IOWA LEAGUE OF CITIES: ROUND 2 UPDATE
Following the March 2013 Iowa League of Cities (ILOC) v. EPA ruling which vacated EPA’s blending and bacteria mixing zone prohibitions as illegal rulemaking and/or beyond statutory authority1, USEPA officials indicated that the Agency would limit the application of the ILOC decision to the 8th Circuit. This effectively allows wastewater facilities to blend and utilize bacteria mixing zones in the 8th Circuit states while continuing to ban such practices elsewhere. Regulatory confusion has ensued nationwide, as even the 8th Circuit is composed of seven states in four different EPA Regions (5, 6, 7, and 8). As a result, EPA will inconsistently regulate states within the same EPA Region. The decision to disregard the ILOC ruling outside of the 8th Circuit constitutes a clear violation of the Clean Water Act. The Act was structured to establish uniform technology-based requirements; it does not allow EPA to impose more restrictive rule interpretations on a geographical basis or to ignore Circuit Court decisions rendered under Section 509(b)(1)(E) regarding the validity of such rules. On August 12, 2014, CRR filed suit against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, arguing that EPA must apply the ILOC decision uniformly across all states.
In December 2014, John Hall testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife in hearing entitled Innovation and the Utilities of the Future: How Local Water Treatment Facilities are Leading the Way to Better Manage Wastewater and Water Supplies.2 Among other issues, Mr. Hall provided a brief history of blending, followed by the events leading to and including the ILOC decision. The ILOC decision was used as an example of regulatory agencies’ misallocation of resources and misguided regulations with potential to result in both economic and ecological harm.
Results from CRR’s FOIA requests to EPA reveal the existence of critical documents including one entitled Inside Eighth Circuit purportedly describing “talking points on how we [EPA] intend to apply the Iowa League of Cities decision” and another described as “working draft of untitled paper addressing the Iowa League of Cities decision and its applicability inside and outside the Eighth Circuit.” CRR filed a complaint regarding EPA’s FOIA response and sought the withheld documents. However, CRR failed to exhaust administrative remedies and the complaint was dismissed. In response, CRR has filed a FOIA appeal.
1 Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, 711 F.3d 844 (8th Cir. 2013).
2 Available at http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=76acdc95-6562-4fff-b75b- 63f61468884c