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.

Since April, environmental groups in Colorado have been working to gather signatures for two statewide initiatives that would amend the state constitution to increase regulatory control on energy industries. Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development submitted two measures, Initiatives 75 and 78, that would grant local governments the authority to regulate energy industry development and establish that facilities be at least 2,500 feet from an occupied structure.

In United States Army Corp of Engineers v. Hawkes the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an approved jurisdictional determination that property contains “waters of the United States” may be immediately reviewed in court. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing in favor of this result.  

The issue in U.S. Army Corp of Engineers v. Hawkes is whether a court may review an Army Corp of Engineers “jurisdictional determination” (JD) that property contains “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) per the Clean Water Act. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of court review.

Hawkes wanted to mine peat from wetland property in Minnesota. The Army Corp of Engineers issued a JD that the property contained WOTUS because it was connected by culverts and unnamed streams to a traditional navigable water way about 120 miles away.

In a 2-1 decision the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it—rather than a federal district court—has jurisdiction to decide whether the Clean Water Rule, clarifying the scope of the “waters of the United States (WOTUS),” exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority.

In October the Sixth Circuit assumed it had jurisdiction and issued a temporary nationwide stay of the rule. The WOTUS rule defines “waters the United States,” according to the EPA, “through increased use of bright-line boundaries” to make “the process of identifying waters protected under the Clean Water Act easier to understand, more predictable and consistent with the law and peer reviewed science, while protecting the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources.”

According to a Feb. 25 poll conducted by the Kaiser Health Policy News Index, the safety of the nation's water supply is causing concern in a significant number of Americans. While nearly half (47 percent) of Americans are worried about the safety of the water supply in their own communities, 77 percent are equally concerned about the water supply in low-income communities, like Flint. Forty percent are "very concerned" about low income communities having access to a safe water supply.

CSG Midwest
As the realization that a generation of children in Flint, Mich., has been exposed to lead poisoning by their own water sets in, some Michigan lawmakers are pushing to enshrine access to clean, safe water in state law as a basic human right.
If such a law is enacted, Michigan would be the second state to do so, following California, whose 2012 statute declaring “every human being has the right to clean, affordable and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes” requires state agencies to consider this right when formulating policies, regulations and grant programs that impact water for domestic consumption.
By
Guest
CSG Midwest
As the realization that a generation of children in Flint, Mich., has been exposed to lead poisoning by their own water sets in, some Michigan lawmakers are pushing to enshrine access to clean, safe water in state law as a basic human right.
If such a law is enacted, Michigan would be the second state to do so, following California, whose 2012 statute declaring “every human being has the right to clean, affordable and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes” requires state agencies to consider this right when formulating policies, regulations and grant programs that impact water for domestic consumption.

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