The U.S. House of Representatives passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. Included in the deal was a provision requiring President Barack Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. Earlier this year, the president said he would delay any action on the proposed 1,700-mile oil conduit until 2013.
The developers of an Alaska mega-dam will begin the formal licensing process this week. On December 29, the Alaska Energy Authority, a state public corporation for energy development, will submit a pre-application document to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project. Licensing is expected to take three and a half years for the 700-ft tall dam on the Susitna River.
This fall, a national center for drought research released an updated version of its comprehensive drought-effects database. Funded by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Nebraska-based Drought Impact Reporter combines media reports with statistical analyses to show how a lack of rain is hurting wildlife, tourism, water supply and agriculture, among other areas. The university also hosts the Drought Monitor, which focuses on near-term weather patterns.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report on how to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the nation’s waterways. According to NPR, the USDA laid out a set of guidelines for putting farm fields on a fertilizer “diet.” The guidelines, however, are just that—they will not be mandatory.
In the last six weeks, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency doled out a number of grants for water and energy projects. The agency gave money for coal bed methane extraction in Turkey and for technical assistance to a wastewater treatment plant in Cartagena, Colombia. The agency also brought water management officials from South Africa to the U.S. to discuss water use in the mining sector.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton