National News

Congress moving toward 5-year commitment to Great Lakes cleanup

By Jerry Zremski – The Buffalo News – December 9, 2014

The federal government’s big-money commitment to restoring the Great Lakes is now almost certain to continue another five years thanks to House passage Tuesday of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative of 2014. The bill, which passed by voice vote, authorizes $300 million in federal funding for each of the next five years for Great Lakes programs. The legislation, which is expected to be approved by the Senate and sent to President Obama for his signature later this week, establishes a path forward for a program that has brought $1.6 billion to the lakes since 2010. The multi-agency effort has worked to clean up pollution, restore shorelines, combat invasive species and protect fish and wildlife, but Brian Smith, associate executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said that’s just the start of the work that’s needed. For full story, click here.

EPA fighting order to decide on Gulf of Mexico 'dead zone' rule-making

By Jennifer Larino – - The Times Picayune – December 4, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants the federal appeals court in New Orleans to overturn an order that forces the EPA to decide whether federal rules are needed to curb the flow of pollutants into the Mississippi River. The pollutants ultimately feed a low-oxygen "dead zone" along Louisiana's coast each spring. At a Thursday hearing before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, federal attorneys told a three-judge panel that the EPA -- not the courts -- is responsible for setting priorities for water quality and other issues. The agency argued that the lower-court order allows the rule-making process to "be whipsawed back and forth" by interest groups. For full story, click here.

Long-eared bat listing gets pushback

By Kevin Duffy – The Great Lakes Echo – November 21, 2014

A fight over logging restrictions is delaying federal protection of the northern long-eared bat, a Great Lakes species already decimated in the American Northeast. An endangered or threatened listing of the bat has been pushed to April. The Fish and Wildlife Service, which has federal jurisdiction over protected species, is using the time to respond to the unexpected controversy, said Mollie Matteson, senior scientist and a bat disease specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity.  Forest industry officials worry a federal listing will hinder logging. They propose state-enforced operational guidelines as an alternative. For full story, click here.

Record Drought Reveals Stunning Changes Along Colorado River

By Jonathan Waterman – National Geographic News – November 23, 2014 – Video

In early September, at the abandoned Piute Farms marina on a remote edge of southern Utah's Navajo reservation, we watched a ten-foot (three-meter) waterfall plunging off what used to be the end of the San Juan River. Until 1990, this point marked the smooth confluence of the river with Lake Powell, one of the largest reservoirs in the U.S. But the lake has shrunk so much due to the recent drought that this waterfall has emerged, with sandy water as thick as a milkshake. For full story and to view video, click here.

EPA to Assist Water Utilities in Bolstering Climate Resilience & Readiness

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – November 19, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing up to $600,000 in training and technical assistance to help water utilities in more than 20 communities bolster their climate change resilience and readiness. Drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utilities will participate in a multi-year program to prepare for potential impacts from climate change. Challenges include droughts, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, sea-level rise and changes to water quality. Communities will receive technical assistance in using EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, software that helps users identify assets, threats and adaptation options to help reduce risk from climate change. Learn more here.