Environment

President Trump’s executive order Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the United States" Rule calls for the “rescinding or revising” of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definitional rule published in the summer of 2015. Many state and local governments objected to the broad nature of these regulations, in particular to the expansive definition of ditches and the ambiguous definition of tributaries.  

The executive order acknowledges that rewriting the WOTUS definitional regulations will require going through the lengthy and complicated process under the Administrative Procedures Act which the 2015 final regulations went through. This process involves proposing a new rule, receiving and responding to (likely thousands) of comments, and issuing a final rule.

President Trump signed an executive order yesterday directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to “review and reconsider” the Obama administration’s controversial “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

CSG Midwest
Some schools and day care facilities in Illinois must have their water tested for lead under a bill passed and signed into law in January. The new requirements apply to buildings constructed before 2000 where pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade classes are held. 

The Council of State Governments has released its annual listing of the top five issues legislators will face this session in nine key policy areas, including education, workforce development, energy and the environment, federal affairs, fiscal and economic development, health, interstate compacts, transportation, and international affairs.

CSG outlines the top five issues in energy and environment policy for 2017, including an uncertain future for federal environmental policy, infrastructure, water quality and management, solar energy, and natural gas.

Rules and policies promulgated by the Obama administration, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, were some of the most controversial environmental regulations seen in recent memory. While these rules have not yet been implemented at the state level and remain stayed pending the outcome of litigation, the election of President Donald J. Trump in November called into question what the future of these and other Obama administration policies will be and what role states will play in guiding energy and environmental policy in the future.

More than 30 interstate compacts govern the use of water from shared lakes and rivers in the United States. However, there is not a single legal agreement in place between states to guide the apportionment of groundwater that crosses state lines. In 2013, Nevada and Utah appeared poised to be the first two states to reach such an agreement, but ultimately they failed. Now, with a longstanding groundwater dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, a legal precedent governing the apportionment of interstate groundwater is imminent. This webinar, presented by CSG South/Southern Legislative Conference and CSG West, explores the possible outcomes of Mississippi v. Tennessee, implications for interstate groundwater policy and the role of interstate compacts in resolving water disputes between states. 

CSG Midwest
After a tumultuous year in national politics, and in advance of a new U.S. Congress and presidential administration, advocates of Great Lakes protection and restoration won some important legislative victories at the tail end of 2016. Those accomplishments, perhaps most notably a formal authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, provide the region with some much-needed certainty about federal Great Lakes policy during a period of change in Washington, D.C., said Chad Lord, policy director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether federal courts of appeals versus federal district courts (lower courts) have the authority to rule whether the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulations are lawful.

Numerous states and local governments have challenged the WOTUS regulations. In National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense the Supreme Court will not rule whether the regulations are lawful. Instead, they will simply decide which court gets to take the first crack at deciding whether they are lawful.

CSG Midwest
Though it likely won’t change much of the work already under way to protect western Lake Erie from excessive algal blooms, Michigan’s recent designation of its part of the watershed as “impaired” signals the importance of reaching new binational goals to control phosphorus runoff.
Every two years, as part of compliance with the Clean Water Act, all states must determine which of their water bodies are polluted and/or don’t meet water quality standards. They then submit their impairment list to the U.S. Environmental Protection. The new designation for western Lake Erie is due to the presence of extensive algal blooms and their harmful impact on aquatic life and other wildlife, Michigan environmental officials say. The blooms are the result of excessive levels of phosphorus.

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