EPA Finalizes Total Maximum Daily Loads Rule

On July 11, EPA finalized the Total Maximum Daily Loads or "TMDL" rule. The rule appeared in the Federal Register on July 13. The final rule strengthens the national program for identifying polluted waters, determining the sources of pollution, and designing clean-up plans.

The TMDL program is the framework for working cooperatively with the states to finish the job of cleaning up America's polluted waterways. For more information, http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl on the Internet.

EPA considered over 34,000 comments on this proposed rulemaking and talked with hundreds of people in public outreach and information-sharing sessions.

The final TMDL rule will:

< Strengthen States’ ability to clean up polluted waters by identifying pollution reductions needed to meet clean water goals;

< Provide for a comprehensive listing of all the Nation’s polluted waters;

< Encourage cost-effective clean-up by ensuring all sources of pollution are considered in the development of cleanup plans;

< Assure that TMDLs include implementation plans that define specific actions and schedules for meeting clean water goals.

State Flexibility

States have maximum flexibility to make their own choices about which sources of pollution to clean up, and in what manner, and to produce their own plans for local cleanups to ensure the full protection of public health.

• States set the water quality standards that waters need to meet.

• States develop the TMDLs to decide how to clean up their polluted waters.

• States will have more time to learn the problems, tailor implementation to local conditions, and give full credit to voluntary or incentive-based programs.

Key Improvements in Final Rule:

• The rule has been upgraded to "major rule" status under the Congressional Review Act, allowing Congress ample time to review it if they choose.

• The proposed public petition process for review of lists or TMDL implementation has been dropped.

• States are not required to list "threatened waters."

• The proposal to require "offsets" before new pollution can be discharged to impaired waters prior to TMDL establishment has been dropped.

< The final rule does not include specific permit requirements for forestry, and EPA withdraws its proposed provisions for expanded authority for permitting aquaculture and animal feeding operations.