Study: States too underfunded to prevent
By Don Thompson
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
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
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
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
"The sorry truth is that the lack of enforcement
by the states is undermining key provisions of the law,"
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
However, California two years ago began requiring penalties
for repeat, serious violators, which other research has
shown has increased compliance.
Read the report at: www.progressiveregulation.org/articles/Enforcement–WP–Oct–200