Federal Water Tap, September 12: House Democrats Object to Manchin’s Permitting Deal

The Rundown

  • House Democrats warn their leadership not to undercut NEPA environmental reviews.
  • The EPA’s internal watchdog says it will begin an investigation into Jackson’s water crisis.
  • The Defense Department seeks research projects on climate change, society, and national security.

And lastly, the Bureau of Reclamation releases a water-supply study of California’s American River basin.

“It’s our desire that the city of Jackson gets its fair share. It’s our desire that the city of Jackson doesn’t have to live with what you all have lived with for far too long.” — Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, speaking with community leaders in Jackson, Mississippi.

By the Numbers

73.9 Degrees: Average daily temperature in the Lower 48 states for the months of June, July, and August, making this summer the third-hottest in 128 years of record-keeping, according to NOAA.

News Briefs

Permitting Battles
At least 72 House Democrats urged their leadership not to abandon key principles of environmental review in the name of permitting reform as negotiations begin to define the terms of a side deal with Sen. Joe Manchin.

The deal to alter permitting requirements in order to speed up infrastructure projects like pipelines helped secure the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. But House Democrats worry that a slapdash approach to appease oil and gas interests will re-entrench polluting industries in districts that have little political power.

“We remain deeply concerned that these serious and detrimental permitting provisions will significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color,” the Democrats said in their letter.

In context: Do We Have to Choose between Speedy Development and Environment?

Jackson Water Crisis Investigation
In Jackson, the troubled O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant is operating once again, but city residents are still being advised to boil their water before drinking it.

During heavy rains in late August the treatment plant failed, leaving more than 150,000 people in the capital city without running water.

Investigations into the crisis are now beginning.

NBC News reports that staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General are on the ground in Jackson, conducting interviews. The office is an independent watchdog agency that oversees the EPA’s work.

A spokesperson said the inquiry will be a thorough review of the causes of the crisis.

Studies and Reports

American River Basin Study
A warming climate will impact the management of the American River, a watershed in northern California that is part of a key federal water supply project.

That’s one conclusion from the Bureau of Reclamation’s recently published study of the basin, which extends eastward from Sacramento and includes Folsom Dam.

Fish and wildlife habitat, flood protection, and water supply will be altered by changes in the timing of runoff and the amount of rain and snow.

On the Radar

Defense Department Research Grants
The Defense Department’s Minerva Project seeks to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic currents that underlie regions that are important to U.S. strategic goals.

One of six topics of interest noted in the funding announcement for 2022 is socio-economic vulnerability to climate change. The DOD is keen to understand the links between climate change and society and how the interaction might affect national security.

Up to $15 million in funding is available, and individual projects can receive up to $1 million annually over three to five years.

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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