Build Them Faster
Continuing his mission of cutting red tape and making federal review processes leaner, President Obama signed an executive order to speed the pace of approval for infrastructure projects. The order establishes a committee comprised of cabinet-level departments, which will submit a plan for a streamlined, coordinated review process for water, energy, transportation and telecommunications projects. An online “dashboard” will be created so that the progress of key projects can be tracked from a single site.
Blocking the EPA
Nearly three dozen Republican senators have signed on to a bill that would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from enacting a proposed interpretation of the scope of the Clean Water Act. The draft guidelines were published last year in response to a U.S. Supreme Court case and would expand the definition of “waters of the United States,” which is the broad, vague term used in the CWA.
Six House and Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Obama administration’s regulatory honcho explaining their position.
At a hearing on the president’s 2013 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers, Rep. Tim Bishop, a New York Democrat, lamented the proposed budget cuts. Referring to the proposed 5.4 percent cut, Bishop said that “we are now at a critical threshold where these reductions are jeopardizing the ability to sustain our infrastructure and protect our citizens.”
Jo-Ellen Darcy, who oversees the Army Corps civil works program, told the subcommittee that the budget request is a “fiscally prudent, appropriate level of investment in the nation’s water resources infrastructure and in the restoration of its aquatic ecosystems.”
The Bureau of Reclamation is considering changing how it operates Glen Canyon Dam, which is on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. The changes could affect hydropower generation, recreation, and the riparian ecology. Comments submitted during the public comment period are now available on the project’s website.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton