Quality

The Council of State Governments recently joined briefs supporting state and local government in two cases heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. The briefs, filed by the State and Local Legal Center, both involve the interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

Stateline Midwest ~ September 2012

First came the report from a binational group of Great Lakes scientists exploring the risk of Asian carp entering the freshwater system. Yes, the study concluded, the invasive species would likely survive and, within a decade, spread to all five Great Lakes. And yes, the Asian carp’s ecological impact would likely be severe. Then, days later, came news that Lake Erie water samples, two from Michigan’s North Maumee Bay and four from Ohio’s Sandusky Bay, tested positive for the presence of Asian carp environmental DNA.

States have been reclaiming and restoring thousands of abandoned mine sites that pre-existed federal environmental laws. To cope with the environmental and public safety threats they pose, Congress passed legislation in the late 1970s charging fees for coal production that were disbursed back to states for remediation efforts. Recent changes made by the Transportation Reauthorization bill have altered and cut the payment structure for many states still dealing with the long-term ramifications of abandoned mines.

A signing ceremony last week set up the world’s largest water quality cap-and-trade program. It’s not centered in Europe or on the east or west coasts, but in the Midwest.  Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio became the first states to adopt the same set of trading policies and procedures to limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous—or nutrients—running off into the Ohio River. Farmers will adopt best practices that limit nutrient runoff. Power and wastewater treatment plants will be able to buy those credits, even across state lines, to help offset their environmental impact.

Representatives from the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio signed an agreement today in Cincinnati to create the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Program - a pilot program that will allow farmers and industrial facilities to trade pollution credits to reduce fertilizer run-off and nutrient discharges. Trading is scheduled to begin in 2015 from at least three power plants and up to 30 farms for the implementation of best-practices on agricultural land that will eliminate up to 45,000 pounds of nitrogen and 15,000 pounds of phosphorus annually into the river.

Stateline Midwest ~ March 2012

With concerns high about the potential impact that an Asian carp invasion could have on the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry, policymakers have another dollar figure to consider — $4.3 billion, the lowest-cost option for physically separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Although the Air Force has acknowledged a spill from an underground pipe leak at Kirtland Air Force Base back in 1999, officials have recently projected the spill volume to have ballooned to over 24 million gallons - nearly twice the size of the Exxon Valdez accident. A full remediation plan from the Air Force is not expected until 2014, but county officials, environmentalists, and concerned citizens worry that the drinking water of Albuquerque and other outlying areas could be seriously threatened.

Arkansas' Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently intervened in a lawsuit brought by environmental groups against the EPA regarding agricultural run-off of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in the Mississippi River. The groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, contend that the run-off contributes to hypoxic or "dead" zones in the Gulf of Mexico which are deprived of oxygen and marine life.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments calls on Congress and the Administration to enable and encourage federal agencies to enter into partnerships, including memorandum of understandings, with state governments to provide for the better management of land in and around military and other federal facilities.

Western legislators will have the opportunity to review and discuss recent draft guidelines aimed at determining which waters are within the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act. The CSG-WEST Western Water & Environment Committee will consider the guidelines, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the 64th CSG-WEST Annual Meeting in Hawaii. 

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