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TMDLs III: A New Framework for the Clean Water Act's Ambient Standards Program

August 1998

Citation: ELR 10415

Author: Oliver A. Houck

Editors' Summary: For the past quarter century, the Clean Water Act has primarily relied on technological standards to abate point source pollution and achieve national clean water goals. Water quality standards lay largely dormant until the 1990s, when they were activated by citizen suits demanding implementation of § 303(d) of the Act — the abatement of pollution discharges based on total maximum daily loads. The first Article in this series, published in the July 1997 issue of this Reporter, described the enactment of § 303(d) and the active promotion of this approach to water pollution control by state governments and industry. A second Article, published in the August 1997 issue of ELR, described the subsequent neglect of § 303(d) by the states and EPA, and the eventual litigation that brought this issue to center stage. This Article describes the new § 303(d) program as it is emerging from the courts, EPA, a federal advisory committee, related federal programs, and the states.

The author is a Professor of Law at Tulane Law School. The research assistance of Eileen Budd, Tulane Law School '98, Louis Spencer '98, Ann-Marie Johnson '99, Scott Galante '99, and Christopher Moore '99 is acknowledged with gratitude.