- EPA guidance for implementing the infrastructure bill focuses on disadvantaged communities.
- The Defense Department says it will close a bulk fuel storage facility on Oahu that is involved in a fuel leak that contaminated drinking water sources.
- President Biden’s executive order on digital assets requires a report on environmental ramifications of blockchain technologies.
- The NRCS announces more than $166 million from the infrastructure bill for watershed investments.
- The GAO investigates climate risks to hazardous chemicals facilities.
And lastly, Congress approves a 2022 budget with increases for water and environment agencies.
“This is the right thing to do.” — Lloyd Austin III, the Defense secretary, speaking about the Pentagon’s decision to shut down the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The facility is connected with a fuel leak that contaminated drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The incident in November 2021 led Hawaii’s governor to request that the military close the World War Two-era fuel depot. The Defense Department will present a plan by May 31 for decommissioning the facility and aim to complete the process 12 months after that.
By the Numbers
$166.5 Million: Funding announced by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to address flooding, water pollution, dam safety, irrigation, and erosion. It is the first round of funding from the federal infrastructure bill, which provided NRCS with $918 million for watershed investments.
$322 Million: Increase in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget in fiscal year 2022, part of the $1.5 trillion annual budget that was adopted last week. The Army Corps of Engineers ($548 million) and Bureau of Reclamation ($233 million) also saw their budgets increase.
EPA Water Infrastructure Guidance
In a guidance memo, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told states to prioritize disadvantaged communities when they allocate water and sewer funding from the federal infrastructure bill.
Most of the $50 billion in EPA water funding from the bill is being distributed through the state revolving funds. States, which play a key role in administering the revolving funds, had been waiting for the guidance before selecting projects that will receive grants and loans.
A key principle in administering the funds, the EPA says, is flexibility. States will be responsible for defining disadvantaged communities.
The law requires that 49 percent of drinking water and lead pipe removal funds must be delivered to disadvantaged communities in the form of grants or forgivable loans.
Blockchain and Water
As part of a wide-ranging executive order on digital assets and cryptocurrencies, President Biden ordered his science advisors to assess the environmental ramifications of blockchain technologies.
The order requires the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, within 180 days, to submit a report that covers several topics: how blockchain technologies might hinder or advance the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, how the technologies might be useful for tracking emissions or water commitments, and how the technologies affect energy use and the environment.
The blockchain, which is the basis for Bitcoin and non-fungible tokens, is a way of digitally tracking information that does not rely on a central database. In current form, it is also a voracious consumer of energy.
Studies and Reports
Natural Hazards for Hazardous Chemicals Facilities
A government watchdog found that a significant number of facilities that store hazardous chemicals are located in areas exposed to floods, fires, storm surge, and sea level rise — all natural hazards related to climate change.
In analyzing 10,420 facilities, the Government Accountability Office found 31 percent have these risks.
The GAO recommends that the EPA should issue guidance to these facilities for how to incorporate climate change into their risk management plans. The GAO also recommends that EPA inspectors be trained on how to evaluate the adequacy of these plans.
On the Radar
Klamath River Basin Restoration
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has $15 million available from the federal infrastructure bill for habitat restoration in the Klamath River basin of southern Oregon and northern California.
Applications are being accepted for projects that would improve fish and waterfowl habitat in a watershed that is an essential stopover for migrating birds.
Applications are being accepted through May 8, 2022.
Senate Clean Water State Revolving Fund Hearing
On March 16, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to discuss the formula to allocate federal funds to states for sewer and stormwater projects.
House Farm Bill Hearing
On March 16, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture is addressing climate change.
House Wildfire Hearing
On March 16, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will discuss how forest management can reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
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