January 18, 2013
House Passes Sandy Aid Bill and Senate Likely to Approve Next Week
On Jan. 15, the House passes an Emergency Supplemental Aid Bill to help states affected by Superstorm Sandy. The $50.5 billion package for disaster relief will provide new aid heading to communities hit by the storm. In late 2012, the Senate passed a similar package for $60.4 billion, which later expired at the end of the 112th Congress. That bill is largely reflected in both the package passed in House on Jan.15 and in the $9.7 billion measure expanding borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program (HR 41) that was cleared on Jan. 4 by the House and has been signed into law by the President. The two House-passed bills combined are equal to the $60.4 billion requested by the President.
Due to resistance from fiscally conservative Republican members of the House, the initial aid package offered in the House was for $17 billion, and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) pledged to provide additional funding through the regular annual appropriations bills. However, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also took steps to allow the House to vote Jan. 15 on a $33.67 billion amendment by House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) that provided many of the other funds requested by Obama and backed by the Senate. Ultimately, the amendment offered passed and was incorporated into Rogers's bill. But the amendment and the overall bill only managed to clear the House with heavy Democratic support. Minus that, there was not enough Republican support to pass either one. On final passage, the tally was 241-180, with 192 Democrats and only 49 Republicans voting in favor. Voting against the measure were 179 Republicans and 1 Democrat.
The Frelinghuysen amendment contains line-item funding to aid water and wastewater facilities recover and design for possible future natural disasters. In areas impacted by the storm in EPA Region 2 there is $500 million in capitalization grants through the Clean Water State Revolving Funds for wastewater facilities and $100 million for capitalization grants through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The aid package will require states that use the funding to use not less than 20 percent but not more than 30 percent of the amount of its capitalization grants to provide additional subsidization to eligible recipients in the form of forgiveness of principal, negative interest loans or grants or any combination of these. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) attempted to offer an amendment to lift the 30 percent cap, but the House Rules Committee restricted the total number of amendments offered to the bill to three. The aid package requires that funding be used for “projects whose purpose is to reduce flood damage risk and vulnerability or to enhance resiliency to rapid hydrologic change or a natural disaster at treatment works” in EPA Region 2.
The Senate is expected to consider the House aid package next week and comments out of Senate Democratic leaders suggest that the package will be cleared fairly quickly because the bill is relatively similar to the package previously passed by the Senate. “It's great news for families, communities, and small businesses in our region that the House—after weeks of delay—finally passed an emergency relief bill for Superstorm Sandy,” said Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “Our region extends a helping hand any time another community suffers from a major disaster, and we're pleased that the House voted to provide this emergency relief for New Jersey and New York.”
In a separate statement, Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said the House bill is “close enough” to what officials from the region need. He said he will urge his colleagues to pass it quickly.
EPA Releases Financial Capability Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements [+]
Over the last several months, EPA has engaged in a dialogue with local governments, led by the US Conference of Mayors, to clarify how the financial capability of a community will be considered when developing schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet Clean Water Act obligations. As a result of this dialogue, Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, and Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, transmitted today to EPA Regional Offices a Financial Capability Framework. This Framework identifies various implementation issues as well as some more robust ways to present community-specific information as part of a financial capability analysis. These issues are a key concern as localities pursue EPA’s integrated planning approach for municipal wastewater and stormwater.
WEF supports clarifying how communities can assess and present their financial capabilities and will continue to work with EPA, US Conference of Mayors and other partners to help advance this Financial Capability Framework.
ASCE Releases Final Report in Failure to Act Series, Detailing Comprehensive Impacts of Failing to Invest in America’s Infrastructure [+]
The health of our nation’s roads, power lines, sewer systems, waterways and other infrastructure elements are vital for ensuring U.S. businesses are competitive and prosperous. On January 15, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled a new, economic study on quantifying exactly how much these assets impact our economic well-being.The final study in the first-of-its-kind series, the analysis provides a comprehensive evaluation of the long-term impacts to jobs, gross domestic product (GDP) and other economic indicators if the nation fails to meet the investment needs of key infrastructure sectors.
The fifth and final report in ASCE’s Failure to Act series, Failure to Act: The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Growth, presents an overall picture of the economic opportunity associated with infrastructure investment and the cost of failing to fill the investment gap. The new report quantifies the interactive effect between investment gaps in the infrastructure sectors addressed in each of the preceding studies. Previous Failure to Act reports addressed surface transportation, energy, water and wastewater, and airport and waterborne transportation.
The comprehensive impact of a failure to invest cannot be estimated by simply adding the impacts found in each previous report because the degradation of surface transportation, water delivery and wastewater treatment, energy, inland waterways and marine ports each affect business productivity differently. For example, regardless of how quickly goods can be offloaded at our nation’s ports, if the highway and rail infrastructure needed to transport those goods to market is congested, traffic will slow and increase costs to businesses and households, creating a drag on the economy ultimately reflected in lower GDP.
Integrated Planning Workshops Scheduled [+]
Last October, WEF staff participated in an Integrated Planning workshop sponsored by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) in Washington, DC. This workshop included States and localities from EPA’s Region III along with key EPA managers from both Headquarters [Deborah Nagle and Mark Pollins] and EPA Region III. All participants were able to share their current approaches to implementing an integrated planning approach consistent with EPA’s Framework and discuss best ways forward.
WEF will now be partnering with NACWA and ACWA in sponsoring similar workshops in other EPA Regions. A workshop for EPA Region I states and localities is being planned for this spring. A workshop will be held April 3 in Portland, OR, for EPA Region X. Tentatively, a workshop for EPA Region VII is being planned for March 12 in the Kansas City
area. More information will be provided when available.
Secretary Salazar, USGS Director McNutt Both Leaving Interior [+]
On January 16, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced he will leave the Obama administration by the end of March and return to his home state of Colorado, saying he had fulfilled his promise to serve four years as Secretary. An acting Secretary has not been named at this time.
Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey and science advisor to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has also recently announced her resignation. She will be leaving USGS on February 15, indicating she had timed her departure so that she can witness the launching of the Landsat 8 satellite on February 11. Deputy Director Suzette Kimball will become Acting USGS Director. Press reports speculate that Ms. McNutt may be heading back to San Diego to join the faculty and perhaps succeed Mr. Tony
Haymet as director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Continue Service in Obama Administration [+]
On January 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement regarding the announcement that he will continue his service in the Obama Administration. “President Obama and I share a deep appreciation for rural America and its unlimited potential in the years ahead to feed a growing world population, revolutionize America’s energy, further protect our natural resources and create more jobs here at home. We will continue to urge Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will help us continue USDA’s wide range of efforts to support this work. As we look ahead to a promising future in our small towns and rural communities, I am pleased to continue working alongside President Obama to grow more opportunity in rural America.”
EPA’s 2011 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline [+]
According to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report published on January 16, total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row. The annual TRI provides citizens with vital information about their communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
Among the HAPs showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.. Releases into surface water decreased 3 percent and releases to land increased 19 percent since 2010, with the latter again due primarily to the metal mining sector. The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010. The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined - which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases - can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally. Other industry sectors also saw smaller increases in releases, including the hazardous waste management sector. For more information on the 2011 TRI analysis and TRI web-based tools, click here.
EPA January 30 Webinar on New Recreational Criteria [+]
EPA will host a free Watershed Academy webinar to learn about EPA's new recreational water quality criteria on January 30, 2013, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST. EPA recently recommended new recreational water quality criteria for states that will help protect peoples' health during visits to beaches and other recreational waters year-round. The science-based criteria provide information to help states improve public health protection by providing similarly protective recommendations for both marine and fresh waters, encouraging early alerts to beachgoers and promoting rapid water testing. To register, click here.
Register for WEF-AWWA Fly-In, April 17-18 [+]
WEF and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) are again hosting the third annual WEF-AWWA “Water Matters” Fly-In, April 17-18. Free to WEF and AWWA members, the event will begin on Wednesday, April 17th, with briefings and discussions of current clean water and drinking water issues currently before Congress followed the next day by scheduled visits with Congressional representatives. The Fly-In will also include a reception for participants and invited congressional guests. A breakfast and a concluding luncheon to share information and lessons learned will take place on Thursday, April 18th.
Hotel Information: A block of rooms has been reserved at the Arlington Hilton, located at 950 North Stafford Street, Arlington, VA, for event participants. This hotel is convenient to Washington METRO for easy access to Capitol Hill. To reserve a room, contact the Arlington Hilton at (703) 528-6000.
To register for the Fly-In, please contact Mr. Tommy Holmes, AWWA Legislative Director, by email at email@example.com. If you have other questions, please contact Mr. Tim Williams at WEF, firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 11, 2013
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Flood Control District
On Jan. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court decision. The Supreme Court supported Los Angeles County’s view that water flowing between natural and channelized sections is simply a transfer of the same water and should not be seen as a permitted discharge.
Justice Ginsberg said that the Justices focused on the question of: “Under the Clean Water Act, does a ‘discharge of pollutants’ occur when polluted water ‘flows from one portion of a river that is navigable water of the United States, through a concrete channel or other engineered improvement in the river,’ and then “into a lower portion of the same river?” The court ruled that “the flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the very same waterway does not qualify as a discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act.”
Federal Court Rules on Accotink Creek TMDL Case [+]
On Jan. 3, a federal court ruled that EPA exceeded its authority in establishing a flow-based total maximum daily load (TMDL) for Accotink Creek in Fairfax, VA. The flow-based TMDL used stormwater runoff as a surrogate for sediment loading in the stream. The court decided the case in favor of the plaintiffs, Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation, who sued EPA on the basis that stormwater runoff is not, itself, a pollutant. The ruling was based on the view that while EPA can dictate the pollutants attributed to a TMDL, Congress is the body who defines what a pollutant is.
Federal Agencies to Improve Coordination of Information on Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water [+]
EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of the Interior have agreed to improve coordination and collaboration on issues related to pharmaceuticals in drinking water
through a new memorandum of understanding. Under this agreement, these and other federal agencies will share scientific data and information and coordinate potential future research on the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, their sources and potential health effects. The agencies formulated the agreement in response to a recommendation by the Government Accountability Office in 2011. Click here for more information on the agreement
WEF Launches Stormwater Report Website [+]
The January edition of the Stormwater Report marks the launch of a new Water Environment Federation (WEF) website dedicated entirely to stormwater news. On the homepage, find the most recent news and feature story. All news stories on the site are searchable, and information is categorized by news type, region and topic—see both broad categories and more specific subtopics. Discover ways to get involved. In the sidebar, check out upcoming events, stormwater videos, a poll question, and a feed from WEF’s newly launched Stormwater Twitter account. Follow us @WEFstormwater. WEF welcomes comments and story ideas, particularly regarding state and local programs. Feel free to contact us.
EPA Consumer Confidence Report Rule Retrospective Review with Electronic Report Delivery Now Available [+]
EPA has completed its review of the Consumer Confidence Report Rule and has concluded that drinking water utilities can provide reports about drinking water quality to customers via email or on the internet instead of mailing a copy of the report. Electronic delivery of these consumer confidence reports, which utilities are required to provide to their customers each year under the Safe Drinking Water Act, is expected to help utilities improve transparency and save resources. For more information on the review, click here. EPA will hold a webinar on January 17 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm EST to discuss electronic delivery of the consumer confidence reports. Please reserve your webinar seat here. Click here for local drinking water information.
USGS Climate Science Center Research Funds Available [+]
The Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) are seeking proposals for FY 2013 and/or FY 2014. Each CSC has developed a set of science priorities or needs for this funding opportunity. More details can be found in the full Funding Opportunity document, the CSC websites, and the CSC links below. For more information about the project selection, review, and award process; please view the webinar presentation (recorded December 20, 2012): CSC Solicitation, Review and Award Process. Power Point slides from this presentation are also available for viewing here. Click Here to Read the Full Funding Opportunity Document For more information on the Climate Science Centers, please click here.
Only institutions affiliated with a CSC and USGS centers, field stations and laboratories may submit proposals in response to this Funding Opportunity. Each proposal must have a Principal Investigator (PI) from an eligible entity. Deadline for submission of Statements of Interest is February 1, 2013. Applicants will be notified and full proposals requested by February 25. Invited full proposals are due on March 25. Statements of interest and full proposals will be submitted via the NCCWSC RFP Manager. This announcement can
also be found by clicking here
Climate Ready Water Utilities Webinar Series to Begin on January 23 [+]
On January 23, EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative will begin a new series of webinars on its tools and resources to help drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. These webinars will assist the water sector in developing a better understanding of climate change, managing impacts, and creating adaptation strategies. Climate Ready Water Utilities resources promote a clear understanding of climate science and adaptation options, by translating complex climate projections into understandable, actionable and localized information for the water sector. Webinar topics include climate change readiness and an introduction to climate science for the water sector, followed by more in depth discussions on CRWU topics, such as planning a workshop on extreme weather events and the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool. For more information, visit the "training tab" or email questions to CRWUhelp@epa.gov.
Importance of Water Symposium Videos Available Online [+]
EPA is conducting a study on the importance of water in the U.S. economy to better understand how water contributes to the economic welfare of the nation and plays a critical role in many sectors of the U.S. economy. On December 4, EPA co-hosted a public symposium in Washington, D.C. with speakers that represent a diverse array of industries including agriculture, food and beverage production, manufacturing, recreation, tourism and fishing. EPA also released a draft report on the importance of water to the U.S. economy. Videos from the recorded webcast featuring the speakers are now available online. View the videos here. For more information, contact John Powers (email@example.com or 202-564-5776).
January 04, 2013
New Congress Convenes; Will Address Farm Programs, Current and Future Spending for EPA, Other Federal Agencies
The tax increase and deficit reduction deal approved by Congress January 1 and signed by the President puts off decisions about spending cuts for another 60 days. This means that within the first 90 days the newly convened 113th Congress will address three hold-over issues with the potential to result in significant spending cuts for domestic environmental programs including water infrastructure and federal and state program implementation: Phase II of the fiscal cliff; legislation to increase the federal borrowing limit; and approval of federal agency spending for the remainder of FY 2013. With the exception of the Department of Defense, federal agencies are operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires at the end of March. Managers at US EPA report that they have not been given any specific directive to curtail spending for the current year; this could mean the impact of any coming reductions (potentially as much as 8.2 percent of current spending under the original sequester requirements) will be magnified since they will come at least halfway through the fiscal year and agencies will have little flexibility to absorb such a large cut in the remainder of the year. The final fiscal cliff legislation also extended current farm subsidy programs for 9 months. Like many other issues, including Hurricane Sandy Relief, efforts to reach a compromise on a new five-year, $500 million bill to reauthorize farm subsidy, food stamp, and conservation programs failed amid partisan differences and budget maneuvering in the final days of the 112th Congress.