The Illinois NPDES Permit Program

In Citizens for a Better Environment v. Environmental Protection Agency, 596 F.2d 720, 721-22 (7th Cir. 1979), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the NPDES permit program as follows: "The history and goals of the Clean Water Act and its amendments have been chronicled in numerous judicial opinions. See, e.g., American Frozen Food Inst. v. Train, 176 U.S. App. D.C. 105, 111-122, 539 F.2d 107, 113-24 (1976); California v. EPA, 511 F.2d 963 (9th Cir. 1975). Congress' ultimate objective was 'to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters,' 33 U.S.C. 1251(a) (1976), and it established a permit program, the NPDES, to achieve this goal. Under this program, any point source pollutant discharge into navigable waters without a United States EPA authorization permit is banned, and the EPA was instructed to make the pollution controls inherent in its permits increasingly stringent over time. Although the administration and enforcement of the permit program initially was vested entirely in the United States EPA, Congress intended that much of this authority would devolve to the states. 33 U.S.C. 1251(b) (Supp. I 1977). The Clean Water Act stipulates that any time after the promulgation of EPA guidelines establishing the minimum elements of state permit programs, a state may submit a description of a proposed program, along with a statement from the state attorney general that state law provides adequate authority to carry out the program, for evaluation by the Administrator of the United States EPA. If the state program satisfies the statutory requirements of section 402(b), 33 U.S.C. 1342(b), and the guidelines issued under section 304(i), 33 U.S.C. 1314(i), the Administrator must approve the program. The state would then assume primary responsibility for the issuance of permits and for the administration and enforcement of the NPDES program within its jurisdiction." A "point source" is defined as "any discernible, confined, and discrete conveyance; including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged." 33 U.S.C. 1362(14) (2000). In October 1977, the United States EPA administrator approved Illinois' proposal to administer the NPDES program within Illinois. In Citizens for a Better Environment, 596 F.2d at 724, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the administrator's approval of the Illinois NPDES permit program on the ground that the United States EPA had failed to promulgate regulations providing for public participation in state enforcement actions. In response, the United States EPA promulgated such a regulation (40 C.F.R. 123.27(d) (2004) (effective April 1, 1983)), and Illinois later agreed to abide by it. In April 1981, the United States EPA approved the revision to Illinois' NPDES program (46 Fed. Reg. 24295-02 (April 30, 1981) (effective April 23, 1983)). See Prairie Rivers Network v. Illinois Pollution Control Board, 335 Ill. App. 3d 391, 397-98, 781 N.E.2d 372, 376-77, 269 Ill. Dec. 575 (2002) (in which this court discussed the history of the Illinois NPDES permit program).