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SB-623 Water quality: Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 07/03/2017 09:00 PM
SB623:v95#DOCUMENT

Revised  July 12, 2017
Amended  IN  Assembly  July 03, 2017
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 26, 2017
Amended  IN  Senate  April 26, 2017
Amended  IN  Senate  March 30, 2017

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 623


Introduced by Senator Monning
(Principal coauthors: Senators De León and Hertzberg)
(Coauthor: Senator Stone)(Coauthors: Senators Stone and Hernandez)

February 17, 2017


An act to amend Section 116395 of, and to add Chapter 4.6 (commencing with Section 116765) to Part 12 of Division 104 of, the Health and Safety Code, and to amend Section 13050 of, and to add and repeal Article 4.5 (commencing with Section 13278) of Chapter 4 of Division 7 of, the Water Code, relating to water, and making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 623, as amended, Monning. Water quality: Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
(1) Existing law, the California Safe Drinking Water Act, requires the State Water Resources Control Board to administer provisions relating to the regulation of drinking water to protect public health. Existing law establishes the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions within the State Water Resources Control Board with the purpose of promoting permanent and sustainable drinking water and wastewater treatment solutions to ensure the effective and efficient provision of safe, clean, affordable, and reliable drinking water and wastewater treatment services.
This bill would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury and would provide that moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the office. The bill would require the board to administer the fund to assist communities and individual domestic well users to address contaminants in drinking water that exceed safe drinking water standards, as specified. The bill would authorize the board to provide for the deposit of federal contributions and voluntary contributions, gifts, grants, or bequests. The bill would require the board to expend moneys in the fund for grants, loans, contracts, or services to assist those communities and individual domestic well owners that rely on contaminated drinking water to have access to safe and affordable drinking water consistent with a fund implementation plan adopted annually by the board, as prescribed. The bill would require the board annually to prepare and make available a report of expenditures of the fund and to adopt annually, after a public hearing, an assessment of funding needed to ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water. By creating a new continuously appropriated fund, this bill would make an appropriation.
The bill would state the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend the bill to seek specific funding from agricultural operations to assist in providing emergency, interim, and long-term assistance to community water systems and individual domestic well users whose wells are located in agricultural areas.
(2) The act provides for the operation of public water systems and imposes on the state board various duties and responsibilities for the regulation and control of drinking water in the state. The act generally does not apply to state small water systems, except that the act requires the board to adopt regulations specifying minimum requirements for operation of a state small water system, which are authorized to be less stringent than the requirements for public water systems, requires the enforcement of these requirements, and authorizes the reasonable costs of the local health officer to be recovered. The act, within 3 years after September 19, 1985, required the State Department of Public Health to, among other things, conduct training workshops to assist health officers in evaluation of small public water systems, as defined, for organic chemical contamination, and in sampling and testing procedures and required the local health officer, in consultation with the department, to conduct an evaluation of all small public water systems under their jurisdictions to determine the potential for contamination of groundwater sources by organic chemicals and to develop a sampling plan for each system within their jurisdiction. The act provided that these provisions were operative during any fiscal year only if the Legislature appropriated sufficient funds to pay for all state-mandated costs to be incurred by local agencies during that year due to these provisions.
This bill would require the state board, by January 1, 2019, to promulgate regulations to require state small water systems and individual domestic wells to test their water supply wells for contamination. The bill would require testing to be prioritized based on local water quality conditions and would require the state board to review these regulations at least every 5 years. The bill would exempt these provisions from the above-described inoperative provision.
(3) Under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the State Water Resources Control Board and the California regional water quality control boards are the principal state agencies with authority over matters relating to water quality. The act requires the state board to formulate and adopt state policies for water quality control and requires the regional boards to adopt regional water quality control plans in compliance with the state policies. Under the act, the state board and the regional boards prescribe waste discharge requirements for the discharge of waste that could affect the quality of the waters of the state. The act requires, upon the order of a regional board, a person who has caused or permitted, causes or permits, or threatens to cause or permit any waste to be discharged or deposited where it is, or probably will be, discharged into the waters of the state and creates, or threatens to create, a condition of pollution or nuisance, to clean up the waste or abate the effects of the waste, or in the case of threatened pollution or nuisance, to take other remedial action.
This bill would prohibit the state board or a regional board board, until January 1, 2028, from subjecting an agricultural operation, as defined, to specified enforcement for causing or contributing to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or for causing or contributing to a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrates in groundwater if that agricultural operation demonstrates that it has satisfied certain mitigation requirements, including, among other requirements, the timely payment of any applicable fee, assessment, or charge into the fund. The bill would prohibit the state board or a regional board, beginning January 1, 2028, until January 1, 2033, from subjecting an agricultural operation to specified enforcement for creating or threatening to create a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater if that agricultural operation demonstrates that it has satisfied the prescribed mitigation requirements. The bill would require the state board, by January 1, 2027, to conduct a public review of regulatory and basin plan amendment implementation programs to evaluate progress toward achieving water quality objectives with respect to nitrates in groundwater and assess compliance with adopted timelines, monitoring requirements, and implementation of best practicable treatment or control. The bill would repeal these provisions on January 1, 2028.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 116395 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116395.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The large water system testing program has discovered chemical contamination of the state’s drinking water with increasing frequency.
(2) A significant number of California residents rely on the state’s small water systems and individual domestic wells to provide their water.
(3) The small systems and individual domestic wells, because they tend to be located in outlying rural areas where pesticide use is prevalent, and because they draw their water from shallow aquifers, face a serious threat of contamination.
(4) Unchecked water sources that may be contaminated pose a potentially serious threat to the health of the citizens of California, particularly those living in outlying rural areas.
(5) It is in the interest of all Californians that a testing program for small public water systems and individual domestic wells be implemented and carried out as expeditiously as possible.
(6) Section 106.3 of the Water Code declares that every Californian has the right to sufficient clean, safe, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.
(7) To ensure that the right of every Californian to sufficient clean, safe, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes is met, it is in the interest of the State of California to identify water quality threats in the state’s drinking water supply, to the extent feasible, whether those supplies serve a public water system, state small water system, or an individual domestic well.
(b) (1) For purposes of this section, “small public water system” means a system with 200 connections or less, and is one of the following:
(A) A community water system that serves at least 15 service connections used by yearlong residents or regularly serves at least 25 yearlong residents.
(B) A state small water system.
(C) A noncommunity water system such as a school, labor camp, institution, or place of employment, as designated by the state board.
(2) For the purposes of this section, “individual domestic well” means a groundwater well used to supply water for the domestic needs of an individual residence or systems of four or less service connections.
(c) The state board shall conduct training workshops to assist health officers in evaluation of small public water systems for organic chemical contamination, and in sampling and testing procedures. The state board shall, at a minimum, provide health officers with guidelines for evaluating systems and instructions for sampling.
(d) The state board shall develop a schedule for conduct of the programs by the local health officers. The schedule shall establish a program to address first those systems with the most serious potential for contamination. The state board shall enter into agreements with the local health agencies to conduct the necessary work to be performed pursuant to the schedule. The department shall begin the program no later than three months after September 19, 1985. All local health officers shall complete the evaluation, sampling, testing, review of sampling results, and notification to the public water systems within their jurisdiction in accordance with the agreements entered into with the state board and within the schedule established by the state board. All work required by this subdivision shall be completed within three years after September 19, 1985.
(e) By January 1, 2019, the state board shall promulgate regulations to require state small water systems and individual domestic wells to test their water supply wells for contamination. The state board shall prioritize testing based on local water quality conditions. The state board shall review these regulations at least every five years.
(f) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), this section shall be operative during any fiscal year only if the Legislature appropriates sufficient funds to pay for all state-mandated costs to be incurred by local agencies pursuant to this section during that year.
(2) Subdivisions (a), (b), (e), and (f) shall not become inoperative.

SEC. 2.

 Chapter 4.6 (commencing with Section 116765) is added to Part 12 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:
CHAPTER  4.6. Safe and Affordable Drinking Water

116765.
 For the purposes of this chapter:
(a) “Agricultural operations” has the same meaning as defined in Section 13050 of the Water Code.
(b) “Board” means the State Water Resources Control Board.
(c) “Community water system” has the same meaning as defined in Section 116275.
(d) “Disadvantaged community” has the same meaning as defined in Section 116275.
(e) “Fund” means the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund established pursuant to Section 116766.
(f) “Nontransient noncommunity water system” has the same meaning as defined in Section 116275.
(g) “Public water system” has the same meaning as defined in Section 116275.
(h) “Replacement water” includes, but is not limited to, bottled water, point-of-use, or point-of-entry treatment units.
(i) “Safe Drinking Water Plan” means the plan prepared pursuant to Section 116355.

116766.
 The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is hereby established in the State Treasury. Notwithstanding Section 13340 of the Government Code, all moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions within the board without regard to fiscal years, in accordance with this chapter. Moneys in the fund at the close of the fiscal year shall remain in the fund and shall not revert to the General Fund.

116767.
 (a) The board shall administer the fund for the purposes of this chapter to provide a stable source of funding to assist communities and individual domestic well users to address contaminants in drinking water that exceed safe drinking water standards, the treatment of which would otherwise make the cost of water service unaffordable. The board shall prioritize the use of this funding to assist low-income communities and low-income individual domestic well users. In addition, the board shall prioritize the use of this funding for costs other than those related to capital construction costs. An expenditure from the fund shall be consistent with the annual fund implementation plan developed pursuant to Section 116769. On and after January 1, 2020, the total unencumbered amount in the fund shall not exceed the board’s total estimated need for moneys in the fund over a two-year period.
(b) In accordance with subdivision (a), the board shall expend moneys in the fund for grants, loans, contracts, or services to assist those communities and individual domestic well owners that rely on contaminated drinking water to have access to safe and affordable drinking water with any of the following:
(1) The provision of replacement water, as needed, to ensure immediate protection of health and safety as a short-term solution.
(2) The development, implementation, and sustainability of long-term solutions, including, but not limited to, planning, construction, and operation and maintenance costs associated with replacing, blending, or treating contaminated wells and consolidating water systems.
(3) Identifying Californians without access to safe drinking water who are eligible to receive assistance from the fund and providing outreach to them.
(4) Testing the drinking water quality of individual domestic wells serving low-income households.
(c) Eligible applicants for funding include public agencies, nonprofit organizations, public utilities, federally recognized Indian tribes, state Indian tribes listed on the Native American Heritage Commission’s California tribal consultation list, groundwater sustainability agencies, and mutual water companies.
(d) The board may expend up to 5 percent of the annual expenditures from the fund for reasonable costs associated with administration of the fund.
(e) The board may undertake any of the following actions to implement the fund:
(1) Provide for the deposit of any of the following available and necessary moneys into the fund:
(A) Federal contributions.
(B) Voluntary contributions, gifts, grants, or bequests.
(2) Enter into agreements for contributions to the fund from the federal government, local or state agencies, and private corporations or nonprofit organizations.
(3) Provide for appropriate audit, accounting, and fiscal management services, plans, and reports relative to the fund.
(4) Take additional incidental action as may be appropriate for adequate administration and operation of the fund.

116768.
 It is the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend this section to seek specific funding from agricultural operations to assist in providing emergency, interim, and long-term assistance to community water systems and individual domestic well users whose wells have been impacted by nitrate contamination and whose wells are located in agricultural areas.

116769.
 Annually, the board shall do all of the following:
(a) Prepare and make available a report of expenditures from the fund.
(b) Adopt, after a public hearing, an assessment of funding needed to ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water. This annual assessment shall incorporate information contained in the Safe Drinking Water Plan and include a list of community water systems and nontransient noncommunity water systems without access to safe drinking water, as well as identification of small communities and rural populations not served by public water systems that do not have access to safe drinking water.
(c) (1) Adopt, after a public hearing, a fund implementation plan with priorities and guidelines for expenditures of the fund. The board shall work with a multistakeholder advisory group that shall be open to participation by representatives of entities paying into the fund, public water systems, technical assistance providers, local agencies, affected persons, nongovernmental organizations, and the public, to establish priorities for the plan.
(2) The fund implementation plan shall prioritize eligibility for expenditures of the fund based on the following:
(A) A water system’s current or projected water rates needed to ensure safe drinking water exceed or will exceed 1.5 percent of the median household income for that water system and the water system qualifies as a disadvantaged community.
(B) The costs for providing potable water for an individual domestic well exceed or will exceed 1.5 percent of the household’s income and the household’s income is less than 80 percent of the statewide household median income.

SEC. 3.

 Section 13050 of the Water Code is amended to read:

13050.
 As used in this division:
(a) “State board” means the State Water Resources Control Board.
(b) “Regional board” means any California regional water quality control board for a region as specified in Section 13200.
(c) “Person” includes any city, county, district, the state, and the United States, to the extent authorized by federal law.
(d) “Waste” includes sewage and any and all other waste substances, liquid, solid, gaseous, or radioactive, associated with human habitation, or of human or animal origin, or from any producing, manufacturing, or processing operation, including waste placed within containers of whatever nature prior to, and for purposes of, disposal.
(e) “Waters of the state” means any surface water or groundwater, including saline waters, within the boundaries of the state.
(f) “Beneficial uses” of the waters of the state that may be protected against quality degradation include, but are not limited to, domestic, municipal, agricultural and industrial supply; power generation; recreation; aesthetic enjoyment; navigation; and preservation and enhancement of fish, wildlife, and other aquatic resources or preserves.
(g) “Quality of the water” refers to chemical, physical, biological, bacteriological, radiological, and other properties and characteristics of water which affect its use.
(h) “Water quality objectives” means the limits or levels of water quality constituents or characteristics which are established for the reasonable protection of beneficial uses of water or the prevention of nuisance within a specific area.
(i) “Water quality control” means the regulation of any activity or factor which may affect the quality of the waters of the state and includes the prevention and correction of water pollution and nuisance.
(j) “Water quality control plan” consists of a designation or establishment for the waters within a specified area of all of the following:
(1) Beneficial uses to be protected.
(2) Water quality objectives.
(3) A program of implementation needed for achieving water quality objectives.
(k) “Contamination” means an impairment of the quality of the waters of the state by waste to a degree which creates a hazard to the public health through poisoning or through the spread of disease. “Contamination” includes any equivalent effect resulting from the disposal of waste, whether or not waters of the state are affected.
(l) (1) “Pollution” means an alteration of the quality of the waters of the state by waste to a degree which unreasonably affects either of the following:
(A) The waters for beneficial uses.
(B) Facilities which serve these beneficial uses.
(2) “Pollution” may include “contamination.”
(m) “Nuisance” means anything which meets all of the following requirements:
(1) Is injurious to health, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.
(2) Affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.
(3) Occurs during, or as a result of, the treatment or disposal of wastes.
(n) “Recycled water” means water which, as a result of treatment of waste, is suitable for a direct beneficial use or a controlled use that would not otherwise occur and is therefor considered a valuable resource.
(o) “Citizen or domiciliary” of the state includes a foreign corporation having substantial business contacts in the state or which is subject to service of process in this state.
(p) (1) “Hazardous substance” means either of the following:
(A) For discharge to surface waters, any substance determined to be a hazardous substance pursuant to Section 311(b)(2) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1251 et seq.).
(B) For discharge to groundwater, any substance listed as a hazardous waste or hazardous material pursuant to Section 25140 of the Health and Safety Code, without regard to whether the substance is intended to be used, reused, or discarded, except that “hazardous substance” does not include any substance excluded from Section 311(b)(2) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act because it is within the scope of Section 311(a)(1) of that act.
(2) “Hazardous substance” does not include any of the following:
(A) Nontoxic, nonflammable, and noncorrosive stormwater runoff drained from underground vaults, chambers, or manholes into gutters or storm sewers.
(B) Any pesticide which is applied for agricultural purposes or is applied in accordance with a cooperative agreement authorized by Section 116180 of the Health and Safety Code, and is not discharged accidentally or for purposes of disposal, the application of which is in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations.
(C) Any discharge to surface water of a quantity less than a reportable quantity as determined by regulations issued pursuant to Section 311(b)(4) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
(D) Any discharge to land which results, or probably will result, in a discharge to groundwater if the amount of the discharge to land is less than a reportable quantity, as determined by regulations adopted pursuant to Section 13271, for substances listed as hazardous pursuant to Section 25140 of the Health and Safety Code. No discharge shall be deemed a discharge of a reportable quantity until regulations set a reportable quantity for the substance discharged.
(q) (1) “Mining waste” means all solid, semisolid, and liquid waste materials from the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of ores and minerals. Mining waste includes, but is not limited to, soil, waste rock, and overburden, as defined in Section 2732 of the Public Resources Code, and tailings, slag, and other processed waste materials, including cementitious materials that are managed at the cement manufacturing facility where the materials were generated.
(2) For the purposes of this subdivision, “cementitious material” means cement, cement kiln dust, clinker, and clinker dust.
(r) “Master recycling permit” means a permit issued to a supplier or a distributor, or both, of recycled water, that includes waste discharge requirements prescribed pursuant to Section 13263 and water recycling requirements prescribed pursuant to Section 13523.1.
(s) (1) “Agricultural operation” means either of the following:
(A) A discharger that satisfies both of the following conditions:
(i) The discharger is an owner, operator, or both, of land that is irrigated to produce crops or pasture for commercial purposes or a nursery.
(ii) The discharger is enrolled or named in an irrigated lands regulatory program order adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Section 13263 or 13269.
(B) A discharger that satisfies both of the following conditions:
(i) The discharger is an owner, operator, or both of a facility that is used for the raising or harvesting of livestock.
(ii) The discharger is enrolled or named in an order adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Section 13263 or 13269 that regulates the discharges of waste from a facility identified in clause (i) to protect ground and surface water.
(2) “Agricultural operation” does not include any of the following:
(A) A An off-farm facility that processes crops or livestock.
(B) A An off-farm facility that manufacturers, synthesizes, stores, or processes fertilizer.
(C) Any portions of land or activities occurring on those portions of land that are not covered by an order adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Section 13263 or 13269. identified in clause (ii) of subparagraph (A) or clause (ii) of subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1).

SEC. 4.

 Article 4.5 (commencing with Section 13278) is added to Chapter 4 of Division 7 of the Water Code, to read:
Article  4.5. Discharges of Nitrate to Groundwater from Agricultural Operations

13278.
 (a) For the purposes of this article, the Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) Implementation of currently known best management practices for some crops can reduce but not always completely prevent nitrogen in organic and synthetic fertilizers that transform to nitrates from reaching groundwater at concentrations above the water quality objectives established pursuant to this division.
(2) It is acknowledged that discharges of nitrate from agricultural operations could reach groundwater and could cause or contribute to exceedances of drinking water standards for nitrate,and could cause conditions of pollution of or nuisance in those waters as defined and applied pursuant to in accordance with this division, or both.
(3) Nitrate contamination of groundwater impacts drinking water sources for hundreds of thousands of Californians and it is necessary to protect current and future drinking water users from the impacts of nitrate contamination.

(3)

(4) Despite substantial progress in controlling discharges of nitrogen that lead to nitrate formation, some groundwater sources of drinking water will continue to be adversely impacted by nitrates and it is important to have in place a program for mitigating these impacts.

(4)The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is established pursuant to Section 116766 of the Health and Safety Code in consideration of and in furtherance of the human right to water that has previously been codified as an established policy of the state.

(5) The regional boards will continue to regulate discharges to reduce nitrogen loading and protect beneficial uses of water and groundwater basins; the state board, regional boards, and courts will ensure compliance with those orders; and dischargers will pay for mitigation of past and ongoing pollution by funding replacement water for affected communities.
(b) It is the intent of the The Legislature declares its intent in establishing this article to do both of the following:
(1) To subsequently amend this article to establish an agricultural assessment to be paid by agricultural operations for a period of 10 15 years to provide funding, as a portion of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, to make available alternative supplies of safe drinking water to persons affected by discharges of nitrogen from agricultural operations that may occur in amounts that may cause or contribute to an exceedance of a water quality objective or cause conditions of pollution or nuisance.
(2) To limit certain administrative enforcement actions that a regional board or the state board could otherwise initiate during that 10-year 15-year period against an agricultural operation paying the nitrate mitigation agricultural assessment, while maintaining the overall framework of this division to protect beneficial uses, implement water quality objectives in waters of the state, and regulate activities and factors that affect water quality to attain the highest water quality that is reasonable.

13278.1.
 (a) An agricultural operation shall not be subject to enforcement undertaken or initiated by the state board or a regional board under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13330) for causing or contributing to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or for causing or contributing to a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrates in groundwater if an agricultural operation that discharges or threatens to discharge, or has discharged or previously threatened to discharge, nitrate to groundwater demonstrates that it has satisfied all of the following mitigation requirements:
(1) The agricultural operation has timely paid any applicable fee, assessment, or charge into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund or an applicable agricultural assessment is providing funding into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. For the purposes of this paragraph, “timely paid” means that an agricultural operation has paid all applicable fees, assessments, or charges, no later than 90 days after their respective due dates, since the application of the fee, assessment, or charge to the agricultural operation.
(2) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the agricultural operation is in compliance with all applicable provisions prescribed by a regional board or the state board in an order adopted pursuant to Section 13263 or 13269, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Requirements to implement best practicable treatment or control.
(B) Best efforts, monitoring, and reporting requirements.
(C) Timelines.
(3) The agricultural operation is in compliance with an applicable program of implementation for achieving groundwater quality objectives for nitrate that is part of an applicable water quality control plan adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 13240).
(b) (1) The mitigation requirement contained in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) does not include any generalized prohibition contained in an order adopted under Section 13263 or 13269 on causing or contributing, or threatening to cause or contribute, to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater.
(2) (A) An agricultural operation shall not be is not in compliance with the mitigation requirement in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) if the agricultural operation has been subject to an enforcement action under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13330) within the preceding 12 months for any violation of an order adopted under Section 13263 or 13269 authorizing discharges from agricultural operations.
(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to an enforcement action commenced after January 1, 2016, and before January 1, 2018, inclusive, alleging that discharges a discharge from an agricultural operation caused or contributed, or threatened to cause or contribute, to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater, conditions of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater, or both.
(3) An agricultural operation does not qualify for the enforcement exemption set forth in this subdivision if the operation fails to continue to make applicable payments into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to the extent that the agricultural operation maintains a continuance of farming operation.
(c) Both of the following apply to a discharge of nitrogen by an agricultural operation that occurs when the discharger is in full compliance with the mitigation requirements:
(1) The discharge of nitrogen shall not be admissible in a future enforcement action against the agricultural operation by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13300) to support a claim that the agricultural operation is causing or contributing, or threatening to cause or contribute, to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater.
(2) The discharge of nitrogen shall not be considered by the state board or a regional board to apportion responsibility and shall not be used by any person to diminish responsibility in any enforcement action initiated pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13300) with respect to discharges of nitrogen, regardless of source, that did not occur in compliance with the mitigation requirements.
(d) Nothing in this section alters the state board’s or a regional board’s authority to require or conduct investigations, to require reports on or to establish other requirements for best practicable treatment or control, or to require monitoring and reporting requirements to protect water quality.
(e) This section shall not be deemed to change or alter a water quality objective that is part of a water quality control plan adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 13240).
(f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2028, and as of that date is repealed.

13278.2.
 (a) An agricultural operation shall not be subject to enforcement undertaken or initiated by the state board or a regional board under Section 13304 for creating or threatening to create a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrates in groundwater if an agricultural operation that discharges or threatens to discharge, or has discharged or previously threatened to discharge, nitrate to groundwater demonstrates that it has satisfied all of the following mitigation requirements:
(1) The agricultural operation has timely paid any applicable fee, assessment, or charge into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund or an applicable agricultural assessment is providing funding into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. For the purposes of this paragraph, “timely paid” means that an agricultural operation has paid all applicable fees, assessments, or charges, no later than 90 days after their respective due dates, since the application of the fee, assessment, or charge to the agricultural operation.
(2) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the agricultural operation is in compliance with all applicable provisions prescribed by a regional board or the state board in an order adopted pursuant to Section 13263 or 13269, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Requirements to implement best practicable treatment or control.
(B) Best efforts, monitoring, and reporting requirements.
(C) Timelines.
(3) The agricultural operation is in compliance with an applicable program of implementation for achieving groundwater quality objectives for nitrate that is part of an applicable water quality control plan adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 13240).
(b) (1) The mitigation requirement contained in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) does not include any generalized prohibition contained in an order adopted under Section 13263 or 13269 on causing or contributing, or threatening to cause or contribute, to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater.
(2) An agricultural operation is not in compliance with the mitigation requirement in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) if the agricultural operation has been subject to an enforcement action under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13330) within the preceding 12 months for any violation of an order adopted under Section 13263 or 13269 authorizing discharges from agricultural operations.
(3) An agricultural operation does not qualify for the enforcement exemption set forth in this subdivision if the operation fails to continue to make applicable payments into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to the extent that the agricultural operation maintains a continuance of farming operation.
(c) Both of the following apply to a discharge of nitrogen by an agricultural operation that occurs when the discharger is in full compliance with the mitigation requirements:
(1) The discharge shall not be admissible in a future enforcement action against the agricultural operation by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13300) to support a claim that the agricultural operation is causing or contributing, or threatening to cause or contribute, to an exceedance of a water quality objective for nitrate in groundwater or a condition of pollution or nuisance for nitrate in groundwater.
(2) The discharge shall not be considered by the state board or a regional board to apportion responsibility and shall not be used by any person to diminish responsibility in any enforcement action initiated pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 13300) with respect to discharges of nitrogen, regardless of source, that did not occur in compliance with the mitigation requirements.
(d) Nothing in this section alters the state board’s or a regional board’s authority to require or conduct investigations, to require reports on or to establish other requirements for best practicable treatment or control, or to require monitoring and reporting requirements to protect water quality.
(e) This section shall not be deemed to change or alter a water quality objective that is part of a water quality control plan adopted by the state board or a regional board pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 13240).
(f) (1) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2028.
(2) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2033, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2033, deletes or extends that date.

13278.2.13278.3.
 By January 1, 2027, the state board shall conduct a public review of regulatory and basin plan amendment implementation programs to evaluate progress toward achieving water quality objectives with respect to nitrates in groundwater and assess compliance with adopted timelines, monitoring requirements, and implementation of best practicable treatment or control.

13278.3.13278.4.
 Nothing in this article limits the liability of a discharger under any other law, including, but not limited to, Part 3 (commencing with Section 3479) of Division 4 of the Civil Code.

13278.4.

This article shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2028, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2028, deletes or extends that date.

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REVISIONS:
Heading—Line 3.
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