- The administrative preparations for the country’s largest dam removal clear another hurdle.
- The EPA delays the effective date of the Lead and Copper Rule revisions.
- A House subcommittee approves bills related to household water debt and PFAS contamination.
- Federal energy regulators will undertake a new environmental assessment of the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline.
- The Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead the EPA Office of Water.
And lastly, NOAA scientists forecast a smaller-than-average Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
“Addressing climate change will help human health. As America stands at a crossroads in this new energy age, we must ensure that infrastructure includes strategic investments in energy, clean energy, climate, and water resources innovation.” – Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) speaking in the House on the climate crisis.
By the Numbers
55-43: Margin by which the Senate confirmed Radhika Fox to lead the EPA Office of Water. Before being pulled into the Biden administration Fox was the head of the U.S. Water Alliance.
Klamath Dam Removal Takes Step Forward
Federal energy regulators at FERC transferred the license of four Klamath River dams from an energy company to the entity who will be responsible for taking them down.
The license will shift from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. The states of California and Oregon, in which the dams are located, hold the license with KRRC.
Adding the states as co-licensees addresses concerns raised by FERC about the ability of KRRC to carry out the $450 million dam decommissioning. FERC had wanted PacifiCorp to remain on the license. Instead, the states will provide backup technical capacity.
Mountain Valley Pipeline
FERC will also issue a revised environmental assessment of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a controversial natural gas pipeline proposed to run from West Virginia in southern Virginia.
The new evaluation is needed because the pipeline developer said it will change its construction methods. Instead of cutting across 120 waterways with open trenches, the company will bore tunnels beneath them.
FERC expects to complete the assessment by August 13, 2021.
House Passes Water Bills
The House passed a number of water bills, including reauthorizations for the EPA’s grant program for nonpoint source pollution at $200 million annually and the Lake Pontchartrain restoration program, as well as a bill that would establish a San Francisco Bay Office within the EPA to oversee a grant program for the largest West Coast estuary.
House Subcommittee Approves Other Water Bills
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved three water bills.
- The PFAS Action Act would require the EPA to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law.
- The Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act has three main parts. Part one would provide grants and loans for water infrastructure improvements like lead service line replacement and PFAS treatment. Part two is about regulations. It would require the EPA to set national drinking water standards for microcystin and 1,4-dioxane. Part three is $4 billion to forgive household water debt that accrued during the pandemic.
- The Low-Income Customer Assistance Programs Act would require the EPA to establish a program to help low-income households pay their water and sewer bills. It would also require a national assessment of the number of people who have trouble affording their water bills.
Clean Water Act Violation
The Justice Department is proposing a consent decree with Quincy, Massachusetts, over deficiencies in that city’s sanitary and stormwater sewer systems.
Untreated wastewater from the sanitary sewer had been entering the stormwater system and was discharged into Quincy Bay. Under the proposal, the city would fix that and pay a $115,000 civil penalty.
Studies and Reports
Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone
NOAA scientists forecast that the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone will be slightly smaller than average this summer.
The area of low-oxygen in coastal waters is deadly to fish and marine life. It’s caused by excess nutrients and warm waters.
On the Radar
Lead and Copper Rule Delay
The EPA delayed the date that revisions to federal rules for lead in drinking water go into effect. The effective date is now December 16, 2021.
The agency delayed the rule because it is reviewing it for possible re-revision.
On June 24, the Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss nature-based solutions to water infrastructure needs.
On June 23, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hear from Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator, on the agency’s priorities in fiscal year 2022.
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