Federal Water Tap, June 27: Water, Nuclear Oversight

Taking the EPA’s Authority Away
A House committee approved a bill that would gut much of the EPA’s power to enforce clean water standards. The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would transfer regulatory power over water, wetlands and mountaintop mining to the states, Greenwire reports. The House leadership plans to hold a floor vote this summer.

In response, the EPA said the bill would undermine its role under the Clean Water Act, would make environmental protection more litigious, and could result in upstream states adopting standards that impair waters for those downstream, according to the agency’s legal analysis obtained by Greenwire.

Leaking Sensitive Material
A careful examination of the nation’s nuclear power industry is beginning. Last week the Government Accountability Office released a report with recommendations on improving leak detection for underground pipes at nuclear facilities. Although none of the three case studies showed any ill effect on public health, all nuclear plants in the U.S. have had radioactive leaks that contaminated groundwater.

At the same time, the Associated Press published its findings from a year-long industry investigation, showing that officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission often changed safety standards to keep old facilities operating. After the report came out, three senators called for a congressional investigation of the matter, the Washington Post reports.

Grand Plan
Because of concerns about water quality, the secretary of the Department of the Interior announced he was putting a six-month moratorium on new uranium mining claims for one million acres of National Forest lands abutting Grand Canyon National Park. Furthermore, Secretary Ken Salazar recommended a 20-year ban on uranium mining as the preferred alternative for an environmental impact study that will be completed in the fall.

Eight mines already operating in the parcel will be allowed to continue, and up to 11 new mines may be opened because the owner’s rights predate the proposed ban.

City Water
A partnership comprising 11 federal agencies will used pooled resources to improve water quality in poor cities, reconnect residents to their waterways and promote economic growth through a healthy environment. Seven metropolitan areas will serve as test subjects for the Urban Water Federal Partnership, as it is called: the Patapsco Watershed (Maryland), the Anacostia Watershed (Washington DC/Maryland), the Bronx River and Harlem River Watersheds (New York), the South Platte River in Denver (Colorado), the Los Angeles River Watershed (California), the Lake Pontchartrain Area (New Orleans, LA), and the Northwest Indiana Area.

Fracking Study Picks Its Spots
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the seven sites it will use as case studies for its Congressionally-mandated investigation into the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies. The EPA will study three sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, as well as single sites in Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Texas.

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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