EPA loss could be win for Virginia

Posted: March 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency not to appeal a federal court ruling regarding stormwater regulation likely won’t have a significant impact on Frederick County.

However, the county — which is working to develop a stormwater ordinance to comply with federally mandated regulations pertaining to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup — could see some effect from the decision, according to Joe Wilder, deputy director of public works for Frederick County.

On Jan. 3, a federal judge ruled that the EPA overreached its authority by trying to regulate stormwater the same way it would regulate standard pollutants, according to The Washington Post.

While the EPA primarily was targeting a watershed in Fairfax County to try and reduce sediment buildup in the Bay, the governor’s office estimated that the judge’s ruling in the lawsuit — jointly filed by the state and Fairfax County — could save Virginia as much as $300 million.

“This ruling won’t affect the development of a [Frederick County] stormwater ordinance,” Wilder said. “It will affect issues as the state deals with TMDLs and stream issues. It will make things a little easier to manage as water quality issues arise in the future.”

According to the EPA, a total maximum daily load (TMDL) “is essentially a ‘pollution diet’ that identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant the waterway can receive and still meet water quality standards.”

“While it was already a major victory for Virginians when federal judge Liam O’Grady ruled that the EPA had exceeded its statutory authority by imposing restrictions on the flow of storm water into Fairfax County’s Accotink Creek, [the] news that the EPA won’t subject Virginia taxpayers to additional unneeded efforts to combat this federal regulatory overreach is an additional win for Virginia taxpayers, and further evidence of the strength of the Commonwealth’s position,” stated Gov. Bob McDonnell in a news release on March 4.

“The historic ruling allows the EPA to regulate pollutants such as sediment within stormwater under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but not the storm water itself as it had tried to do.”

Frederick County’s Public Works Stormwater Program Subcommittee met for the first time in mid-January and is scheduled to meet later this month.

The county was awarded a $21,000 federal grant — which is administered by the state — in late 2012 to help prepare the program. According to Wilder, the county has until July 1, 2014, to adopt regulations approved by the EPA.

The county’s stormwater ordinance, once finalized and adopted, could be similar to both the regulations that Winchester currently uses and the county’s current erosion and sediment control regulations, Wilder has previously said.

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com