Federal Water Tap, March 7: Spending Bills and Rule-Making

What About the Kitchen Sink?
In February, the Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut $61 billion from the federal budget for the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2011. Among the cuts were a 56 percent reduction in funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to states and municipalities for drinking water projects, and a 30 percent ($3 billion) cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. Included in the bill were amendments to prevent the EPA from enforcing a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, to restrict the agency’s authority to regulate certain discharges under the Clean Water Act, and to prevent agency scientists from reviewing mountaintop removal coal mining operations. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill in its current form. On Friday, Senate Democrats offered a budget with $6.5 billion in cuts. The Senate will vote this week, but majority leader Harry Reid does not expect enough ‘yeas’ for the bill to pass.

Help the Government Help You
In response to an executive order to make its regulations more effective and less onerous, the Department of the Interior is seeking your advice. To improve its management of the nation’s public lands and waters, the department wants to know which rules are beneficial, which are burdensome and which are redundant. Comments on this first stage of the planning process must be submitted by March 28 and can be emailed to RegsReview@ios.doi.gov.

The Dam Rent is Too Low
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is revising how it assesses charges for the use of government land by hydropower projects. The annual land use fee is based on market value. The commission wants a methodology for calculating accurate land values that is not expensive to administer, that can be applied uniformly to all hydropower licenses and that protects consumers from price increases. Comments are being accepted through April 29, and can be submitted here, referencing Docket No. RM11-6-000.

EPA’s 30 New Flavors
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a list of 30 unregulated contaminants—two viruses and 28 chemicals—it is considering for monitoring. The agency regulates 90 contaminants and is required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to review its roster every five years. Public drinking water systems serving more than 10,000 people will be required to test for the proposed additions. The list will be finalized in 2012, but comments on the proposal are being accepted through May 2 at OW-Docket@epa.gov.

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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