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Great Lakes Article:

Study: States too underfunded to prevent water pollution
By Don Thompson
Associated Press
Published October 11th, 2004

SACRAMENTO – More than 30 years after passage of the federal Clean Water Act, many states lack the money to provide enough regulation, according to a study released Monday.

Budget problems mean California enforces just 23 percent of federal wastewater standards and monitors just 60 percent of storm water regulations, according to Clifford Rechtschaffen, director of San Francisco's Golden Gate University's environmental law program and co-director of its Environmental Law and Justice Clinic.

The majority of the other 16 states he surveyed also had too little money to fully enforce the key federal act, Rechtschaffen said in the study for the Center for Progressive Regulation. The nonprofit group is made up of university professors with experience in health, safety and environmental regulation.

The report comes at a time when environmental groups nationwide are pushing for more enforcement.

Last week, environmental groups in Florida sued the state's Department of Environmental Protection alleging it has done a poor job of enforcing the federal law over the last decade. The federal suit asks that the federal EPA be ordered to control Florida's water pollution instead of leaving it to the state.

Last month, the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the federal EPA and a half-dozen Great Lakes states are failing to enforce storm water runoff regulations, threatening the regions' waterways and wildlife.

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, the EPA delegated enforcement responsibility to the states as they met certain criteria. Forty-five states now fully or partially enforce the law within their boundaries.

Colleen Castille, Florida's environmental secretary, pointed out the federal government has neither the money nor manpower to enforce the law in every state, which is why enforcement was often delegated to states in the first place.

"The sorry truth is that the lack of enforcement by the states is undermining key provisions of the law," Rechtschaffen said.

He focused his survey on enforcement of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, under which states are supposed to issue permits to polluters. States were asked to list how much money and staff they had for enforcing the permit system, and how much they would need to do the job properly.

Seventeen states responded: Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Eleven said they lack enough money. Georgia said it had just 20 percent of what it needed, and Wyoming 29 percent.

California reported its regional water boards were finding it more difficult to reissue permits, inspect polluters and enforce violations, and respond to public complaints.

The five states that said they have enough money – Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Nevada and New Jersey – generally depend more heavily on fees paid by polluters, Rechtschaffen said. He recommended other states follow their lead.

The lack of money means many polluters are operating under old and inadequate permits, he found. States often then fail to inspect the sites or punish excess discharges, and fines that are levied are often too small to encourage compliance.

However, California two years ago began requiring penalties for repeat, serious violators, which other research has shown has increased compliance.

Read the report at:–WP–Oct–200 4.pdf





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