Federal Water Tap, April 11: Biofuels, Dams, and Public Health

Farm-to-Tank Takes a Congressional Detour
While the budget brouhaha got top billing, biofuels were working their way through the back alleys of Congress last week. On April 7 the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the national renewable fuels policy. In acknowledging that hope exceeded reality, committee member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said our previous policies “have not always worked out as well as expected.” Anticipated improvement in advanced cellulosic fuels has not materialized.

Testifying before the committee, Tom Harkin—a Democratic senator from the corn-producing state of Iowa—said that more federal policies are needed to support biofuels expansion. Harkin promoted his legislation that would do just that. Senate bill 187 would mandate infrastructure to facilitate more ethanol use: flex-fuel cars, blender pumps at gasoline stations, and loan guarantees for biofuel pipelines.

On April 13 the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold its own hearing on renewable fuel policy.

Water Power
The Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior announced $26.6 million in funding for hydropower research. Grants will be available in four areas: small-scale hydropower, environmental mitigation for existing hydropower facilities, pumped storage, and new generation at existing facilities.

Legislators are also pushing hydropower expansion. Murkowski introduced a bi-partisan bill in the Senate to increase the nation’s hydropower capacity. The Bureau of Reclamation recently completed a study of hydropower potential at existing facilities.

Pipes Under Pressure
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to know if your stomach ache has anything to do with that broken water main down the block. The CDC has announced a study to examine the effect of pressure fluctuations in drinking water systems on gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. When water flow is disrupted, pressure in the pipes drops and microbes and bacteria can enter the system. The CDC does not know the health risks associated with drinking tap water during or after such an event. The study would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Our Precious Bodily Fluids
The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a revision to the national standard for fluoride in drinking water. The department suggests decreasing the fluoride concentration to the lower end of the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter. Public comments on the proposal are being accepted through April 15 and should be sent to CWFcomments@cdc.gov.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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