To: Mr. William Atwater, Chief Counsel State Water Resources Control Board
August 19, 1996
Dear Mr. Atwater:
Proposed Amendment to State Water Resources Control Board Resolution No. 92-49 ("Containment Zone Policy")
As you are already aware, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California ("Metropolitan") has closely followed the proposed Containment Zone Policy and has worked with the stall of the State Water Resources Control Board ("State Board") on its development. Metropolitan has committed staff time to analyze the proposal, comment on the proposal and Metropolitan staff has attended each of the workshops on the proposal
The State Board embarked. on a thorough and inclusive public process which allowed for significant public input. Comments were solicited, received and responded to. A number of workshops were held, and several drafts of the Containment Zone Policy were developed. Representatives of public agencies, environmental groups, industry-and the Regional Boards all participated in the process. It was announced at the July 3, 1996 workshop that final comments on the Policy would be received up until the close of business on July 15, 1996 and the various parties worked hard to ensure their comments were received by that date.
The Containment Zone Policy went on the August 15, 1996 agenda of the State Board for a vote on approval of the Policy. At that meeting, it was revealed that some of the Chairs of the Regional Boards had submitted additional comments on the Containment Zone Policy after the closure of the comment period. These late comments were described as minor revisions but in actuality they constitute wholesale changes to the Policy. Due to these comments, the State Board decided to postpone the vote and requested that staff review the proposed changes for possible inclusion into the Containment Zone Policy.
Specifically, the late comments call for a complete deletion of the provisions requiring in-basin mitigation and elimination of the technical advisory committee among other recommended changes. These are matters that were addressed in detail at the workshops with many parties commenting on these issues. Making these extreme changes in this manner would vitiate the entire workshop process. *
This action raises serious concerns about the meaningfulness of the public process on the Containment Zone Policy. It is disturbing that comments received after the close of a comment period could cause a major redrafting of the Containment Zone Policy without providing the public a chance to comment on those changes.
As expressed in our previous comments, Metropolitan remains deeply concerned with any relaxation of cleanup standards when there could be possible impacts to water supplies. At the same time, Metropolitan recognizes the concerns of industry with expending scarce financial resources on cleanups where the results will be minimal or where there is no threat to groundwater and the concerns of the Regional Boards that any adopted policy be workable. We believe the workshops and public process sponsored by the State Board resulted in a draft Containment Zone Policy which bridged the gap between these competing concerns in a sound and environmentally responsible manner. However, abrupt changes at this late date will force Metropolitan to reevaluate its position.
We believe the most appropriate action for the State Board at this time would be to dismiss the belated comments from the Chairs of Regional Boards as untimely and hold a vote on the previously agendized August 15, 1996 version of the Containment Zone Policy. If the State Board, however, wishes to act on these late comments then, at a minimum, the State Board should circulate these comments to all interested parties and another workshop should be convened to receive additional comments and input from the public. It is fundamentally unfair to establish a process with ground-rules and then allow some parties to circumvent the rules. Without another workshop and comment period, it would be obvious that a year of public process was meaningless when one party can effect a redraft of the Policy with backdoor comments not subject to public scrutiny.
We trust the State Board will take appropriate action to ensure the fairness of the process on this important Policy. Please feel free to call if you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter further.
Very truly yours,
N. Gregory Taylor General Counsel
cc: State Board Members, Walt Pettit, Executive Officer Containment Zone Policy Interested Parties
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California #1309