Will Arizona Lose NPDES Authority?
December 2005

A decision by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals may force environmental managers in Arizona into negotiating their wastewater discharge permits with U.S. EPA rather than with permit writers in the state’s environmental agency. While the decision applies only to Arizona, there may be implications for other Western states in the 9th Circuit and environmental managers nationwide.

On August 22, 2005, the 9th Circuit vacated U.S. EPA’s decision to approve Arizona’s application to administer the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) in Arizona (Defenders of Wildlife v. EPA). EPA’s approval of the state’s application created the Arizona pollutant discharge elimination system (AZPDES), a program in which the state issues water quality permits that allow industrial entities to discharge treated wastewater into surface waters. The Court based its ruling on its finding that EPA failed to consider the effect of its approval on endangered or threatened species and their habitats, as listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

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