Environment

On March 18, a group of 20 states asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the handling of implementation for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulation on power plants. A 2015 Supreme Court decision, Michigan v. EPA, held that EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act unreasonably when it “deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants” for its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS. Following the decision, the fate of the regulation was “remanded” to a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which decided to keep the rule in effect while EPA developed a supplemental cost justification.

In Sturgeon v. Frost the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that per Section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), National Park Service (NPS) regulations that apply nationally apply to nonpublic land in Alaska contained in an ANILCA “conservation unit.”

ANILCA federally protects 104 million acres of land in Alaska. Contained in these conservation units are over 18 million acres of state, Native American, and privately owned land. NPS rangers informed moose hunter John Sturgeon that he could not operate his hovercraft on a river in one of Alaska’s ANILCA conservation units per a NPS regulation banning hovercrafts in national parks. Sturgeon objected pointing out that Alaska owns the river.  

In 2014, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring the labeling of genetically modified, or GMO, foods, which is set to take effect on July 1. But, until recently it was unknown whether Vermont, or other states considering similar measures, would be able to move forward with implementing such legislation.

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that threats to the greater sage-grouse had been sufficiently reduced to avoid listing the bird as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. The decision hinged on a major conservation effort involving cooperation between the federal government, state agencies, private landowners and other key stakeholders across the bird’s 11 state, 173-million acre range. According to Jerimiah Rieman, natural resources policy director to Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead, this effort was “the single largest species conservation effort undertaken in the world at any point in time.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan, or CPP, is the first regulation that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. A top issue for states in 2016 will be determining how to comply.

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The authorizing committees in both the House and Senate are taking steps toward developing a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in 2016, which provides the authorization for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers activities undertaken to meet the demands of maintaining navigable channels, reducing flood and storm damage, and restoring aquatic ecosystems throughout the country. Once a biennial affair, only two WRDA authorizations have been enacted in the last 14 years.  The 2014 bill marked the first WRDA passage in seven years....

As more and more states have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use, there have been increasing complications and uncertainties between federal and state law in the regulation of cannabis. This has included issues such as banking, employment discrimination, federal income taxes, and now organic certification and labeling.

CSG Midwest

The crisis in Flint, Mich., has pushed drinking water quality into the forefront of national conversation, but problems with the Midwest’s aging drinking water infrastructure are not new. Plenty of lead pipes nearing the end of their service lives remain, and nonpoint source pollution from agricultural runoff besets watersheds and municipal water systems before ultimately afflicting the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

States have taken steps to clean up their water systems and sources (several of which were noted in Stateline Midwest’s September 2015 edition), but the overall tab to modernize is tremendous.

At least $1 trillion will be required nationwide through 2035 to replace pipes at or reaching the end of their service lives, according to a 2010 report, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” from the American Water Works Association.

The Midwest’s aggregate share (including Missouri) was estimated at $172.2 billion.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House last week marked the first time in nearly two decades that a Canadian leader has made an official visit to Washington. The last time that the White House hosted a Canadian state dinner, Bill Clinton was President, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had been signed, and the World Trade Organization was still in its infancy.

On Wednesday, March 9th, state regulators from across the country testified in front of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the difficulties they face as co-regulators with federal agencies.

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