Federal Water Tap, June 11: Water and Energy Spending Bill Passes House Committee

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act to guidelines written by the Bush administration in 2007. Bloomberg BNA reports that a House floor vote should happen soon.

The House Appropriations Committee also included language to block the new guidance in a water and energy spending bill it passed on Wednesday. The committee approved a budget for the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and related agencies that was US$965 million less than President Barack Obama requested.

Most of the cuts—US$1.5 billion—come from the Department of Energy. In the budget report the committee noted that high gas prices and American manufacturing were its two major concerns. Nonetheless, the committee granted energy efficiency and renewable energy programs US$886 million less than the president’s request, but it bumped up the allocation for carbon capture and storage research by US$108 million.

The committee also eliminated US$25 million for a new initiative to develop technology for exploiting shale oil, which is petroleum solids trapped in sedimentary rock that need to be heated for extraction. Large deposits are found in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and the Government Accountability Office has raised serious questions about the water needed to develop them.

USGS Water Plan
The U.S. Geological Survey released its draft strategy for water science. Several key programs face cuts in the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

Lake Tahoe
The U.S. Forest Service released its draft plan for managing the public lands surrounding Lake Tahoe. It revises a plan from 1988. Public comments are being accepted for 90 days.

Water Quarrel
Tombstone, Arizona—site of the famous Western gun fight—has been pitched into a new dispute, this time with the federal government. Last summer, a forest fire and subsequent mudslide destroyed the city’s main water supply infrastructure. Because the pipeline is in a wilderness area, the U.S. Forest Service has prevented the city from using heavy machinery to repair the broken conduit.

City officials have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to intercede, but last week a second justice turned down the city’s request, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.

El Nino
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says there is a 50 percent chance of El Nino conditions developing in the tropical Pacific late this year, Reuters reports. The cyclical warming of the ocean’s surface typically brings warmer and drier weather to the northern latitudes in the U.S. and wetter conditions going south.

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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