Environmental group wants EPA to strip Vermont of regulatory authority over pollution

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(Host) A dozen environmental groups want the Environmental Protection Agency to force Vermont to do a better job controlling water pollution.

One organization wants to go even further.

The Conservation Law Foundation says the EPA should revoke the state’s power to regulate pollution.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) The EPA delegates some of its regulatory authority to states.

That’s why the Vermont Natural Resources Agency enforces the federal Clean Water Act.

But Chris Kilian at the Conservation Law Foundation says Vermont has failed to do the job.

(Kilian) “We want the solution to occur. We want effective program implementation, effective enforcement, and clean water. And if that means that EPA comes in and does it on behalf of the state, so be it. If it means that the state can get its act together and correct the problems that are pervasive and that we have identified in the petition, then that would be a good outcome, too.”

(Sneyd) The Natural Resources Agency says CLF is wrong. The agency says it’s water quality programs are “groundbreaking” – and it’s already discussing with the EPA how to improve them.

But the agency says CLF’s proposed fix is the wrong way. John Sayles is deputy natural resources secretary.

(Sayles) "If EPA were to take back our federal water quality programs, Vermonters would then have to go to Boston to get their federal permits rather than getting them here at home and Vermont’s environment would be regulated from Boston. And this would not be an improvement in our permitting process."

(Sneyd) The issue is stormwater runoff.

Rainwater collects a lot of pollutants as it flows across parking lots and farm fields. The state is responsible for stopping as much of that pollution from getting into rivers and Lake Champlain as possible.

The Douglas administration has been criticized – by the environmental groups and the EPA – because too much pollution still reaches the lake.

The EPA sent a lengthy letter to the Natural Resources Agency this spring detailing what it described as Vermont’s failings.

A coalition of groups wrote to the EPA this week with a number of steps it says Vermont should be required to follow.

They range from modernizing sewage treatment plants to adopting a regulation that would govern runoff from farms.

Kilian says CLF would be satisfied if the recommendations were followed. But he says he doesn’t trust the state to do the job.

(Kilian) “Unfortunately, when it comes to implementing the Clean Water Act, the current leadership at ANR under Governor Douglas is worse than the Bush administration. And that I think is borne out by the empirical evidence that we’ve provided, the failures that we’ve documented in the petition.”

(Sneyd) An EPA spokeswoman in Washington says the agency has up to three months to respond to the petition.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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