Federal Water Tap, March 5: Statements of Principle

A National Standard
It’s not what clean-energy advocates would have envisioned three years ago when the House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade bill, but it’s something. Last week in the Senate, Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, which would set national targets for energy produced from renewable and low-carbon sources. Each year after 2015, utilities would be required to sell increasing amounts of clean energy, or purchase credits from a clean-energy market.

Infrastructure Hearings
Last week, subcommittees in both the House and Senate held hearings on water and sewer infrastructure. In the House, water agency officials representing national water organizations lobbied for a piece of legislation that would establish a federal loan program for water projects. The bill, called the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act and modeled after a federal program for transportation projects, has not yet been introduced. A second hearing on the topic is scheduled for March 21.

In the Senate, local and state officials spoke about their infrastructure circumstances. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, told the committee that her city is trying to balance the costs of replacing old pipes, with the costs of complying with new regulations.

Delta Water
The House passed a controversial bill that would overrule California water law, guarantee water for irrigation districts and overturn water-use limitations enacted in 2007 to protect the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill, which was sponsored by representatives from the state’s dominant agricultural region, is unlikely to get through the Senate. The Obama administration has also stated its opposition to the bill.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said he welcomed a proposal from TransCanada, a pipeline and energy company, to build an oil pipeline from Oklahoma, where there is a supply glut, to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. In January, the president rejected the company’s Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada has told the administration it will resubmit an application.

Groundwater Management
The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington state’s Department of Ecology released a draft environmental assessment for a water management program in the Yakima River basin. The plan includes a new reservoir, groundwater storage and fish passages, as well as water markets and conservation. Water managers will also change the way they operate existing facilities.

Court Rulings
The U.S. Supreme Court, Reuters reports, declined to hear an appeal from five Great Lakes states seeking more stringent measures to keep Asian carp from spreading throughout one of the world’s largest sources of surface freshwater.

And the Durango Herald reports that a federal court in Denver has ordered the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico to install air pollution controls mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plant owner sought to delay installation while challenging the order in court.

Moves Like Phosphorous
A study from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey shows the ways that excess nutrients—phosphorous in this case—move through groundwater from fertilized fields to streams, rivers and lakes.

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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