Federal Water Tap, February 20: Legislation

Bills, Bills, Bills
More than 40 senators called on the body’s leadership to pass a flood insurance bill, The Hill reports. The bill, among other things, would change insurance premiums to help cover the billions in debt the program has run up. The Government Accountability Office, which has been concerned about the insurance program for years, issued a report last June calling for reform.

A Massachusetts Democrat has introduced a bill in the House to prevent any new natural gas export terminals until 2025. According to Reuters, Edward Markey said he wants to prevent price increases for U.S. consumers. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which handles the permits, has already approved an export terminal in Louisiana.

The Senate team from Arizona, John McCain and John Kyl, introduced tribal water rights legislation in which the Navajo and Hopi tribes would give up pending claims on water from the Little Colorado River for money to build pipelines for drinking water. The bill would transfer additional water rights to the Navajo if the tribe signs agreements continuing the leases for transmission lines and mining permits for the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, which is on tribal land.

Kyl, who is not seeking re-election, wants to resolve the water rights issue before leaving office next January.

The House passed a bill that would take the permitting decision for the Keystone XL pipeline out of the president’s hands.

Radium in Groundwater
The U.S. Geological Survey found that one in five wells tested in the regions around Iowa and New Jersey had levels of radium—a cancer-causing chemical—above health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Radium occurs naturally, and the water tested in the study had not been treated.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—But Not Carbon Dioxide
The State Department announced the formation of a global alliance to reduce global warming from methane, soot and HFCs—a class of compound used in refrigeration. The U.S. will work with five countries and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The group, according to a senior U.S. administration official, will encourage countries to adopt a set of guidelines proposed by UNEP to reduce these pollutants that have a short life in the atmosphere. The group will also help countries with planning, and, in some cases, financing a reduction program.

Colorado River
The Bureau of Reclamation released the February update for reservoirs in the Colorado River basin. The current forecast predicts the amount of water flowing into Lake Powell to be 71 percent of average, but there is significant uncertainty because it is so early in the season.

EPA Arsenic
The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting on March 2 to discuss arsenic in drinking water and affordable removal methods for small communities. To sign up for the webcast, follow the directions found here. To make comments, email perkinson.russ@epa.gov by Feb. 28.

And Finally, Some Research
Here’s a trio of recent reports from the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of the legislative branch. On changes in the Arctic. On pipeline safety. On federal land ownership.

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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