Federal Water Tap, May 16: House Committee Alleges Criminal Activity

The Rundown

  • The House Natural Resources Committee tells the Justice Department it should investigate alleged criminal activity from a top Trump administration official.
  • The EPA proposes a waiver, applicable to projects in the design phase, from American-sourced materials requirements in the infrastructure bill.
  • To prevent manatees from dying, an EPA regional administrator says that Florida needs to do more to clean up its waters.

And lastly, the House passes a Senate bill to address harmful algal blooms in Florida.

“We know that many Michiganders enjoy the splendors of South Florida in the winter season. We have had this reported from colleagues from Florida. We are supporting this bill because this work can serve as a template for other communities suffering from [harmful algal blooms] and hypoxia and help address these disruptive events.” — Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) speaking in the House in favor of the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act. The House joined the Senate in passing the bill, which requires an interagency task force to develop a plan to respond to harmful algal blooms in South Florida.

By the Numbers

5th Warmest: It was the fifth warmest April in the global temperature record, according to NOAA data. Global records extend back to 1880. Asia, stoked by extreme heat in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, experienced its warmest April on record.

News Briefs

Criminal Complaint
The House Natural Resources Committee notified the Justice Department that it should investigate potential criminal activity from a top official in the Trump administration, claiming that a decision to issue a Clean Water Act permit for an Arizona housing development was the result of a quid pro quo.

In 2016 the Army Corps had suspended a Section 404 permit for the Villages at Vigneto, a 28,000-home development in southern Arizona. The permit was suspended because field staff at the Fish and Wildlife Service said they needed more detailed assessments of the development’s impacts on endangered species.

Committee investigators allege that David Bernhardt, then the deputy secretary of the Interior Department, intervened in 2017 to reverse the suspension. The committee also alleges that a payment from the Vigneto developer to Trump fundraisers just before the permit was reinstated suggests a reciprocal agreement.

Manatee Deaths
There has been a spike in manatee deaths in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. The iconic mammals are starving because polluted waters are destroying seagrass, a main food source.

Daniel Blackman, the EPA regional administrator, said that the deaths should be a wake-up call to regulators, highlighting “the need for accelerated action by the state of Florida to control nutrients reaching the Indian River Lagoon watershed.”

In context: Cloudy Waters Are Driving Florida’s Massive Manatee Die-Off

Studies and Reports

Build America, Buy America Waiver
Projects built with funds from the federal infrastructure bill have to get their materials from American sources.

The EPA is proposing a waiver to the Build America, Buy America provision for projects in the design phase before May 14, 2022. The waiver is for projects financed by the WIFIA program. It does not waive existing requirements for American iron and steel.

On the Radar

Drinking Water Contaminants Review
On June 6, an expert panel will hold a public meeting to discuss the EPA’s draft list of drinking water contaminants that will be evaluated for potential regulation.

The EPA is required every five years to publish a list of unregulated contaminants that occur in drinking water.

The agency asked the Science Advisory Board to assess its process for determining the 66 chemicals, 3 chemical groups, and 12 microbes that are on the draft list.

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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