Federal Water Tap, October 3: Staking Claim to the Future

Global Change Research Program
A federal program for studying environmental change and its effect on society has released a draft version of its strategic plan for the next decade. Comprising 13 agencies and cabinet-level departments, the Global Change Research Program was established by Congress in 1990. The draft plan anticipates that climate-change risk assessment and adaptation, and the water-energy-food nexus will be major research areas in the coming years. In addition to conducting research and supporting policy decisions, the program hopes to become a “gateway” for information on global environmental change: informing the public about new research while learning what gaps exist in the public’s scientific knowledge.

Carbon Capture in Texas
The Department of Energy will commit $450 million to the $1.7 billion Texas Clean Energy Project, a coal-based power plant with carbon-capture technology. Some 90 percent of the carbon dioxide will be recovered and injected into West Texas oil fields. Water for the facility will come from brackish groundwater. To reduce the amount pumped, the facility will use dry cooling for its integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) fuel system. This is a technology that uses coal to produce gas to run both gas- and steam-turbines. Because of the extra power demands to run the system, only between one-third and one-half of the plant’s 400 megawatts will be available for the energy grid.

Defining ‘Water’
Attempts by two federal agencies to define the terms of the Clean Water Act have prompted the largest public response in the legislation’s history, according to Bloomberg News. In April, in light of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the last decade, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers issued draft guidelines to clarify what “navigable waters” means for enforcing the law. The guidelines were quite the draw. The public submitted some 300,000 comments.

Building for Water
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration signed a construction contract for a federal center that will coordinate the nation’s water research. The National Water Center will be hosted at the Tuscaloosa campus of the University of Alabama.

Heavy rains at the end of monsoon season flooded eastern India. Some 59 people were killed and roughly 4 million were affected, according to Australia’s ABC News. NASA’s Terra satellite captured photos showing the terrain before and after the rains came.

Species Review
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the condition of 374 freshwater plant and animal species for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act. The species all live in the waters, wetlands and riparian areas of the southeastern United States.

Senate Hearings
On Tuesday the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hear testimony about reducing nutrient pollution in waterways. Testifying are federal and state officials, the head of the Washington, D.C. water utility, and a farmer.

The same day, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hear from the Department of Energy’s advisory board on shale-gas production.

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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