  • 2017 - State Treasurer issues Clean Water Report
    • Annual Cost = $120 million
    • Annual Revenues = $52 million
    • $67.7 million gap that needs to be filled by Fed, State, Municipal, Business and/or Individual sources.
    • Report recommends the state provide $25 million in ADDITIONAL funding for that gap
    • Legislature response to report
      • Capital money: $25 million over two years
      • Property Transfer Surcharge Tax: $5 (?) million into Clean Water Fund
    • 2017 Act 73 Working Group on Clean Water Funding established to recommend a long-term source
      • Recommends
        • No new sources right away
        • Use $15 million a year of capital funds for each year of two-year budget (FY20 - 21)
          • After that $10 million a year then $12 million a year of Capital Funds
        • Eventually maybe a run-off fee, but problematic.
    • 2018 - Unclaimed bottle deposits go into Clean Water Fund: $1.5 to $2 million
    • 2018 - EPA Says OK but with a 'provisional pass.' They are still not happy with the funding.

Consequences of EPA disapproval

If Vermont can't find the means to implement the TMDL, then the EPA will. That means EPA officials making decisions on fees, fines, facility upgrades, permitting etc.

And there is the environmental and economic impact of our deteriorating waterways.

State waters support annual spending of $2.5 billion in the state.