THE CLEAN WATER POLICY PROGRAM
TCWN’s Policy Program seeks to address issues related to the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act at all levels of government – federal, state, and local. TCWN is utilizing a variety of strategies to educate the public and decision-makers about threats to clean water protections and to advance strategies which will further the Clean Water Act’s goal of protecting and restoring the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of our state’s waters.
The following policy areas have been identified as priorities for our efforts. In order of priority, they are...
The Federal Clean Water Act gives third parties the right to appeal NPDES permits. The State of Tennessee’ Water Quality Control Act does not give third parties the same rights to appeal permits as permit applicants. TCWN is leading a campaign to remedy the illegal provision in the state’s Water Quality Control Act that prevents third parties from challenging permit decisions.
Point source dischargers continue to cause significant degradation to Tennessee’s waters, chronically and often egregiously violating their water pollution permits. In many cases, enforcement actions by the state are either very weak or nonexistent. Opportunities for citizen enforcement actions are often limited by state agencies, with affected citizens being denied access to the courts and meaningful opportunity to participate at significant stages of the administrative decision-making process. TCWN seeks to remove these hurdles to public involvement and ensure that the State adheres to the provisions set forth in federal laws and regulations.
The State of Tennessee is consistently deficient in its attempts to notify the public of important permitting and enforcement actions. Methods used to notify the public are not consistent with guidelines set forth in state and federal laws and regulations. TCWN seeks to reform the State’s process for public notification and ensure that these requirements are fully met.
Federal threats to Clean Water Act protections:
The Bush Administration has made inroads to gutting the protections provided by the Clean Water Act. Regardless of administration, TCWN will track issues occurring at the national level and educate other organizations, decision-makers, and the public about threats to Clean Water Act protections. We will partner with national organizations to influence elected officials on these issues and to provide opportunities for citizens to take action.
Water Quality Standards:
Every three years the State of Tennessee revisits its Water Quality Standards (Triennial Review). This review provides an opportunity to influence the decisions made on water quality standards for the next three years. TCWN plays a leadership role in the review and monitoring the State’s new procedures and rules and encourages citizen involvement in the public process.
Goal: To continually strengthen the State’s Water Quality Standards.
Key issues over the next five years:
- track implementation of the State’s new antidegradation procedures
- clarify how the State defines Tier II waters in Tennessee
- institute a parameter-by-parameter approach for implementation of antidegradation rules, rather than a waterbody approach
- subject permit renewal to the full antidegradation process (no “grandfathering” of existing discharges)
- designate additional Tier III waters
- ensure proper management of Tier III waters no degradation
- obtain a favorable definition of “degradation”
Water Quality Criteria:
- Dissolved oxygen – prevent a proposed lowering of the standard in select ecoregions
- Nutrients – establish numeric criteria for streams and reservoirs/lakes
- Sediment – establish numeric criteria to address the most significant source of pollution in Tennessee’s waters
- establish a scientific advisory committee, consisting of federal and state agency representatives, independent scientists, academic institutions, and conservation interests, to evaluate and continually improve water quality criteria
Outcome: A triennial review that has a robust public process and moves the State forward in water quality protection.
The State of Tennessee is required to put all waterbodies that do not meet water quality standards on a list of ‘Impaired Waterbodies’ also known as the 303(d) list every two years.
Goal: To highlight issues associated with the State’s process for developing the list.
- To encourage the use of data from other agencies, universities, and citizen groups in the decision-making process
- To create a priority ranking for TMDL development
- To include “threatened” waterbodies; and To created required criteria for de-listing.
Outcome: A comprehensive list of impaired waterbodies that reflects current conditions and provides remedies for impairments.
TMDLs are required by the Clean Water Act to be developed by each state for each waterbody that appears on the State’s 303(d) list. Many inadequacies exist in the development of these plans, particularly with respect to on-the-ground implementation.
Goal: Make the TMDL program a viable program.
- Review and comment on those TMDLs with major policy implications
- Support on-the-ground implementation of TMDLs
- Highlight overall program problems
- Track proposed changes to TMDL regulations at the national level.
Outcome: A TMDL program that does not work at cross-purposes with the Clean Water Act.