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-Hiram Akeem

Akron, US EPA And Ohio EPA Strongly Oppose Unnecessary And Costly Court-Ordered Monitor For The CSO Project

 

Akron, Ohio, January 14, 2020—The City of Akron filed a response to Judge Adams’ Order regarding a possible Court-appointed Monitor for the CSO Project.  The City described objections to the Court unilaterally appointing a Monitor funded by the citizens of Akron. 

A recent Judge Adams Order threatened to appoint a Monitor based on his perception of inaction by the state and federal enforcement agencies. If imposed, this Monitor would be an extraordinary court overreach that would circumvent EPA authority and cost Akron citizens without providing any environmental benefit.  All parties to the Consent Decree – the United States EPA, Ohio EPA and the City of Akron – oppose this unnecessary action.

The City outlined why a Monitor is a needless additional expense for the ratepayers of Akron, and unwarranted because the Ohio and US EPAs already provide expert oversight.  The City also asserted that appointing a Monitor is beyond the scope of the Court’s authority.  Judge Adams already appointed one outside “expert,” at ratepayer expense, to review the Second Amendment to the City’s federally-mandated consent decree.  However, the Court ruled before the expert report was filed in a court document. It is unclear whether this ratepayer-funded report was even completed or utilized by the Judge.

The City argued that since the Ohio and US EPAs have and will continue to provide oversight, as required by law and contemplated by the Consent Decree, changing the enforcement mechanism is an unlawful modification to the agreement and beyond the Court’s authority.  Importantly, none of the parties to the Consent Decree requested or support a Monitor appointment.  The action may be unprecedented in our jurisdiction – the City is not aware of any other case where such an expert has been appointed when an enforcement body already exists and all parties are opposed.

The United States EPA was also clear in their position: appointing a Monitor is unnecessary, is likely to cause delay and confusion, and will be costly to the citizens of Akron.  The US EPA also argued that naming a Monitor for a relatively small number of remaining projects would simply create duplication of existing oversight.  Currently, 92% of all Consent Decree projects are completed or under construction, and all projects, with the exception of the complex Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, have been finished at or ahead of schedule.  

“My goal is to complete the Consent Decree as soon as possible, at the lowest possible costs, to ensure we are meeting our environmental obligations in the most effective and efficient manner,” Mayor Horrigan said. “I will not agree to any action that has the potential to further complicate or delay these projects, or will result in any unnecessary expenses for our citizens.”

The City remains deeply troubled by the Court’s order that mischaracterizes the City’s intensive efforts to move this program forward.  The City filing outlined the environmental benefits achieved above and beyond the Consent Decree projects. Through diligent planning and front-loading projects, the City of Akron treated over 863 million gallons more than was is required by the Consent Decree.

City officials will review options should the Court order a Monitor over the objections of all parties involved.

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