The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov) is issuing a new rule that will provide financial incentives for states to use fees when administering a clean water permit program. Under the new rule, the EPA can give up to a total of $5.1 million to states that have adequate permit fees for their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) programs.

This rule is designed to encourage states to voluntarily implement fee programs and shift part of the financial burden to those who benefit from the permits. It is also expected to allow states to move funds to other critical water quality program activities.

According to the EPA, the increased cost of administering water permit programs has already prompted some states to implement permit fee programs to cover some costs. A number of states, however, still operate with little or no reliance on permit fees.

The permit fee incentive will only be made available if federal funding for state water pollution control programs is more than the fiscal year 2008 level. Therefore, state grants will not decrease as a result of this rulemaking. The rule will be in effect for the fiscal year 2009 grant cycle and beyond.

As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating municipal, industrial and related sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.

For more info about the Water Pollution Control Program Grants, visit www.epa.gov/owm/cwfinance/npdes-permit-fee.htm.