Water

A unanimous ruling in June by the U.S. Supreme Court is being hailed as a significant victory for interstate compacts. In Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, the court rejected the claims of the Tarrant Regional Water District to access water in Oklahoma based on the terms of the Red River Compact. The court ruled that under on the terms of the agreement Tarrant had no right to the water in question.

By Rick Masters, Special Counsel to CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts

On Thursday, June 13, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court again upheld the bedrock principle that compacts are contracts and reiterated the immutable rule that “Because interstate compacts are construed under contract law principles, see Texas v. New Mexico, 482 U. S. 124, 128, the Court begins by examining the Compact’s express terms as the best indication of the parties’ intent.”  See Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, et al.at p.11.  In the Tarrant case the Court was called upon to interpret the provisions of the Red River Compact which is a congressionally sanctioned agreement that allocates water rights within the Red River basin among the States of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. 

An innovative approach to managing nutrient runoff and water quality is being implemented in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio by using the basic structure of the successful Acid Rain Program first implemented in the mid-1990s by the EPA. In essence, the program creates a water quality cap-and-trade program that allows an industrial facility or utility to substantially reduce its compliance costs under the Clean Water Act by providing financial incentives to agriculture operations to implement best practices to reduce nutrient discharges into water. This flexible approach to environmental stewardship is thought to be the largest project of its kind in the world.
 

Numerous Great Lakes-related measures have been introduced, advanced or signed into law in the region’s state capitols over the past few months. Here are a few of the bills and resolutions being followed through the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus' state legislative tracker.

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2013

As the year began in Michigan, a new legislative caucus was emerging inside the Capitol with at least one clear priority for 2013 — improve the condition of the state’s recreational and commercial harbors.

The United States uses 410 billion gallons of water everyday. Domestic usage in Western states is much higher than in non-Western states at 128.9 gallons per person per day compared to the national average of 98 gallons per person per day.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced a new rule from the Department of Interior to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands. The relaunch of the rule was made after Interior pulled back its original proposal in 2012 after receiving 177,000 public comments. According to an Interior press release, the updated draft proposal will be subject to a new 30-day public comment period on the notice of proposed rulemaking. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in April 2013, in the matter of Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann. While the specifics of the case pertain to a dispute between Texas and Oklahoma over water from the Red River, the court’s ruling will be watched closely by the numerous interstate compacts that regulate shared bodies of water. 

Stateline Midwest ~ February 2013

In December, water levels on lakes Michigan and Huron reached an all-time recorded low. And concerns about this trend have never been higher — as reflected in much of the discussion at a January meeting in Chicago that explored the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

For the first time in its 41-year history, the binational pact makes adapting to climate change a priority for action on both sides of the border. 
Though they have always fluctuated, the recent low readings in lakes Michigan and Huron have led many to conclude that “we have reached a tipping point,” noted John Nevin of the International Joint Commission (IJC), with warmer air and water temperatures leading to increased evaporation of Great Lakes waters.

Stateline Midwest ~ February 2013

In December, water levels on lakes Michigan and Huron reached an all-time recorded low. And concerns about this trend have never been higher — as reflected in much of the discussion at a January meeting in Chicago that explored the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

For the first time in its 41-year history, the binational pact makes adapting to climate change a priority for action on both sides of the border. 
Though they have always fluctuated, the recent low readings in lakes Michigan and Huron have led many to conclude that “we have reached a tipping point,” noted John Nevin of the International Joint Commission (IJC), with warmer air and water temperatures leading to increased evaporation of Great Lakes waters.

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