EPA has officials on guard

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Former Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer is on a mission to form a coalition to fight new stormwater regulations the Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose.

“The idea is to create a chorus of local voices to say clean water is non-negotiable, but this answer doesn’t work for us,” he told Littleton City Council on Jan. 29.

The EPA has been working on new national rules for three years, since settling a lawsuit alleging the agency wasn’t sufficiently protecting Chesapeake Bay. Though still drafting the rules, the agency’s website says they will likely expand the area subject to federal regulation, develop specific and uniform requirements for municipalities throughout the country, and require retrofitting of existing systems in some cases.

To retrofit an existing site would cost up to $50,000, according to Tauer’s data, and to do a two-lane road would cost about $250,000.

Tauer fears the rules will stunt economic growth, as one goal is to establish specific requirements to control stormwater discharge from new development and redevelopment. Construction generally causes an increase in impervious areas where water can’t soak into the ground.

“This additional stormwater volume, as well as the introduction of pollutants such as fertilizers, sediments and deposition of vehicle emissions contributes to increased stormwater impacts,” reads an EPA fact sheet, which notes many such projects are outside of currently regulated areas.

“This is an unfunded mandate to the extreme, because it impacts businesses, not just the jurisdictions themselves,” said Councilor Phil Cernanec.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies agrees, writing on its website that different regions of the country have different needs.

“NACWA believes the ultimate decision on how performance standards should be structured is regional and community-specific, and individual municipalities and stormwater permittees need sufficient flexibility in their development,” it reads. “… Any new development and redevelopment requirements included in the stormwater rule proposal must take into consideration the varying geographic, climactic and hydrologic conditions found in different regions of the country.”

Tauer agrees.

“Taking care of our water is part of who we are as Coloradans,” he said. “It’s not about what’s best for the environment, because we don’t have just one environment.”

Councilor Peggy Cole wondered what the EPA’s definition of “clean” water would be, and Tauer said that has not been established.

“They didn’t say monitor, they said let’s come up with new rules even though we don’t know if we have a problem,” he said.

He noted legal action cannot be taken until the rules actually are enforced.

“You can’t sue them because they passed a dumb rule, you have to establish standing,” said Tauer.