Ruling may change how EPA issues limits on pollution

Published 11:04 am Monday, March 30, 2015

COLUMBUS (AP) — An Ohio Supreme Court ruling could change how environmental regulators impose pollution limits on bodies of water around the state.

The court this past week said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency can’t impose pollution limits affecting waterways without first following state rulemaking policies that require public notice, comment and hearings.

The ruling stems from an issue involving pollution limits on a wastewater treatment plant in central Ohio.

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Commissioners in Fairfield County said they were denied the right to challenge the EPA’s stricter limits on the plant that discharges treated water into Blacklick Creek near Pickerington, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The Ohio EPA argued that setting pollution limits was not a “rule” that required public input and hearings. The state agency said it was required to issue limits that match federal standards in the Clean Water Act.

State regulators set the pollution limits for the wastewater plant because if was concerned that the treated water would cause the growth of weeds and algae.

The supreme court’s decision said that those who would be impacted by the EPA’s decision were denied meaningful review.

But Justice Terrence O’Donnell disagreed with the ruling and wrote that he was worried the decision would invalidate nearly 1,800 water pollution limits already imposed by the Ohio EPA.

He also said the ruling “will delay attempts to protect the state’s bodies of water from pollutants by requiring the Ohio EPA to go through lengthy rulemaking procedures.”

Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer said the agency was reviewing the decision to determine what impact it will have on the permitting process.