(Host) Last month, Vermont’s Water Resources Board sent a shockwave through the business community. The board ruled that federal, rather than state permits are required to control stormwater near streams that already fail water quality standards. Now a business coalition is fighting that action.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) Ernie Pomerleau is a member of the board of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, a leading business group. Pomerleau, who also owns a commercial real estate company, is outraged by the stormwater ruling by the Water Resources Board.
(Pomerleau) “It means for two to three years, everything will stop.”
(Dillon) Pomerleau is particularly upset because business groups and environmentalists worked last year to craft legislation that would impose what he says are the toughest stormwater standards in the country. The legislation also set up an interim system that would give companies three years to get into full compliance.
According to Pomerleau, that progress is now threatened by the Water Resources Board’s ruling.
(Pomerleau) “It’s not about cleaning water. If you wanted to clean water, why was everybody at the table for over a year negotiating with the Legislature to come up with a unanimously approved stormwater piece of legislation?”
(Dillon) Chris Kilian, senior lawyer with the Conservation law Foundation, says his organization has always argued that stormwater pollution falls under the federal Clean Water Act.
He says that the new stormwater legislation allows existing polluters to continue to damage streams. Kilian says that business groups have protested loudly because the ruling will force them to invest in clean-up now.
(Kilian) “We don’t have time to wait. It’s time to start to start addressing the existing pollution sources so these waters actually get cleaned up. If we start telling the existing pollution sources that they don’t have to do anything to clean up their act, these waters are just going to get worse. It’s time to start addressing the problem. And that’s what this ruling requires for the first time ever.”
(Dillon) The business groups, which include the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, want the Supreme Court to stay the board’s ruling. So far, the state Agency of Natural Resources has not filed an appeal.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.