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Water Quality Enforcement Policy Amendments

Water Quality Enforcement Policy Amendments

The Legislature adopted the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Wat. Code sections 13000 et seq.), which grants the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Water Boards) and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) (together Water Boards) the authority to implement and enforce water quality laws, regulations, policies, and plans, to protect waters of the State. Several Water Code sections require the Water Boards to take into consideration specified factors when assessing civil liability for violations. Others provide for mandatory minimum civil liabilities for certain violations. Those Water Code sections, however, do not establish a process for prioritizing discretionary enforcement actions, nor establish a methodology for consistent and transparent analysis of the statutory factors that must be considered in assessing an administrative civil liability.

In 2009, the State Water Board adopted the Water Quality Enforcement Policy (Enforcement Policy) to further its mission to protect and enhance the quality of the waters of the State by defining an enforcement process that addresses water quality problems in the most firm, fair, efficient, effective, and consistent manner. The Office of Administrative Law approved the Enforcement Policy in 2010. The State Water Board also adopted the Enforcement Policy to provide guidance that enables Water Board staff to expend its limited resources in ways that openly address the greatest needs, deter harmful conduct, protect the public, and achieve maximum water quality benefits. The 2009 Enforcement Policy amended and superseded the State Water Board's 2002 Enforcement Policy.

Proposed Amendments

The amendments would clarify certain principles that are central to the Enforcement Policy, helping to ensure more transparent and consistent application of the statutory factors the Water Boards must consider when assessing a civil liability. The amendments would change the case prioritization and violation ranking process to make it more workable, efficient, and consistent throughout the state. The amendments are also intended to bring greater global transparency to the Water Boards' enforcement process and penalty methodology application. Non substantive technical amendments would increase comprehensibility.

Initial Statement of Reasons

Initial Statement of Reasons

Comparison between the 2010 Policy and the Proposed Amendments

Public Comments

Public Comments

Response to Public Comments

Additional Proposed Changes following the closing of Public Comment Period

Board Adoption Hearing - April 4, 2017

The hearing for the proposed amendments to the Water Quality Enforcement Policy was scheduled for consideration at the March 7, 2017 Board meeting. However, the item was deferred to the April 4, 2017 meeting.

Agenda Item

Proposed changes made after the February 2, 2017 hearing

Cumulative changes proposed to the existing 2010 Water Quality Enforcement Policy

Webinar on the Enforcement Policy's Penalty Methodology

February 16 and 17, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
During the webinar, State Water Board staff will review the Enforcement Policy's penalty methodology for two different scenarios. The webinar will focus on the differences between the current policy and the proposed amendments. The scenarios will be a sewer overflow and a potable water discharge. The same scenarios will be presented on both days of the webinar. For further information, please contact Dr. Matthew Buffleben - Matthew.Buffleben@waterboards.ca.gov