VNRC Petitions ANR to Amend Vermont Water Quality Standards (VWQS)

VNRC Petitions ANR to Amend Vermont Water Quality Standards (VWQS)

Petition Advocates for VWQS to Include Alternatives Analysis When Reviewing 33 U.S.C. § 401 Certification Applications, to Promote Clearer Protections for Vermont Waters.

Five Environmental Organizations Petition Agency of Natural Resources to Amend Vermont Water Quality Standards (VWQS)

September 12, 2018 (Montpelier, VT) – Five environmental organizations filed a petition this week requesting that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) amend the Vermont Water Quality Standards (VWQS), arguing that the existing VWQS do not adequately protect Vermont’s waters when the State is reviewing applications for Water Quality Certification under 33 U.S.C. § 401.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV), Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Lake Champlain Committee (LCC), and Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) propose that ANR require an alternatives analysis – determining whether there is a feasible alternative that will have less of an impact on water resources – when reviewing applications for Water Quality Certification under 33 U.S.C. § 401, and more specifically referencing the protection of wetlands throughout.

Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states have the authority to issue a water quality certificate for activities that require a federal license or permit, such as a license to dredge or fill wetlands. In projects such as these, alternatives analysis has proven effective in addressing impacts to wetlands and other waterways. But while neighboring states, New York in particular, routinely apply alternatives analysis to 33 U.S.C. § 401 applications, Vermont’s VWQS do not.

In order to improve Vermont’s § 401 process so that it is at least as protective of Vermont’s waters as that of neighboring states, amendments around the following areas, among others, are proposed:
  • Clarifying that Vermont wetlands are explicitly included for protection under VWQS
  • Requiring that all applications for certification under § 401, except for certifications for restoration projects, be supported by an environmental impact statement that includes evaluation of impacts and of alternatives
  • Requiring that analysis of impacts and alternatives consider a range of alternatives that would prevent or lessen the degradation associated with the proposed activity

“There is no reason that Vermont’s waters, and wetlands in particular, should not be given the same protection as their counterparts in neighboring states,” said Jon Groveman, Policy and Water Program Director at VNRC. “The time is now to change Vermont’s Water Quality Standards to ensure that analysis around Water Quality Certification is as stringent as it needs to be to keep our waters as clean and safe as possible.”

The full petition can be viewed here.