Federal Water Tap, November 14: Obama’s Choices

Oil and Air
The Obama administration announced last week that it would postpone a decision on pipeline from Canada’s tar sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries until after the 2012 election, according to the New York Times. The administration was expected to finish its evaluation of the 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline before the end of the year, but it will now assess alternate routes through Nebraska where popular opposition to the pipeline has been the greatest. The current route cuts through the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills, two important water sources for Nebraskans.

The administration also took another step in the process to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency sent a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for a regulatory review. The agency may publish formal draft rules early in 2012.

Fracking Expansion
The Delaware River Basin Commission, a body created by a 1961 federal law, has released revised draft rules guiding natural gas development in the basin, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The commission, which would still have to coordinate with state laws, will vote on November 21 on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in the basin.

The federal government has a new map site. The Geospatial Platform connects numbers to places: soil surveys, EPA clean-up sites, weather patterns, and hydrographs are a few of the items found on the young site.

Desert Solar
The Bureau of Land Management has released a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed 100 megawatt concentrating solar plant in southern Arizona. The BLM must decide whether to grant a right-of-way for the Quartzsite project, and the regional power authority must give permission for the plant to connect into the transmission system. At first planning a wet-cooled system, the project developer instead incorporated a dry-cooled design that will use less water. Comments are being accepted for the next 90 days. They can be submitted to QuartzsiteSolarEIS@wapa.gov

The Suspended Gates of Colorado
In less than three years, art lovers, tourists and the curious will be able to see 900 fabric panels suspended over nearly 6 miles of a 42-mile stretch of Colorado’s Arkansas River. The controversial project, dreamed by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, has been approved by the BLM, despite opposition from those who do not want to see such construction along the river. The bureau expects more than 300,000 visitors for the project’s two-week exhibition in August 2014.

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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