August 2008, Vol. 20, No.8

Briefs

Coastal Waters Show Decline in Contaminants

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a 20-year study showing that environmental laws enacted in the 1970s are having a positive effect on reducing overall contaminant levels in U.S. coastal waters. However, the report points to continuing concerns with elevated levels of metals and organic contaminants found near urban and industrial areas of the coasts, a NOAA press release says.

The report, NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program: An Assessment of Two Decades of Contaminant Monitoring in the Nation’s Coastal Zone From 1986–2005, presents national, regional, and local findings that are the result of monitoring efforts analyzing 140 different chemicals in U.S. coastal and estuarine areas, including the Great Lakes, according to the press release.
Significant findings from this report include the following:

  • Decreasing levels nationally of the pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane are documented with a  majority of the sites monitored along the Southern California coast.
  • Decreasing levels also were found for PCBs. The Hudson–Raritan Estuary, one area of the country where some of the highest concentrations of these chemicals were found, now shows 80% of monitored sites with significantly decreasing trends for this pollutant.
  • Tributyl-tin, a biocide used to reduce or restrict the growth of marine organisms on boat hulls, was found to have greater than anticipated consequences, as it affected not only the targeted organisms but also other marine and freshwater life. First regulated in the 1980s, this compound is now decreasing nationally.

The NOAA Mussel Watch Program also quantifies contaminants that are still entering the nation’s waters, and two major groups raise concern:

  • Oil-related compounds from motor vehicles and shipping activities continue to flow into coastal waters daily.
  • Flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers are a new class of contaminants being evaluated by NOAA to determine whether they are increasing in coastal waters and what effects they may have on both marine and human health. NOAA plans to issue a report on flame retardants in coastal waters later this year.

Download the full report at NSandT.noaa.gov.



Recycled Water Could Help Meet Shortfall in California

The California Sustainability Alliance (Rancho Cordova), a market transformation program managed by Navigant Consulting Inc. (Chicago), has released its research report The Role of Recycled Water in Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reduction. The study estimates the potential energy and carbon benefits of accelerating and increasing the development and use of recycled water in California, according to a press release from the alliance.

Currently, Southern California is seeking more than 1.2 billion m³/yr (1 million ac-ft/yr) of additional water to replace imported and other water supplies that are no longer available, the press release says. The study found that more than half of the water shortfall could be met by existing supplies of recycled water that are currently being released to streams and the ocean.

According to the report, the long-term incremental water supply required to meet California’s needs is expected to come from seawater desalination projects. These projects, while providing drought-resistant, reliable supplies, are highly energy-intensive. The study concludes that using secondary and tertiary recycled-water supplies could save enough energy to power 150,000 homes.

Download the report at www.sustainca.org.



Green Firms Rewarded by Financial Markets

A research report published in the June 2008 issue of Strategic Management Journal reveals that financial markets reward firms for going green because those firms are seen as less risky.
Using data on 267 U.S. firms, Mark Sharfman and Chitru S. Fernando of the University of Oklahoma (Norman) analyzed whether firms that had improved their environmental risk management also experienced a reduction in their total cost of capital, and found evidence that they did.

Financial markets seem to perceive greener firms as safer investments because of a reduced likelihood of litigation, government penalties, and catastrophic accidents, according to the report. The financial markets reward this lower level of risk by charging the firm less for its capital, thus allowing the firm to carry more debt. In addition, the research shows that greener firms had higher levels of ownership by individual investors. The broader the ownership of a firm’s stock, the lower its cost of equity capital.

Greener performance thus has potential short- and long-term financial benefits. As the authors note, “firms that make major investments in environmental performance may be providing the markets with an earlier signal about their longer term financial and stock performance.”



WEF Brief Supports Biosolids Land Application

On June 2, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Kern County, Calif., biosolids litigation that has attracted national attention (City of Los Angeles et al v. Kern County). The brief, filed with the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals, supports the position of three Southern California public agencies that operate land application programs in Kern County and that are asking the court to maintain a district court judge’s ruling that allows these programs to continue.

To read the brief and for additional information, see www.wef.org/ScienceTechnologyResources/Biosolids.



U.S. EPA Reaffirms Clean Water Permits Not Needed for Water Transfers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a rule to clarify that permits are not required for transfers of water from one waterbody to another. According to an EPA press release, such transfers include routing water through tunnels, channels, or natural stream courses for public water supplies, irrigation, power generation, flood control, and environmental restoration.

In 2004, the question of whether National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits were necessary for water transfers went before the U.S. Supreme Court in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. According to the press release, the court did not rule directly on the issue, which left unresolved the uncertainty many felt about the need for an NPDES permit. EPA issued an interpretive statement in 2005 explaining that the U.S. Congress intended water resource management agencies and other state authorities — not the NPDES permitting program — to oversee water transfers. This rulemaking codifies that position.

For more information on the rule, see www.epa.gov/npdes/agriculture.



Industry Leaders Launch Water Policy Institute

A consortium of water leaders has announced the formation of The Water Policy Institute. Chaired by former EPA Administrator and N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the institute will address water-related issues and provide information to the public through its Web site, www.waterpolicyinstitute.com. Kathy Robb, a partner in the Resources, Regulatory, and Environmental Law practice at the law firm Hunton & Williams (Richmond, Va.), is the founder of the institute and will serve as its director.

According to an institute press release, the members of the institute are water leaders representing water districts, multinational companies, and energy companies who will discuss and review current challenges affecting both global and local water issues, including supply, quality, use, wildlife and agricultural concerns, and climate change.



Water Associations, U.S. EPA Release Tools for Effective Utility Management Practices

Six associations representing the U.S. water and wastewater sector, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have released a series of tools designed to help water and wastewater utilities advance effective management practices to achieve long-term sustainability. The tools are based on the 10 Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities and five Keys to Management Success first identified in a report released by the group in May 2007.

Since the release of the Findings and Recommendations for a Water Utility Sector Management Strategy report last year, the Effective Utility Management Collaborating Organizations — consisting of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.), American Public Works Association (Kansas City, Mo.), American Water Works Association (Denver), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Water Companies (Washington, D.C.), and EPA — have been working together to develop tools aimed at helping utilities assess their current operations and adopt best management strategies for improvement.

The tools available include the Effective Utility Management Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities designed to help water and wastewater utility managers make practical, systematic changes to achieve excellence in utility performance. The primer and other resources can be downloaded at www.watereum.org.



WEF Officer Testifies Before U.S. Congress

Paul Freedman, vice president of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) testified at a June 23 congressional hearing of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Designed as an information-gathering exercise for potential legislative activity, the topic of the hearing was comprehensive watershed planning and management.

Freedman was asked to testify on behalf of WEF, along with witnesses from other water-related entities, including former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official and nationally recognized expert on water resources planning Gen. Gerry Galloway; Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission; and representatives of the Nature Conservancy (Arlington, Va.) and the Texas Water Development Board. Freedman’s testimony included an overview of the watershed approach to water resources management and current programs, meeting new challenges in water resources management, the need for intergovernmental and interagency cooperation, and the inadequacy of the Clean Water Act for holistic watershed management.

For more information, including Freedman’s testimony, see www.wef.org/GovernmentAffairs/Legislative.

 

 

 

 

The NOAA Mussel Watch Program also quantifies contaminants that are still entering the nation’s waters, and two major groups raise concern: Download the full report at . The California Sustainability Alliance (Rancho Cordova), a market transformation program managed by Navigant Consulting Inc. (Chicago), has released its research report . The study estimates the potential energy and carbon benefits of accelerating and increasing the development and use of recycled water in California, according to a press release from the alliance.Currently, Southern California is seeking more than 1.2 billion m³/yr (1 million ac-ft/yr) of additional water to replace imported and other water supplies that are no longer available, the press release says. The study found that more than half of the water shortfall could be met by existing supplies of recycled water that are currently being released to streams and the ocean.According to the report, the long-term incremental water supply required to meet California’s needs is expected to come from seawater desalination projects. These projects, while providing drought-resistant, reliable supplies, are highly energy-intensive. The study concludes that using secondary and tertiary recycled-water supplies could save enough energy to power 150,000 homes.Download the report at . A research report published in the June 2008 issue of reveals that financial markets reward firms for going green because those firms are seen as less risky. Using data on 267 U.S. firms, Mark Sharfman and Chitru S. Fernando of the University of Oklahoma (Norman) analyzed whether firms that had improved their environmental risk management also experienced a reduction in their total cost of capital, and found evidence that they did.Financial markets seem to perceive greener firms as safer investments because of a reduced likelihood of litigation, government penalties, and catastrophic accidents, according to the report. The financial markets reward this lower level of risk by charging the firm less for its capital, thus allowing the firm to carry more debt. In addition, the research shows that greener firms had higher levels of ownership by individual investors. The broader the ownership of a firm’s stock, the lower its cost of equity capital.Greener performance thus has potential short- and long-term financial benefits. As the authors note, “firms that make major investments in environmental performance may be providing the markets with an earlier signal about their longer term financial and stock performance.” On June 2, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) filed an (friend of the court) brief in the Kern County, Calif., biosolids litigation that has attracted national attention (). The brief, filed with the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals, supports the position of three Southern California public agencies that operate land application programs in Kern County and that are asking the court to maintain a district court judge’s ruling that allows these programs to continue.To read the brief and for additional information, see . The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a rule to clarify that permits are not required for transfers of water from one waterbody to another. According to an EPA press release, such transfers include routing water through tunnels, channels, or natural stream courses for public water supplies, irrigation, power generation, flood control, and environmental restoration.In 2004, the question of whether National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits were necessary for water transfers went before the U.S. Supreme Court in . According to the press release, the court did not rule directly on the issue, which left unresolved the uncertainty many felt about the need for an NPDES permit. EPA issued an interpretive statement in 2005 explaining that the U.S. Congress intended water resource management agencies and other state authorities — not the NPDES permitting program — to oversee water transfers. This rulemaking codifies that position.For more information on the rule, see . A consortium of water leaders has announced the formation of The Water Policy Institute. Chaired by former EPA Administrator and N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the institute will address water-related issues and provide information to the public through its Web site, . Kathy Robb, a partner in the Resources, Regulatory, and Environmental Law practice at the law firm Hunton & Williams (Richmond, Va.), is the founder of the institute and will serve as its director.According to an institute press release, the members of the institute are water leaders representing water districts, multinational companies, and energy companies who will discuss and review current challenges affecting both global and local water issues, including supply, quality, use, wildlife and agricultural concerns, and climate change. Six associations representing the U.S. water and wastewater sector, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have released a series of tools designed to help water and wastewater utilities advance effective management practices to achieve long-term sustainability. The tools are based on the 10 Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities and five Keys to Management Success first identified in a report released by the group in May 2007.Since the release of the report last year, the Effective Utility Management Collaborating Organizations — consisting of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.), American Public Works Association (Kansas City, Mo.), American Water Works Association (Denver), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Water Companies (Washington, D.C.), and EPA — have been working together to develop tools aimed at helping utilities assess their current operations and adopt best management strategies for improvement.The tools available include the designed to help water and wastewater utility managers make practical, systematic changes to achieve excellence in utility performance. The primer and other resources can be downloaded at . Paul Freedman, vice president of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) testified at a June 23 congressional hearing of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Designed as an information-gathering exercise for potential legislative activity, the topic of the hearing was comprehensive watershed planning and management.Freedman was asked to testify on behalf of WEF, along with witnesses from other water-related entities, including former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official and nationally recognized expert on water resources planning Gen. Gerry Galloway; Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission; and representatives of the Nature Conservancy (Arlington, Va.) and the Texas Water Development Board. Freedman’s testimony included an overview of the watershed approach to water resources management and current programs, meeting new challenges in water resources management, the need for intergovernmental and interagency cooperation, and the inadequacy of the Clean Water Act for holistic watershed management.For more information, including Freedman’s testimony, see .