Federal Water Tap, December 19: Less Money, More Problems

Budget and Taxes
On Sunday the House Republican leadership backed away from a tax deal that passed the Senate a day earlier, according to the New York Times. The Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut included a provision, requested by Republicans, that would force President Barack Obama to issue a permit within 60 days for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline. A month ago, the president said he would delay a decision until after the 2012 election. He could still reject the pipeline if he finds it is not in the “national interest.”

The Senate also passed a budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year, ending September 30, 2012. The bill, which has already cleared the House, cuts $101 million from the programs that fund improvements to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Senate: Water Infrastructure Hearing
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater program director told a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Tuesday that without investment in the nation’s wastewater treatment infrastructure, “many of the environmental successes of the past three decades may be overwhelmed by future demands.”

House: Stormwater Hearing
The EPA’s acting administrator for water told a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Wednesday that the “uncoordinated approach” used in the past to enforce the Clean Water Act may have prevented communities from implementing the most cost-effective solutions. In October Nancy Stoner and a colleague in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance issued a memorandum describing an “integrated planning” approach to stormwater and wastewater management—one that will allow communities to prioritize the sequence of projects. Next year, draft guidelines will be published. In the end, though, it is the communities themselves that will be responsible for coming up with the integrated plans.

Other witnesses at the hearing on EPA’s integrated planning standard included the mayors of Omaha, Neb. And Kansas City, Kan., who testified, respectively, on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities; the commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and representatives of several national clean water agencies.

Water, Power, and Pollution
An EPA regional administrator spoke with the Associated Press about the agency’s pending decision on pollution controls for an Arizona power plant that provides cheap water and power for the state’s residents. If the agency requires expensive technology for the plant, operators might decide to close the Navajo Generating Station.

Colorado River
The Bureau of Reclamation and several state water agencies are conducting a multi-year study of water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin. According to projections, demand will exceed supply by nearly 25 percent by 2060. The bureau is canvassing the public for ideas about how to rebalance the curves. Submissions should be made by February 1, 2012 using this form. Email the forms to ColoradoRiverBasinStudy@usbr.gov.

Fracking Chemicals
In August, Earthjustice and more than one hundred other groups petitioned the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act to require the producers of chemicals used in oil and gas drilling to disclose data and test for environmental and health effects. The EPA partially agreed, as it describes in a letter to Earthjustice. The agency will develop rules to require disclose of existing data for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, but it will not require manufacturers to test all chemicals.

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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