Federal Water Tap, August 14: EPA Investigates Civil Rights Complaint Against California Water Board

The Rundown

  • EPA investigates alleged discrimination by California’s top water regulator.
  • The EPA has until August 15 to respond to a lawsuit to strengthen water pollution standards for large-scale animal feedlots.
  • The White House designates more than 917,000 acres near the Grand Canyon as a national monument.
  • DOE to develop a “gold star” rating program for carbon capture projects.
  • The EPA rejects Alabama’s plan to manage coal waste.
  • The USGS assesses a noise-making system to deter upstream movement of invasive carp in the Mississippi River basin.

And lastly, NOAA calculates higher odds for an above-average Atlantic hurricane season.

“Those warm waters likely contributed to the development of two tropical storms in the deep tropics during June. Tropical storm development in the deep tropics during June and July is usually a harbinger of a busy season to follow.” — Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Peak Atlantic hurricane season is August through October, when sea surface temperatures are highest. Right now, the top layers of the North Atlantic, where hurricanes develop, are the warmest since 1950. Factors influencing an above-average season: the presence of El Nino and the warm phase of a decadal climate pattern in the Atlantic. NOAA’s updated outlook reckons that six to 11 hurricanes are likely. Between two and five storms could become “major” hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. These forecasts do not estimate how many storms will make landfall. And the category rankings are based on wind speeds, not rainfall or inland flooding potential.

By the Numbers

4,944: Number of heat-related emergency response calls made nationwide between July 22 and August 4. The numbers are being tracked in a new federal database for heat-related emergency medical services.

News Briefs

Civil Rights Investigation
The EPA will investigate allegations that California’s top water regulator discriminated against Asian, Black, and Latino people and native tribes when it failed to update water pollution standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Francisco Bay.

The Office of External Civil Rights Compliance will also investigate whether the California Water Resources Control Board allowed for adequate public participation, especially in the South Stockton area.

The Bay-Delta is one of the most contentious water policy arenas in California. Its ecology and people are threatened by rising seas, water diversions, decline of fish species, rising water temperatures, and blooms of toxic algae.

The civil rights complaint was filed on December 16, 2022 by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and Winnemem Wintu Tribe, as well as the community and environmental groups Little Manila Rising, Save California Salmon, and Restore the Delta.

New National Monument
The Biden administration established a new national monument in the Southwest, protecting 917, 618 acres of federally managed public lands around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims and geothermal development. Existing claims are not affected.

The name of the monument — Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni–Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument — reflects the languages of the Havasupai and Hopi tribes that live in the area.

The secretaries of agriculture and interior must now develop a management plan for the monument, one that will be informed by public meetings and consultation with tribal nations.

Alabama Coal Ash
The EPA intends not to approve Alabama’s coal ash program, claiming that state requirements for handling the waste products from coal burning do not protect water sources from contamination.

The agency says the program is inadequate in at least two ways: closing waste pits without a protective liner and monitoring groundwater for the presence of contaminants.

Public comments are being accepted through October 13. Submit them via www.regulations.gov using docket number EPA–HQ–OLEM–OLEM–2022–0903.

Studies and Reports

Using Sound to Ward Off Invasive Carp
Loud, abrasive noises are proving useful in keeping invasive carp from moving upriver toward the Great Lakes, where they threaten a multibillion-dollar fishing industry.

That’s the gist of a preliminary U.S. Geological Survey assessment of an “underwater acoustic deterrent” at Lock 19 on the Mississippi River. The lock is near Keokuk, Iowa.

Installed in 2021, the system operates for 80 hours and then rests for 80 hours, allowing researchers to gauge its effect on the carp. Carp were more likely to move into the lock when the system was off, they found.

In context: Bubbles and Electricity Designed to Deter Invasive Carp from Lake Michigan

On the Radar

CAFO Pollution Standards
The EPA has until August 15 to respond to a petition that requests stronger water pollution standards for large-scale animal feedlots, or CAFOs.

The petition, filed in 2017 by Food and Water Watch along with dozens of public interest groups, wants the agency to update Clean Water Act requirements for CAFOs. The desired changes include revising the agricultural stormwater exemption, ensuring that CAFOs have pollution permits, and requiring water quality monitoring.

The agency last revised CAFO pollution rules in 2008.

Carbon Capture Rating System
Call it “gold stars” for carbon handling.

The Department of Energy wants to develop a rating system to signify responsible management of carbon capture, transport, and storage projects.

The Responsible Carbon Management Initiative aims to rank developers according to their “safety, environmental stewardship, accountability, community engagement, and societal benefits.” That covers air and water quality as well as groundwater protection.

Public comments are being accepted through September 11. Submit them to responsiblecarbonmanagementinitiative@hq.doe.gov.

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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