Lines in the Sand
Last Wednesday, the Obama administration denied a permit for Keystone XL, a 2,750 km (1,710 mi) pipeline from Canada’s tars sands to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. In a statement, President Barack Obama said that the decision was “not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but [on] the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.”
In December, as part of a tax cut compromise, Congress gave the administration a 60-day deadline to approve or reject the project.
The door is still open for the developer, TransCanada, to reapply once it plots a new route through Nebraska, where the pipeline was a contentious issue, owing to its path through ecologically sensitive regions.
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to wrest authority for the pipeline away from the executive branch. Nebraska Republican Lee Terry introduced a bill that would shift the permitting process to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and require a permit within 30 days.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider Rep. Terry’s bill during a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. An assistant secretary of state, Kerri-Ann Jones, will give testimony on behalf of the State Department.
GOP lawmakers were buoyed by a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stating that Congress is likely “within its Constitutionally enumerated authority” if it attempts to take control of the permitting process, according to The Hill. CRS is Congress’s research arm, analyzing issues that pertain to policy and legislation.
USDA Energy Projects
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an interactive map that shows—by state, county and congressional district—where the department has invested in renewable energy projects and efficiency improvements. In terms of dollars spent, Iowa ($473 million) and North Dakota ($422 lead the way. Biomass projects trump other categories of energy investment.
Nuclear Clean Up
Seven decades ago in the drylands of Washington state, scientists working for the U.S. government made plutonium for the first atomic bombs. Several generations later, cleaning the contaminated soil and groundwater and isolating the waste have proven devilishly difficult, as USA Today investigates in a report about the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear site.
EPA: The Early Years
In the 1970s the newly formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hired photographers to document the nation’s environmental health. Thanks to the U.S. National Archives, those photos—more than 15,000 of them—are now available digitally. A few are posted to the National Archives’s Flickr site. But the whole catalog can be searched via this link.
And…stay tuned. Because last week brimmed with water news from the U.S. government, the Federal Water Tap will come in two parts this week. Tomorrow, look for items on fracking, air pollution and the price of water, climate records, a court case, and a call for more federal money for water infrastructure.
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