In a move that should cut government red tape for hundreds of Oklahoma communities and businesses, the State Department of Environmental Quality has taken over wastewater discharge responsibilities from the federal government, according to a state legislator.
"We've managed to cut red tape and get the federal government out of our business in one fell swoop," explained Senator Paul Muegge, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. "Instead of digging through all the paperwork of the EPA, Oklahomans will be able to go to the DEQ as a one-stop shop on wastewater discharge permits.
"We're going to have a system that is more customer-friendly for our communities and our businesses."
Traditionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has regulated wastewater discharge programs from Washington. In recent years, however, the EPA has been working to return control of the programs to states which meet federal requirements.
The program in question regulates wastewater, sewage sludge and storm water discharges. Permits issued to industries and cities limit the amount and types of pollutants that can be discharged into waterways. Because the DEQ will now be the lead authority, regulated entities will need only a state discharge permit.
"We'll still be requiring the same protections for our streams and rivers, but there will be a lot less paperwork to wade through in the permitting process. This is quite an accomplishment for Oklahoma, especially the DEQ," said Senator Muegge.
Staffers at the DEQ have been working on the project for the past three years. As part of the process, the agency held public hearings around the state to get citizen input on how the program should be administered.
"This has been a partnership between the DEQ and the people of Oklahoma, and I think everyone will ultimately benefit from the results of their cooperation," said Senator Muegge.
"I'd like to congratulate DEQ director Mark Coleman and his staff on all their hard work along with all the business and city leaders who devoted their time and energy to this project. "
DEQ will have lead responsibility for administering the permitting, compliance and enforcement activities of the program with the EPA operating in an oversight capacity. The EPA will keep responsibility for the storm water program until July of 1997 when the program will be transferred to the DEQ for administration.