January 17, 2003

Public Interest Comment on the Withdrawal of TMDL Water Quality Plans

  • Susan Dudley

    Director, George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
Key materials
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Rulemaking:

Withdrawal of Revisions to the Water Quality Planning and Management Regulation and Revisions to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program in Support of Revisions to the Water Quality Planning and Management Regulation

Stated Purpose:

EPA believes that significant changes would need to be made to the July 2000 rule before it could serve as the blueprint for an efficient and effective TMDL Program.

Summary of RSP Comment:

In previous public interest comments to EPA on its water quality planning and management proposals (TMDL) and economic impact analyses, RSP analysts observed that a watershed approach to meeting water quality goals is more conducive to a focus on outcomes, rather than inputs, which has dominated water quality management in the past. However, they found that EPA's prescriptive, procedural rule was likely to undermine the benefits of a watershed approach.

Thus, EPA is correct in recognizing that "significant changes would need to be made to the July 2000 rule before it could serve as the blueprint for an efficient and effective TMDL Program." Its withdrawal opens the door for achieving the goals of the TMDL program through a water quality management system based on the rule of law and protection of common law rights. The system must include accountability and responsibility for actions that affect environmental quality. The system must allow for flexibility in the development of regulatory institutions and processes so that regional differences in benefits and costs can be taken into account.