CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Brydon Ross outlines the top five issues for 2014, including upcoming Clean Air state implementation plans, EPA cooling water intake regulations, increased scrutiny on crude oil transportation safety, potential rate and policy disputes involving net metering, and lingering impacts that drought may pose for states and water infrastructure.  

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For years, the Wisconsin city of Waukesha has had a water problem: High levels of radium in the town’s supply of drinking water, and a federal requirement that it find a new water source by 2018. Its proposed solution to this local problem will require support from the entire Great Lakes region.

A push in Iowa by environmental groups to establish new state water quality standards ended in defeat this fall. In a unanimous vote, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission rejected a proposal to create numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The Sioux City Journal reports that state officials want more time to study the efficacy of current nutrient-reduction strategies before implementing any new rules.

Nuclear power is the source of 19 percent of the electricity generated in the United States and 15 percent in Canada, making up a significant percentage of each country’s share of energy derived from non-fossil-fuel sources. Producing this electricity generates waste in the form of highly radioactive spent fuel and other nuclear waste that, while less radioactive, still requires isolation from the biosphere. The challenges of finding a site for permanent disposal of spent fuel are well known. But disposing of waste that is less radioactive can be difficult as well, as Ontario Power Generation, or OPG, is finding out with its plans for a deep geologic repository less than a mile from Lake Huron. The repository, if licensed, could open by 2018. It would be the first permanent disposal facility for radioactive waste to operate in the Great Lakes basin.

With the goals of protecting water quality and providing regulatory certainty to farmers, voluntary state programs that certify land-management practices at agricultural operations are cropping up across the country. Minnesota is one of the latest states to adopt such a program, and is backing it up with state dollars to help farmers adopt new conservation practices.

Today, the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA announced in a blog post that the agencies were jointly sending a draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) intended to clarify where the jurisdictional oversight of the federal Clean Water Act begins and ends. At issue, is the draft rule's attempt to define the "waters of the United States" and the application of federal law.

A June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is being hailed as a significant victory for interstate compacts.  At issue in the case was whether the Tarrant Regional Water District, located in Texas, could access water from the Red River in Oklahoma pursuant to the terms of the Red River Compact. In the ruling the Court concluded that Tarrant was not entitled to the water in question based on the terms of the compact.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) announced that it will reduce releases from Lake Powell into Lake Mead to its lowest level since filling Lake Powell in the 1960s. 

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013 and Pie charts on Great Lakes water use, by jurisdiction »

For Great Lakes advocates, the past decade has been marked by one important policy milestone after the next.

First, a more protective interstate compact (and companion agreement with Ontario and Quebec) was enacted to prevent long-distance, large-scale diversions of water outside the basin and to improve conservation and management policies within it.

Second, the long fight for more federal funding was won with creation of the historic Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Over the past four years, funding for the initiative has topped $1.3 billion — for projects in the region’s eight Great Lakes to clean up toxic “hot spots,” prevent the introduction of invasive species, and protect wetlands and other habitat.
Third, prodded in part by the legislative and legal actions taken by states in this region, the federal government last yearstrengthened its standards for how vessels must manage their ballast water — the most common cause of aquatic invasions in the Great Lakes over the past 50 years.
Lastly, for the first time in a quarter century, U.S. and Canadian officials revised the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Much broader in scope than previous versions, the new agreement for the first time sets a framework for the two countries to address the impacts of invasive species, habitat degradation and climate change.
“It could be an incredible force for good,” Andy Buchsbaum, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office, said of the agreement soon after it was amended in late 2012.
Yet amid all of these policy advances and victories, new concerns are being raised about the future of the Great Lakes — and some of the policies in place to protect them.

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 Annual Meeting Edition

If you are a boater on any of the Midwest’s abundant water resources, you may have seen the signs or been told the rules: Inspect your boat, trailer and equipment; drain the water; and remove plants, animals or mud before getting out of a body of water.
The goal is to remove any invasive species that might be hitchhiking on boats or trailers.
Aquatic invasive species have long been recognized as a serious threat, costing the U.S. economy at least $148 billion a year, according to a Cornell University study. They include plants such as salt cedar and Eurasian watermilfoil, invertebrates such as the zebra mussel, and fish such as Asian carp species.
State laws to control invasive species in the Midwest date back decades.