Federal Water Tap, May 16: Hydropower and Fracking

Central Utah Project
The government is looking to lease. The Department of the Interior is signing away “power privilege”—the right for a non-federal entity to use a federal project to generate electricity. The federal project in this case is the Spanish Fork Flow Control Structures, part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Utah Project. According to a recent Department of the Interior study, the Spanish Fork Structures are one of 70 federal sites where hydropower could feasibly be installed. The study is part of a strategy to expand hydropower by adding turbines to existing structures.

Tracking the Waste
Last month the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked energy companies not to send their wastewater to the state’s wastewater treatment plants because the facilities cannot remove the salts and heavy metals in the drilling water. Now, the federal government wants to know where the waste will be sent and how it will be disposed of. The EPA has requested information from six companies, which represent more than half of the drilling activity in Pennsylvania: Atlas Resources, Talisman Energy, Range Resources, Cabot Gas and Oil, SWEPI, and Chesapeake Energy.

We’ve Got a Plan
The Department of Energy released its 2011 strategic plan. Despite all the targets and dollars and intentions, water’s role in extracting, processing, cooling and generating energy received but a token mention in the 60-page document. Here’s the extent of the cameo: “Water is integral to many energy technologies, and related water demands could be amplified in the future if climate change alters regional water cycles. Our energy technology R&D activities should be cognizant of this interdependence.”

Mark Your Calendar
On Thursday the Water and Power Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on water bills introduced this Congressional session. Among the seven bills to be discussed are the Hoover Power Allocation Act (to expand the customer pool for Hoover’s power) and the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act (to install turbines on the Central Utah Project’s Diamond Fork System).

Call on Me
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board will hold public teleconferences this week to discuss the draft versions of two reports the board has released this year. On Monday, the board’s drinking water committee will respond to questions about its investigations into lead contamination. On Thursday, it will discuss the EPA’s plan for studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies. Contact information for acquiring the dial-in number is available via the above links.

Global Waters
The U.S. Agency for International Development has published the May edition of its Global Waters newsletter, which highlights the agency’s water programs. Read about oyster farming in the Gambia and watershed management in Kenya in partnership with the Green Belt movement.

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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