Environment

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. 

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a rule requiring power plants in 28 states to curtail emissions.  The Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) replaces the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down in 2008.  The EPA estimates the new CSPAR rule will yield $120 to $140 billion in environmental benefits by 2014.  Projected benefits include aversion of 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms, 400,000 asthma cases, 1.8 million sick days, and up to 34,000 premature deaths otherwise attributable to air pollution. 

The rule will generate about $800 million dollars per year in incremental compliance costs for power providers.  These costs augment $1.6 billion in annual investments already made to comply with CAIR.  To control costs, some power companies have proposed mergers.  The mergers aim to enhance efficiency, decrease production costs and yield savings for consumers.  Consumer benefits, along with implications for jobs and renewable and efficient energy policies, are three major factors considered during recent merger reviews.    

Several Great Lakes-related measures have been introduced in state capitols across the region during the first half of 2011, from bills on how to handle future offshore wind energy projects to new legislative proposals on how states should manage their water resources.

States Perform, CSG’s interactive performance measurement website, has been updated with new information in key service areas: fiscal and economic, education, transportation, energy and environment, public safety and justice, and health and human services.

A voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations and implementing soil- and water-conservation measures has become one of the state’s newest laws.

The fairness of charging motorists a mileage fee to help pay for road repairs… The state of the nation’s bridges… The economic impact of the transportation construction industry… How to win public support for road pricing... The keys to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from freight transportation... All are the subjects of recent reports and studies. Here’s a roundup of those reports, along with an update on public-private partnerships.

CSG this week issues a new brief in our Capitol Research series entitled “Transit-Oriented Development.” Using the possibility of development around future high-speed rail stations as a jumping off point, it examines the policy options available to states to try to shape how that development occurs. While high-speed rail has suffered a number of political setbacks in recent months, it remains on track in some parts of the country. But regardless of whether high-speed rail is coming to your state any time soon, there is a great deal of useful information in the brief about the role states can play in shaping the kinds of communities Americans say they want and that best serve our citizens, the environment and the economy. I encourage you to read the brief, which examines the benefits of transit-oriented development, the role of state governments in encouraging it, and the experiences of California and many other states in adopting related policies. If the brief piques your interest, there is an abundance of other worthwhile reading I can point you toward as well.

A plan to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes has received a flurry of criticism over the past year, but in February, it secured the approval of a key federal regulatory commission in Canada.

This Act requires the state department of community, trade, and economic development to implement a strategic plan to enhance energy efficiency in and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from homes, buildings, districts, and neighborhoods. It directs the department and the state building code council to convene a work group to develop the plan. The Act requires the state energy code be designed to accelerate construction of energy efficient homes and buildings which help achieve a broad goal of building zero fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emission homes and buildings by the year 2031.

This Act establishes a credit against the state income tax for people or companies that donate the right to withdraw water from streams to the state water conservation board for the purpose of reducing the amount of water that is withdrawn from the streams. The Act specifies that the state water conservation board will approve the credits by issuing certificates to water rights owners who permanently transfer water rights to the water conservation board.

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