Colorado Capitol Report

CACI Water Quality Committee Tackles Two Key Issues

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State Policy News

CACI Water Quality Committee Tackles Two Key Issues

As significant issues around clean water arise at the State and Federal level, CACI’s Water Quality Committee members are being called upon for their attention and expertise.

First, at the State level, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has begun a stakeholder process to modernize the Water Quality Control Division’s (WQCD) Clean Water fee structure.

Second, at the Federal level, the proposed rule of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to redefine the term “waters of the United States” within the Federal Clean Water Act is raising concerns throughout Colorado and across the country.

Because both of these issues have the potential to significantly affect CACI members and the state’s economy, CACI is calling upon its members for feedback.

As the WQCD stakeholder process moves forward, the perspective and real world experience of CACI members with the WQCD Clean Water fee structure will be critical to ensure a business-friendly structure that enables the program to efficiently deliver the services it provides to the regulated community.  For more information on the stakeholder process, contact Carly West, CACI Governmental Relations Representative, at 303.866.9622.

In regard to the “Waters of the U.S.”  proposal, CACI has joined the efforts of the Colorado Waters Advocacy Coalition (CWAC).  CWAC is a statewide coalition of associations that represent diverse sectors of Colorado’s economy and share concerns about the pending rulemaking regarding the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act

CWAC has supported efforts by Colorado’s Congressional Delegation to encourage the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consult with the Delegation to discuss how to best balance the needs of Colorado’s environment with the regulatory stability crucial to Colorado’s continued economic growth.  For more information or to submit comments on the issue, contact Leah Curtsinger, CACI State and Federal Policy Representative, at 303.866.9641.

Here’s more information on both topics:

WQCD Stakeholder Process on Clean Water Program Fees Begins

CDPHE held the first stakeholder meeting to discuss modernizing the Clean Water Program’s fee structure last week.  The stakeholder process stemmed from last year’s SB 134 – Repeal Statutory Water Quality Fee Schedules.

CACI strongly opposed SB 134, based on its dramatic shift away from statutory fee schedules toward fee-setting by rulemaking and voiced additional concerns about the lack of stakeholder engagement prior to the introduction of the bill.  Bill sponsor Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) agreed to allow the bill to be “postponed indefinitely,” which killed the bill.  CACI, along with numerous other affected stakeholders, agreed to participate in discussions of funding for the WQCD.

The first meeting laid out the schedule and process for upcoming meetings.  A proposed meeting schedule was provided, although some changes may be made to avoid conflicts with CACI’s Legislative Candidate Interview Process July 8, 9, 15 and 16 and the Colorado Municipal League Conference June 17-20.  CDPHE also provided a timeline of the fee structure, an overview of the proposed fee categories, and an overview of the Division’s funding.

In establishing ground rules for the stakeholder process, it was determined that there would be a 14-day window for feedback and responses, and that it was acceptable for the response to be that more time was needed for evaluation.  Additionally, the decision-making process will be “consensus plus one,” meaning that the bulk of participants are in agreement.

The proposed categories are meant to be a blueprint and are not set in stone.  The timeline is more rigid: the intent is to produce legislation for the 2015 legislative session because the current structure is an identified problem for the WQCD.  Modernization is a priority for the WQCD because it believes that the fee current structure does not reflect changes to the Colorado economy, and it would like to have the structure reflect the reality of the 21st Century.

Martha Rudolph, CDPHE Director of Environmental Programs, described that, in the current structure, fees and practices do not align with permitted functions and the types of services needed from the Division, and the WQCD sees opportunities to focus the dialogue on the demands for services that it provides.

CACI will be participating directly in the stakeholder process.  For more information or to communicate comments and suggestions about the process or fee structure, contact Carly West.

EPA’s Proposed “Waters of the U.S.” Rule  Causes Widespread Concern

On March 25th, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule to redefine the term “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) within the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

Although the announcement seemed innocuous enough, businesses large and small, as well as individual private citizens should be very concerned because the proposed definition would greatly expand EPA’s authority by using a standard implying all water is connected and therefore all water and drains should be Federally regulated.

Currently, Federal jurisdiction defines “waters of the U.S.” as only “navigable waters” where it is illegal to discharge pollutants, dredged or fill material into navigable waters.

In recent years however, the EPA and Corps have attempted to expand WOTUS definitions.  The U.S. Supreme Court has twice now stated that not all water bodies are subject to Federal Clean Water Act regulations.  The proposed new EPA definition goes against these rulings.

In recent years however, the EPA and Corps have attempted to expand WOTUS definitions.  The U.S. Supreme Court has twice now stated that not all water bodies are subject to Federal Clean Water Act regulations, as the Senate Steering Committee has outlined in its April letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy.  The proposed new EPA definition goes against these Supreme Court rulings.

A change this drastic to the CWA would potentially limit land use and require permitting for land deemed within EPA’s jurisdiction.  Essentially, the proposed definition means all tributaries, wetlands, stock ponds, drainage ditches and run-off water would now be considered connected by the proposed rule, either directly or by seasonal flooding and/or migratory wildlife.

Being deemed “connected” would require EPA regulation and permits.  Because the deadline for public comment was scheduled to close in late July at the height of farming, ranching and construction seasons, many farm business groups called for an extension of the comment period from 90 days to the full 180 days allowed by law.  On Tuesday, the EPA announced an extension of the comment period for an additional 91 days to October 20th.

According to Congressional sources, here are the major problems with the EPA proposal:

Flawed Process:

  • The proposed rule is based on a scientific report, but the scientists were not told of current regulatory confines of EPA jurisdiction and were instead encouraged to define water as either “connected” or “not connected” to bodies of water.
  •  This “connectivity” report is currently undergoing a peer review by the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, but it hasn’t been properly “vetted” or had a peer review completed as is required by EPA guidelines and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB).
  • Meaningful outreach to small businesses was not done as is required by the Federal Small Business and Regulatory Flexibility Act.  The cost-benefits of this proposal and/or regulatory alternatives were not considered as required by Executive Order 12866.
  • For the first time ever, roadside, irrigation and storm-water ditches would be regulated, and “interstate wetlands” and “adjacent waters” would be added to the definition of WOTUS.  The consequences of these changes have not yet been evaluated, however, and “other waters” could be added on a case-by-case basis if the EPA finds they have a “significant nexus” or proximity to traditional navigable waters.

Real World Implications:

  •  This proposal is unique in that it won’t affect just small businesses and corporations, it would allow the EPA to target individuals and property uses.
  • If the EPA deems a portion of a business or private property to be “jurisdictional,” that land couldn’t be used until a permit is obtained, which could potentially stop economic growth and development while permitting may be too cost prohibitive to proceed.
  • Fines for non-compliance and violations would be as much as $37,500 per day and, if the proposed rules are approved, it is expected environmental activists in particular will use the expanded rule to sue businesses in Federal court and to the detriment of our economy.

For more information on the proposal or to submit comments, contact Leah Curtsinger.

News Media Coverage

Below is recent news-media coverage of business, political, policy and governmental issues of interest to CACI:

Colorado Municipal League attorney weighs in on Hickenlooper’s try at giving local governments more oversight of oil and gas,” by Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, June 13th.

Deal or no deal?  Time’s running out,” by Peter Marcus, The Colorado Statesman, June 13th.

Boulder County could be liable for $1 billion in petro ‘takings,’” by Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, June 12th.

Colorado pro-drilling committee secures nearly $8 million in television ad time,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, June 11th.

Campaign-finance complaint filed against two groups backed by U.S. Rep. Polis,” by Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, June 10th.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association rejects latest Hickenlooper compromise on local control issue,” by Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, June 10th.

Hickenlooper pushes oil and gas compromise bill, says ‘both sides are furious,’” by Kurtis Lee and Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, June 10th.

Oil and gas deal worth a close look,” editorial, The Denver Post, June 9th.

Opposition grows to Hickenlooper’s local control compromise on oil and gas,” by Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, June 9th.

Hickenlooper believes he has found compromise on local drilling regulation; some oil & gas leaders disagree,” by Ed Sealover and Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, June 6th.

Hickenlooper signs five final business bills on last possible day,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, June 6th.

Hickenlooper signs Uber-Lyft regulations, personal property tax break,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, June 6th.

Everything you need to know about the EPA’s proposed rule on coal plants,” by Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, June 1st.

Federal Policy News

U.S. Treasury Takes Steps to Help Small Businesses Claim R&D Tax Credit

While comprehensive tax reform has met resistance on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Treasury Department has taken a small but significant step to help small businesses claim the research-and-experimentation (R&E) tax credit through a less complex method.  These changes are the result of the Treasury Department holding listening sessions with small businesses that had to amend their tax returns each year to receive the credit.

U.S. Patent and Trade Office Announces Grand Opening for Denver Office

Denver was among four cities selected to host a regional patent and trade office.  Following the digitalization of the patent archives in Washington, D.C., this modernization allows patent examiners to work more directly with innovators in specific regions across the country.

The Denver location was announced in July 2012 and will officially open on June 30th.  Denver and the State of Colorado lobbied hard to host the patent office and studies suggest Colorado could see an economic benefit of around $439 million tied to PTO jobs, economic stimulus, regional expertise development and an increased focus on inventors and patent protections.

Carestream Hosts CACI Congressional Luncheon

On Monday, CACI members gathered in Windsor at Carestream Health’sfacility for a “question-and-answer” session with Monisha Merchant, Senior Advisor for Business Affairs for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Brandon Rattiner, Denver Area Regional Director for U.S. Senator Mark Udall.

The CACI members also toured the Carestream Health facility and heard a presentation about its operation.  Carestream Health is a CACI Bronze Partner.

Monisha and Brandon fielded questions on how best to reach the Senators with business or legislative concerns.  They also discussed such items as the importance of Colorado’s energy sector with the EPA’s newest proposals, the Congressional schedule and steps both Senators are taking to address the workforce “skills gap.”  CACI members were able to share clear examples of what manufacturers need in current and future employees as well as where businesses see opportunities to partner with Federal workforce development initiatives to meet their needs.

Brandon Rattiner, Senator Udall’s Office, and Monisha Merchant, Senator Bennet’s Office, answer CACI questions.

Brandon Rattiner, Senator Udall’s Office, and Monisha Merchant, Senator Bennet’s Office, answer CACI questions.

Bob Lovelace, Polyester Manager for Carestream Health, demonstrated just how instrumental and cutting edge Carestream Health is in the medical and structural imaging world.  He explained how the company started as a project within Kodak films and evolved into a market leader.  When a doctor looks at film x-rays, mammogram results or CT scans, they are likely printed on Carestream’s polyester film products.  As part of the tour, the CACI members witnessed precision-in-motion as the polyester plastic is stretched, coated and molded into miles-long rolls of medical imaging film.  Carestream Health also specializes in an imaging product for the architectural industry where engineers can test welds and structure integrity through film images instead of the force of older stress-test techniques.

CACI members and staff touring Carestream Health facility in Windsor

CACI members and staff touring Carestream Health facility in Windsor