Lecture on Clean Water Act set June 25, 2012

G. Tracy Mehan III


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Forty years ago this autumn, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto and enacted the Clean Water Act. The act dramatically reduced pollution from industry and sewage treatment plantsthat must obtain federal permits to discharge their wastes. But the legislation was much weaker in dealing with today’s biggest water-quality challenge: Polluted runoff from multiple, diffuse sources, especially from agriculture.

G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will deliver a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the Clean Water Act’s successes, political obstacles to strengthening the law and avenues that can lead to progress.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. It will be at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. The lecture is titled The Clean Water Act After 40 Years: What Has It Accomplished? How Do We Fulfill Its Promise?

Register to reserve your place at the lecture.

The lecture is the eighth in the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources honoring the late Malcolm Moos, president of the university from 1967 to 1974.

Mehan is a principal in the Cadmus Group, an employee-owned environmental consulting firm based in Arlington, Va. Its clients include federal, state and local governmental agencies as well as private and non-profit entities.

From 2001-2003, during the George W. Bush administration, Mehan served as the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water. He directed the agency’s Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water acts programs including permitting, infrastructure finance, wetlands regulation, standards and watershed management. He developed EPA policies on watershed-based permitting and water-quality credit trading.

From 1993 to 2001, Mehan was director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes and a member of then-Gov. John Engler’s Cabinet. He chaired a mercury pollution prevention task force that negotiated a phase-out of 9.8 tons of mercury used in switches by the auto industry.

He also is the former director of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.

Mehan, an attorney, is an adjunct professor of environmental law at the George Mason University School of Law in Fairfax, Va.,  and a former member of the National Research Council’s Water Science and Technology Board.

In his lecture, Mehan will speak about the singular accomplishments of the Clean Water Act, its limitations and the political realities that make it unlikely the landmark legislation will be expanded anytime soon. The way to progress, he says, is for citizens and policy-makers to “work collaboratively, at the intersection of the vertical axis of government at all levels and the horizontal axis of public, private and non-profit organizations that make up civil society.”

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