A House Republican offers a competing green deal proposal. A Senate committee advances David Bernhardt’s nomination to be secretary of the Interior. Bills authorizing the Colorado River conservation plan are introduced in the House and Senate. A Kentucky congressman reintroduces a bill to halt new mountaintop coal mining until a federal health study is completed. The CDC announces grant funding for PFAS health studies. The FDA proposes lower limits on fluoride in bottled water. And lastly, the USDA publishes the Census of Agriculture next week.
“Our military does not have the luxury of an academic debate about climate change. They must respond to the reality that we face today, and so should the United States Congress. History will judge harshly my Republican colleagues who deny the science of climate change. Similarly, those Democrats who would use climate change as a basis to regulate out of existence the American experience, will face the harsh reality that their ideas will fail. Today, along with other members of Congress, I will be filing a Green Real Deal, a common-sense rebuttal to the Green New Deal. The Green Real Deal rejects regulation as the driving force of reform, and instead unlocks the unlimited potential of American innovation and ingenuity.” — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introducing a carbon-cutting resolution to compete with the Democrats’ Green New Deal.
By the Numbers
14 to 6: Margin by which a Senate committee approved David Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department. The full Senate will vote on the nomination, which it is expected to approve. (Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee)
11 million acre-feet: March runoff on the Missouri River, measured at Sioux City, Iowa. It was a record-breaker, nearly four times the March average. (For comparison, total annual runoff in the Colorado River basin in 2017 was 16.4 million acre-feet.) Last month, floods in the Missouri River watershed overtopped levees and inundated towns and farmland. (Army Corps)
Real Green Deal
The New Green Deal may be more a set of principles than a detailed policy, but it’s starting to shape debate in Washington.
Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a resolution that he called the Green Real Deal. The resolution acknowledges climate change as a national security risk and a threat to the country’s economy and public health. It calls clean energy a “historic opportunity” to create high-wage jobs.
How to achieve it? The resolution pulls from more traditional Republican responses: innovation and new technology. Gaetz lists carbon capture and storage, modular nuclear reactors, modernizing the electric grid, cutting regulations, and giving “fair and equal access” to federal public lands for energy development.
Colorado River Bill Introduced
Members of the House and Senate introduced a bill that authorizes the Interior secretary to carry out state-developed plans to keep more water in the Colorado River’s big reservoirs.
The bill says that the plans are not exempt from federal environmental review laws, a stipulation that was applauded by green groups and the Imperial Irrigation District, which wants more attention (and money) paid to the toxic dust problems at the Salton Sea.
Mountaintop Mining Ban Bill
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) reintroduced a bill to place a moratorium on new permits for mountaintop removal coal mining until a completion of federal study on the health impacts in nearby communities.
The bill directs mining companies to pay a fee that would cover the cost of the health study, which would be conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and assess the effects of polluted air, soil, and water.
The Trump administration, in 2017, halted a similar study that the Obama administration had commissioned. Yarmuth’s previous bill did not make it out of committee.
The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on April 9.
FDA Proposes Fluoride Limits in Bottled Water
The Food and Drug Administration proposed limiting the amount of fluoride in bottled water to 0.7 milligrams per liter, a figure that matches the standard for tap water.
Current FDA rules allow for roughly twice that level of fluoride.
Comments are being accepted through June 3 and can be submitted via www.regulations.gov using docket number FDA-2018-N-1815.
Studies and Reports
PFAS Health Study
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced $6.5 million in funding this year for up to six studies that evaluate diseases that could be linked to PFAS exposure in drinking water.
Part of the study will be estimating historical exposure to PFAS chemicals. The aim of the studies is to have data that can be compared across sites.
Applications are due May 30 and can be accessed via www.grants.gov or the above link.
Louisiana Flood Study
The Army Corps of Engineers will assess the environmental impacts of measures to protect three parishes on the central Louisiana coast from hurricane damage.
Options for protecting Iberia, St. Martin, and St. Mary parishes include levees, wave barriers, buying out property owners, and modifying individual buildings to withstand storm surges.
On the Radar
You probably know about the Census, that chronicle of national demographics that is compiled once a decade. But were you aware that agriculture has a similar data compendium?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistics service is scheduled to publish the latest Census of Agriculture on April 11. Updated every five years, the census includes figures for crop production, livestock inventories, farm income, farm size, irrigated land, and much more.
Wanted: Stormwater Finance Consultants
The EPA is seeking up to 20 consultants to assist it financial advisory board in developing recommendations on funding stormwater infrastructure.
Send nominations for the unpaid gig to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “EFAB Stormwater Finance Workgroup–Expert Consultant Nomination” by April 2019.
Water Prize Competitions
The Bureau of Reclamation and federal partners are sponsoring another prize competition, this time for designing a system to prevent fish from being trapped and killed by water intakes at power stations, canals, or pumping plants.
Up to $75,000 in prize money is available for the winning design.
The Department of Energy, meanwhile, wants entrants in its prize competition to quicken the design and construct of pumped storage hydropower plants. Pumped storage — paired lower and upper reservoirs that work in tandem as a battery — has been prompted has a way of integrating more renewable energy into the power grid.
Up to $550,000 in money and in-kind support is available.
Lots of hearing this week, on pipelines and climate change.
- On April 9, two Obama administration cabinet officials will testify before the House Oversight Committee on climate change as a national security threat. Witnesses include John Kerry, the former secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, who led the Defense Department.
- Also on April 9, the House Committee on Homeland Security will discuss the domestic damages from climate change. Those testifying include experts in children’s health, firefighting, and disaster preparation.
- On April 10, the Senate Commerce Committee hosts a quartet of pipeline safety experts.
- And on April 11, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee talks about “energy innovation” and climate change.
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