Mass. agency should lead this vital program
The editorial “EPA, not Mass., should regulate water pollution” argues that Massachusetts should not assume responsibility of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES. However, the editorial fails to address several key points.
For decades, 46 other states have successfully implemented this program. The aims of a Massachusetts program are better environmental outcomes for the Commonwealth and timelier permitting for permittees. To achieve these goals, the Baker-Polito administration’s proposal includes a significant investment in improved water monitoring, analysis, and technical assistance. These investments provide regulators with the science needed to protect and improve Commonwealth water quality in permitting decisions.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also has a decades-long history of effectively administering other federal environmental programs for hazardous wastes, air quality, and drinking water. Assumption of the NPDES program would be a transparent, collaborative, and multiyear process culminating in a state-led program still under the oversight of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Within federal requirements, a NPDES program implemented by the DEP would lead to improved water quality and ensure a more holistic approach to Massachusetts’ watershed management.
It is time for the Commonwealth to join the rest of the country and lead this vital program.
EPA would be only too happy to dump its mission onto the states
Your Nov. 13 editorial “EPA, not Mass., should regulate water pollution” is absolutely on target. budgetary battles at the state level have often resulted in reduction of staff on the front lines. Adding responsibilities to the already leaner staff at the state Department of Environmental Protection will not help.
We should also be cognizant of the fact that the current Agency is under assault. People who are running the EPA now have no sense of history as it relates to the environmental movements of the 1960s and ’70s. Perhaps they have forgotten the gross pollution of our rivers and streams.
Due to the aggressive efforts started in the ’70s, the EPA, in strong partnership with the states, has accomplished a lot in cleaning up pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. These efforts have contributed substantially to the expansion of the economy and the health and well-being of Americans.
In the 1980s, as a Massachusetts state official, I had the privilege of working with the regional and national EPA in setting drinking water standards. At that time, the EPA had a robust collaborative relationship with the states – albeit, quite contentious at times. But we stayed on course in developing protections of our water supplies.
We should not let the EPA off the hook. The current agency’s top administration would like nothing better than to dump its primary responsibility for enforcement of environmental laws onto the states. There may be a middle ground, but that must be thought through carefully. Our environmental gains are too precious to be squandered so easily.
The writer, an associate professor of construction management at Wentworth Institute of Technology, was director of the water supply division of what was then the Department of Environmental Quality Engineering from 1980 to 1986.
In face of lags under federal oversight, state should be given authority
The Globe’s editorial board got it wrong when it opined that the state Department of Environmental Protection should not be delegated authority to run the federal Clean Water Act program in Massachusetts.
When he was governor, Deval Patrick filed legislation to authorize the state agency to pursue delegation, and provided funding to do so. Despite wide support, that legislation bogged down in the Legislature. Governor Baker refiled legislation, which recently received a legislative hearing.
With the federal Environmental Protection Agency in charge, there is a years-long backlog for issuing and renewing permits. The EPA missed the deadline for reissuing the municipal stormwater permits by a total of 13 years. Environmental advocacy groups have filed numerous lawsuits against the EPA challenging its administration of the program in Massachusetts (even as they oppose delegation to the state agency).
Delegating this authority to the state would provide more local control over critical watershed planning and protection decisions. The state would be able to integrate wastewater, stormwater, and other water resource programs in ways that the EPA cannot.
The EPA must approve the state agency’s plan for administering the Clean Water Act, and would retain authority to take direct enforcement action against violators if the state failed to do so. In addition, the EPA could revoke the delegation if it found that the state was not adequately administering the program, and the public could petition for such a revocation.
The writer is an environmental attorney.
Baker needs to invest in enforcing our clean water laws
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection does not have the resources to keep our water clean. The agency’s budget has been slashed over the past decade. Until the governor dedicates sufficient funding to hire dozens of new agency staff to implement the Clean Water Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency should continue to help the state enforce our clean water laws. Massachusetts citizens should be confident that our rivers and streams will be clean and our drinking water safe. Under Governor Baker’s proposal, we will lose that confidence.
Bill aims for better collaboration among US, state, local partners
Your editorial highlights the challenges in balancing water quality programs between the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection. Regardless of who is in charge, the Commonwealth faces challenges meeting water quality goals under the federal Clean Water Act. I have filed legislation to improve water quality and pollution control programs, which would require the Commonwealth to conduct an evaluation and gap analysis of water quality programs, both federal and state. The report would provide a road map to meeting goals, sustainable funding, and better collaboration among federal, state, and local partners.
The writer represents the 24th Middlesex District, including Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge.