Federal Water Tap, September 24: Congress Lame Ducks Itself

Congress adjourned until after the November elections, leaving quite a bit of work on the table for a short lame-duck session. In addition to anticipated debates about fiscal policy, there are a few water-related bills that might be considered at year’s end.

In a hearing last week, Senate committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she would move forward a new Water Resources Development Act, which allocates money for flood control and navigation projects.

And the House, though it has yet to take up the Farm Bill, took time last week to pass the Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012, which prevents the Interior Department from issuing regulations that would hamper the coal industry. It is unlikely to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

An amendment to the bill from Arizona Republican Paul Goser would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating haze produced by the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, located on tribal land in Arizona. It passed; however, an amendment from Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey to establish a national renewable electricity standard did not, nor did an amendment to extend an expiring tax credit for wind power.

Coal Terminal EIS
The Army Corps of Engineers will study the effects a proposed coal-export terminal in Washington state would have on coastal waters and wetlands. The Gateway Pacific Terminal, in Whatcom County, would require a new wharf nearly two-thirds of a mile long, inland storage facilities, and rail connections. In the next few months, the corps will hold public meetings and accept written comments. The comment period closes January 21, 2013. The official website for the process is http://eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/.

Forest Management
A committee that will advise the U.S. Forest Service on what a new management rule for national forests means and does held its first meeting. The rule, which updates guidance in place since 1982, was made final this spring.

Great Lakes Pollution
The EPA awarded three grants under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to reduce pollution in the nation’s largest surface source of freshwater. The grants, totaling US$447,000, target mercury disposal, flame retardants, and safer chemicals. A full list of grants made under the initiative in 2012 can be found here.

Fracking Grant
The National Science Foundation has awarded a US$600,000 grant to researchers at the University of Minnesota to study how bacteria might be used to purify wastewater from the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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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