Legislation to have the state of Idaho take over primacy for permitting under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, was introduced this afternoon in the House Environment Committee at the request of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Idaho is now one of just four states that don’t have primacy for the program, meaning the EPA handles permitting in the state, rather than the state Department of Environmental Quality, Alex LaBeau, IACI president, told the lawmakers. “It is a seven-year process, it is an extensive process,” he said, “and it will be a relatively contentious process as we get into the rule-making.”
Idaho lawmakers have studied taking over primacy for the program several times over the past decade. The hangup has generally been financing. Under the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States, from confined animal feeding operations to municipal wastewater systems.
Idaho currently has nearly 1,000 such permits, with about half held by municipalities; LaBeau said cities are supportive of the move. Costs for the changeover could fall largely on permit-holders, though LaBeau said Idaho may be eligible for some federal funds as well. LaBeau said other states including Wyoming and Alaska have just recently gone through the process of taking over primacy, and Idaho can draw on their examples. Today’s introduction clears the way for a full hearing on the bill in the committee. LaBeau said two other pieces of legislation also would follow in future years to complete the step.