March 01, 2017

Presumed Compliant? Meeting Twenty-First-Century Combined Sewer Overflow Goals with (or without) the Presumptive Approach

Erica Spitzig and Nathan Vassar

A reliable compliance rubric is critical for any entity subject to federal environmental permitting and enforcement. Clear benchmarks are important to understand what thresholds are necessary to satisfy regulators’ expectations and facilitate an eventual release from enforcement orders. For public water utilities, because the length of Clean Water Act (CWA) enforcement orders can be measured in decades and require capital investments ranging in the billions of dollars, a well-defined compliance target is necessary for initial planning and implementation of remedial measures. As such, when regulators’ compliance expectations change, the consequences are far-reaching, both as to utilities’ requirements and schedules as well as the cost burdens on ratepayers.

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