By Joe Wertz – State Impact – February 16, 2017
An Oklahoma County District judge on Thursday ordered Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office to turn over emails and other documents requested two years ago by a watchdog group. In the ruling against Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, judge Aletia Haynes Timmons said the agency violated state transparency laws. For full story, click here.
By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – February 15, 2017
A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs. For full story, click here.
By Ted Barrett – CNN Politics – February 17, 2017 – Video
The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency Republicans desperately want to rein in after what they charge was eight years of dangerous activism under the Obama administration that hurt businesses, jobs and the economy. Pruitt maybe just the person to do it. As Oklahoma attorney general he sued the agency many times in that pursuit and has vowed to curb the EPA's regulatory reach once in office. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Timothy Gardner – Reuters – February 13, 2017
A U.S. federal judge on Monday denied a request by Native American tribes seeking to halt construction of the final link in the Dakota Access Pipeline, the controversial project that has sparked months of protests by activists aimed at stopping the 1,170-mile line. At a hearing, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., rejected the request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who argued that the project would prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at a lake they contend is surrounded by sacred ground. With this decision, legal options for the tribes continue to narrow, as construction on the final uncompleted stretch is currently proceeding. For full story, click here.
Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. Field Notes – February 9, 2017
The potential project delays from the recent “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” described in our recent Field Notes http://www.wetlandstudies.com/vol25no2-regulatoryfreeze article – has been avoided! The new Nationwide Permits and FEMA LOMRs have been granted an exception by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). For full article, click here.
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – February 8, 2017
Three advocacy groups filed a sweeping federal lawsuit Wednesday, challenging President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be “identified for elimination” for every new one added — arguing that the order fundamentally takes over Congress’s powers to enact laws to protect public health, safety, and the environment. For full story, click here.
Association of State Drinking Water Administrators – February 3, 2017
Following through on yet another of his campaign promises, President Trump recently signed an Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Cost. Some of the key components of the Order are:
- “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination”
- For 2017 the total incremental cost of all new regulations shall be zero, the “budget” for future years will be determined by OMB
- Any new incremental costs must be offset by the elimination of costs from at least two prior regulations
- A regulation can’t be issued unless it was listed on the Unified Regulatory Agenda
- OMB will provide guidance on implementation, such as for cost calculations, determining which regulations are covered, and provisions for emergency waivers
For full blog post, click here.
By Zahra Hirji – InsideClimate News – February 3, 2017 – Video
The head of President Donald Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency—former Washington State Sen. Don Benton—will be staying on after the transition as the agency's senior White House adviser, the EPA's acting administrator Catherine McCabe announced in a video to employees. For the past few weeks Benton has been the main conduit for bringing instructions from the new administration to the EPA's acting leaders pending confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a staunch critic of the agency, as its new administrator. In his permanent role, Benton will in effect be the White House's eyes and ears at the agency. For full story and to view video, click here.
Environment News Service – February 2, 2017
Ten new Wetlands of International Importance in five countries have been designated to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2017, observed every year on February 2. World Wetlands Day marks the date in 1971 when the Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Intact wetlands can absorb the impacts of floods, droughts and cyclones on communities, and help to build the resilience to withstand these extreme events. They help alleviate food insecurity, reduce poverty, combat climate change, and restore and promote the sustainable use of ecosystems. But around the world, wetlands are being lost to agriculture, urbanization, commercial and residential development, road construction, impoundment, resource extraction, industrial siting, dredge disposal and mosquito control. For full story, click here.
By Valerie Volcovici – Reuters Business Insider – February 2, 2017
Republican U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz said on Thursday he plans to withdraw a bill that would have sold off more than 3 million acres of federal land to private interests after it drew a barrage of negative comments from hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Chaffetz said in a post on the Instagram social media site that he would scrap the so-called Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017, which he introduced last week, saying he feared it sent “the wrong message.” For full story, click here.
By Lisa Lambert – Reuters – February 2, 2017
The U.S. Congress moved swiftly on Thursday to undo Obama-era rules on the environment, corruption, labor and guns, with the Senate wiping from the books a rule aimed at reducing water pollution. By a vote of 54-45, the Senate approved a resolution already passed in the House of Representatives to kill the rule aimed at keeping pollutants out of streams in areas near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites. The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it quickly. It was only the second time the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to stop newly minted regulations in their tracks, has been used successfully since it was passed in 2000. For full story, click here.
By Nicholas St. Fleur – The New York Times – February 1, 2017
Within a week of its creation, the March for Science campaign had attracted more than 1.3 million supporters across Facebook and Twitter, cementing itself as a voice for people who are concerned about the future of science under President Trump. Now, hoping to transform that viral success into something approaching the significance of the women’s march last month, the campaign has scheduled its demonstration in Washington for Earth Day, April 22. For full story, click here.
By Sandy Tolan – Los Angeles Times – February 1, 2017
The stalled Dakota Access pipeline project is back on, its supporters say, but opponents vow to continue to fight against the hotly debated project, most likely in court. The latest twist in the long-running battle over the oil pipeline came Tuesday when Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota congressman, tweeted, “Start your engines. #DAPL #Approved.” The Republican lawmaker added in a video statement: “Got word from the White House today and the Dakota Access pipeline now has its final green light. They’re notifying Congress immediately that these final few feet of this critical piece of infrastructure … will finally be completed.” For full story, click here.
By Steve Gorman – Reuters – January 26, 2017
Rogue Twitter feeds voicing employee concerns at more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have been launched in defiance of what they say are President Donald Trump's attempts to muzzle federal climate change research and other science. Representing scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus, either directly or through friends and supporters, the accounts protest restrictions they view as censorship since Trump took office on Jan. 20. For full story, click here.
EPA Office of Research and Development Announces the Rapid Benefit Indicators Approach (RBI) Website
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 25, 2017
The U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development is pleased to announce the availability of the Rapid Benefit Indicators (RBI) Approach website here. The RBI approach is an easy-to-use process for assessing restoration sites using non-monetary benefit indicators. It uses readily-available data to estimate and quantify benefits to people around an ecological restoration site. The site also contains links to several related resources: Benefit Indicators for Flood Regulation Services of Wetlands: A Modeling Approach; Barriers, Opportunities, and Strategies for Urban Ecosystem Restoration: Lessons Learned from Restoration Managers in Rhode Island; and Manager Perspectives on Communication and Public Engagement in Ecological Restoration Project Success. An informative webinar about the RBI Approach will be provided on Wednesday, January 25th from 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST. For more information, click here.
Pew Research Center – January 24, 2017
As Donald Trump enters the White House, the nation’s leading policy priorities are little changed from the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency. And the partisan divisions over many of the public’s priorities – from dealing with global climate change to strengthening the nation’s military – remain as wide as ever. A majority of Americans (55%) now cite protecting the environment as a top priority, up from 47% a year ago. For full story, click here.
By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – January 24, 2017
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to fulfill his goal of “expediting environmental reviews and approvals” to fast track an effort to “fix our country, our roadways and bridges.” The order said that too often, big government and commercial projects are snagged by agency processes and procedures that cost jobs and money. Under the order, agencies that undertake environmental and other analyses before greenlighting development should work with “maximum efficiency and effectiveness” to complete them. For full story, click here.
By Maritza Stanchich – The Guardian – January 18, 2017
For years a graffiti message has appeared throughout San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, as an urgent demand: Dragado ya! (meaning “dredging now!”). Even passersby who have never set foot in the eight barrios making up the Caño Martín Peña community – a large informal settlement along 3.75 miles of canal in the central city – know the message points to the dire need to dredge the waterway, which has become so clogged with refuse that those driving by with the windows down can immediately smell the stagnant waters. For full story, click here.
Contact: Blaine Delaney – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – January 17, 2017
NRCS is now seeking applications for new partnership projects to help improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In this fourth RCPP Announcement for Program Funding (APF), NRCS will award up to $252 million to promote locally driven, public-private partnerships in 2018. Interested businesses, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, soil and water conservation districts, and universities should submit pre-proposals by April 21 to be considered for funding. For full new release, click here.
EPA won't pay claims in mine spill that released 3M of gallons of toxic water
By Magdalena Wegrzyn – USA Today – January 13, 2017 – Video
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will not pay more than $1.2 billion in claims filed against it in response to the Gold King Mine spill. The EPA says the Federal Tort Claims Act prevents the agency from paying claims that result from "discretionary” government actions. Congress passed the law to allow government agencies — and in this case, contractors working on their behalf — to act "without the fear of paying damages in the event something went wrong while taking the action," according to a press release from the EPA. An EPA agency official said paying the claims would discourage such cleanup efforts in the future. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Amanda Reilly – E&E News – January 13, 2017
The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the dispute over which lower courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule. Justices today granted an industry petition asking the court to reconsider the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to hear legal challenges over the rule, which is also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS. More than 30 states and many industry and farm groups have challenged the joint U.S. EPA-Army Corps of Engineers rule redefining what waterways and wetlands receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act. For full story, click here.
U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear S.D. farmer’s wetlands case
By David Ganje – Bismarck Tribune – January 12, 2017
On Monday, Jan. 9, The U. S. Supreme Court denied the Petition of a Miner County South Dakota farm couple who were fighting a USDA wetlands designation. USDA enforces rules in which it declares as “wetlands” farmland that has been converted by a farmer from wetlands to arable working land. When such a federal designation is made the farmer loses his right to participate in USDA programs and benefits. Under USDA maps about two thirds of North Dakota, one half of South Dakota and the western part of Minnesota is covered by prairie potholes and wetlands. For full story, click here.
Conservationists look to Donald Trump Jr. as their champion in new White House
By Matea Gold and Juliet Eilperin – The Washington Post – January 11, 2017
Soon after House conservatives kicked off a new effort last week to reduce the amount of wilderness and other lands protected by the federal government, a leading conservationist quickly dashed off an email to an ally with especially close ties to the incoming Republican administration. The note went to Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of President-elect Donald Trump and a member of several hunting and fishing groups, who promised fellow hunters during the campaign that he would press his father to protect federal lands that are popular for outdoors activities. For full story, click here.
EPA Issues Final Construction General Permit to Reduce Stormwater Pollution
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 11, 2017
On January 11, 2017, EPA's 2017 Construction General Permit (CGP) was issued. It will take effect on February 16, 2017. The 2012 CGP will expire at midnight on February 16, 2017. During this time, web content for each permit will be online. Web content for the 2017 CGP will include the new permit and factsheet initially with supporting documents added soon. Web content for the 2012 CGP will remain posted online until the 2012 permit expires. For more information, click here.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 10, 2017
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of approximately $1 billion in credit assistance for water infrastructure projects under the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. EPA’s WIFIA program will provide long-term, low-cost credit assistance in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees to creditworthy water projects. WIFIA provides another option for financing large infrastructure projects – generally at least $20 million – in addition to the State Revolving Funds and bond market. WIFIA is available to state, local, and tribal governments; private entities; partnerships; and State Revolving Fund programs. EPA estimates that funds appropriated to the WIFIA program can be leveraged at a ratio greater than 50 to one, which means the $17 million program budget could allow EPA to make approximately $1 billion in loans and stimulate about $2 billion in total infrastructure investment. For full news release, click here.
EPA has released a document to assist non-government organizations, state and local officials, and private landowners in making decisions regarding the removal of obsolete dams. The document describes the impacts of obsolete dams on water quality and public safety, the permitting requirements for removal of these dams, and potential sources of funding that may be available to support dam removal. The document does not change existing policy on dam removal. Learn More.
Contacts: Vernon Smith and Keeley Belva – NOAA – January 6, 2017
The public will be able to weigh in beginning Monday, January 9, on two proposals for new NOAA national marine sanctuaries in Wisconsin and Maryland that would protect nationally significant shipwrecks. The sanctuaries were originally proposed to NOAA in 2014, and if created would be the first since 2000. For full news release, click here.
EPA head's top regret: failing to connect with rural America
By Valerie Volcovici – Reuters – January 6, 2017
Among the millions of rural Americans who voted for incoming president Donald Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's legacy of hard-nosed regulation earned it a reputation as a jobs killer - a fact that outgoing EPA Director Gina McCarthy says could prove to be one of her biggest regrets. For full story, click here.
EPA Launches Online Water Quality Standards Tools for Tribes
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 6, 2017
EPA has published a set of online tools to assist tribes in establishing Clean Water Act-effective water quality standards (WQS). These tools are designed to help simplify the application process for tribes to be treated in a similar manner as states (TAS) and streamline the development of tribal WQS. The tools are another step toward achieving EPA’s goal of closing a longstanding gap in Clean Water Act protections. Currently, fewer than 50 of over 300 tribes with reservation lands have WQS effective under the Clean Water Act. While the tools are not required for successful completion of TAS and WQS submissions, tribes may use the tools as a starting point and are encouraged to coordinate with EPA Regional Offices throughout the TAS application and WQS development process. Learn More.
Contact: Doug Garman or Gene Pawlik – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – January 6, 2017
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced today revised and renewed nationwide permits (NWPs) necessary for work in streams, wetlands and other waters of the United States under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. The new NWPs will take effect March 19, 2017, and replace the existing permits, which expire on March 18, 2017. The 2017 nationwide permits have been published in today’s Federal Register, and will be posted to the USACE website here. For full news release, click here.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 6, 2017
EPA has published a set of online tools to assist tribes in establishing Clean Water Act-effective water quality standards (WQS). These tools are designed to help simplify the application process for tribes to be treated in a similar manner as states (TAS) and streamline the development of tribal WQS. The tools are another step toward achieving EPA’s goal of closing a longstanding gap in Clean Water Act protections. Currently, fewer than 50 of over 300 tribes with reservation lands have WQS effective under the Clean Water Act. While the tools are not required for successful completion of TAS and WQS submissions, tribes may use the tools as a starting point and are encouraged to coordinate with EPA Regional Offices throughout the TAS application and WQS development process. Learn More.
By Sarah Rankin - Associated Press – The Big Story – January 5, 2017
Water clarity in the Chesapeake Bay is the best it's been in decades, and native rockfish, oyster and blue crab populations are rebounding as the overall health of the nation's largest estuary improves, a report released Thursday found. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's biennial State of the Bay report gave the estuary a C-minus grade, an improvement from a D-plus two years ago and the highest score issued since the inception of the report in 1998. For full story, click here.
Fish Explorer – January 4, 2017
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking proposals from states and U.S. territories for federal financial assistance for conservation activities that benefit the nation’s most imperiled species. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF), authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, provides grants to support voluntary conservation projects for listed species and species that are candidates for listing. For fiscal year (FY) 2017, the President’s budget requested $53.495 million for CESCF. The actual amount of funding available is based on Congress passing a final appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior. For more information on the proposals, click here.
The Futile War between Conservationists and Farmers: Conservation and Production Biodiversity
By Andrew Beattie – Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB) – January 3, 2017
Recent high profile conservation articles blame the loss of biodiversity on agriculture (e.g.: Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers, Maxwell et al. Nature 2016) but agriculture depends on biodiversity so something in the conservationist strategy has gone seriously wrong. The answer lies in what the conservation community has come to understand by the term ‘biodiversity’. To the majority of conservationists, the word refers to a relatively small number of the more charismatic species or groups, principally belonging to the vertebrates and higher plants. I call this ‘conservation biodiversity’. For full blog post, click here.
EPA and U.S. Geological Survey Release Report on Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – 2016
EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey released a report providing scientific and technical information related to protection of aquatic life from the effects of hydrologic alteration. Exacerbated through climate change, hydrologic alteration can affect aquatic species' ability to spawn, gather nutrients from the stream system, access high-quality habitat and other survival practices. The report presents a literature review of natural flow and a description of the potential effects of flow alteration on aquatic life, as well as examples of water quality criteria that some states have developed to support natural flow and maintain healthy aquatic life. Learn More.
US Water Alliance Publishes One Water Roadmap
US Water Alliance – 2016
This month, the US Water Alliance published the One Water Roadmap: The Sustainable Management of Life's Most Essential Resource, a guide for how we can tackle our nation's most pressing water challenges. This report makes a compelling case for the One Water approach--we highlight successful strategies and powerful real-world examples of One Water management in practice. The roadmap highlights the bold approaches that water utilities, businesses, agricultural groups, and municipalities, are implementing to build a secure water future for all. The roadmap is organized around six arenas for action where we are making progress: Reliable and Resilient Utilities, Thriving Cities, Competitive Business and Industry, Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Social and Economic Inclusion, and Healthy Waterways. Read More.
By Adam Rosenblatt – The Washington Post – December 29, 2016
Recent political discourse in the United States has been, shall we say, lacking in civility. Then again, we’re talking about politics, a human endeavor that thrives on conflict between competing groups. But recently I’ve been dismayed, as an ecologist, by politicians using “swamp” as a derogatory term for our nation’s capital and what goes on there. During his campaign and now as president-elect, Donald Trump turned the phrase “drain the swamp” into a rallying cry, pledging to restore “honesty, accountability, and change to Washington.” Though his dedication to this principle has been called into question (see recent remarks, and recent disavowal of those remarks, by Newt Gingrich), Trump joins an illustrious list of politicians from both sides of the aisle who have invoked the swamp metaphor, including Ronald Reagan and Nancy Pelosi. For full story, click here.
House Republicans want to ‘repeal and replace’ the ESA
By Joshua Zaffos – High Country News – December 28, 2016
The delta smelt, a tiny, silvery-blue fish hanging on for survival in California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, is notorious among opponents of the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to help the smelt have contributed to farm closures, and water reductions for households and businesses, letting more water flow towards the smelt’s habitat. And yet since 1993, when the fish was listed as threatened, the smelt has only slid further toward extinction, making it an oft-cited example of how the ESA doesn’t work for people or fish, wildlife and plants. For full story, click here.
By Brian Maffly and Thomas Burr – The Salt Lake Tribune – December 28, 2016
President Barack Obama on Wednesday protected a sprawling landscape in southeastern Utah that many had either hoped or dreaded would join the outgoing president's long list of national monuments. The 1.35 million acres of public lands surrounding San Juan County's Cedar Mesa will be known as Bears Ears National Monument, named after the pair of buttes protruding from a ridge joining the mesa and the Abajo Mountains to the north. Obama made the designation at the behest of five Indian tribes with ancestral and spiritual ties to Cedar Mesa, the highlands west of Blanding where ancient cultural sites abound. For full story, click here.
Outgoing EPA chief: Science is ‘fundamental to absolutely everything we do.'
By Brady Dennis – The Washington Post – December 21
Gina McCarthy — Boston native, Irish Catholic, lover of Guinness beer and a good laugh — has been a central player in the Obama administration’s work to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and combat global warming at home and abroad. A career environmental bureaucrat and a veteran of Republican administrations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, McCarthy promised a “common sense” approach to fighting climate change during her 2013 confirmation hearing. Although she contends that the Obama administration has pursued exactly that, the Environmental Protection Agency has run into stiff opposition from the oil, gas and coal industries in recent years. For full story, click here.
With floods rising, cities enlist nature to tame the risks
By Zack Colman – The Christian Science Monitor – December 20, 2016
If Ronier Golightly forgets to tend to the street drain near his home, this Northwest Detroit neighborhood might be mistaken for an ephemeral Great Lake after a rain. The infrastructure in this community just south of the Eight Mile Road, which divides the city from its northern suburbs, has long been problematic. Mr. Golightly and his two neighbors have the unofficial job of clearing leaves from gutters, which has a measurable effect on road flooding. For full story, click here.
Obama Said to Use 1953 Law to Restrict Offshore Oil Drilling
By Jennifer A Dlouhy and Josh Wingrove – Bloomberg – December 19, 2016
President Barack Obama is preparing to block the sale of new offshore drilling rights in most of the U.S. Arctic and parts of the Atlantic, a move that could indefinitely restrict oil production there, according to people familiar with the decision. Obama will invoke a provision in a 1953 law that gives him wide latitude to withdraw U.S. waters from future oil and gas leasing, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced. Until now the law has been used mostly to permanently preserve coral reefs, walrus feeding grounds and marine sanctuaries. For full story, click here.
Navajo Nation Seeks $160 Million in Damages for Gold King Mine Spill
By Alysa Landry – Indian Country Media Network – December 19, 2016
The Navajo Nation is seeking more than $160 million in damages and for alleged ongoing injuries caused by the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill, which released millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into one of the tribe’s significant waterways. The Navajo Nation Department of Justice has filed a claim against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for $159 million in damages and $3.2 million to cover expenses already submitted that have yet to be reimbursed, the tribe said on December 5. The EPA admitted responsibility for the spill but has not yet compensated Navajo residents for the damage or guaranteed that the water is safe to use. For full story, click here.
Obama Signs WIIN Act, One Week After Passing Senate
WaterWorld – December 16, 2016
President Barack Obama today signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), one week after it was passed by the Senate in a late session Dec. 9. The ACWA-supported legislation includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, California drought legislation, and funding for Flint, Mich., relief efforts. In his signing statement, Obama writes, "(The law) authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control, and improve drinking water infrastructure." Addressing the provisions that affect California, he adds, “In the long-term, it invests in a number of water projects to promote water storage and supply, flood control, desalination, and water recycling. These projects will help assure that California is more resilient in the face of growing water demands and drought-based uncertainty.” For full story, click here. Bill Summary from Senator Diane Feinstein, click here.
EPA Launches Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determination Website
By Joel Beauvais – EPA Connect – December 19, 2016
EPA has launched an interactive website to gather, display, and map Clean Water Act jurisdictional determinations finalized since August 28, 2015. The website demonstrates the commitment to increase transparency on Clean Water Act jurisdiction made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. The website displays jurisdictional determinations that were issued under the Clean Water Rule and under the prior regulations in effect while the implementation of the Clean Water Rule has been temporarily stayed by the courts. The website does not display all waters of the U.S. subject to the Clean Water Act, only those for which a jurisdictional determination has been requested. For full blog post, click here.
The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than in Flint
By M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer – Reuters – December 19, 2016
On a sunny November afternoon in this historic city, birthplace of the Pony Express and death spot of Jesse James, Lauranda Mignery watched her son Kadin, 2, dig in their front yard. As he played, she scolded him for putting his fingers in his mouth. In explanation, she pointed to the peeling paint on her old house. Kadin, she said, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning. He has lots of company: Within 15 blocks of his house, at least 120 small children have been poisoned since 2010, making the neighborhood among the most toxic in Missouri, Reuters found as part of an analysis of childhood lead testing results across the country. In St. Joseph, even a local pediatrician’s children were poisoned. For full story, click here.
Feds withheld key documents from Standing Rock Sioux
By Elizabeth Shogren– High Country News – December 14, 2016
The Army made a stunning admission earlier this month when it announced its decision to require a deeper environmental review and more extensive consultation before deciding whether to grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. In its consultations with the Standing Rock Sioux about the pipeline crossing underneath Lake Oahe within a half mile of the reservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purposefully withheld key studies that could have helped the tribe evaluate the risks. One report modeled damage from potential spills; another weighed the likelihood of spills; a third compared alternative routes and discussed the environmental justice concerns raised by the project. The revelation highlights the federal government’s perception of its limited responsibility to consult with tribes even on matters that could threaten its welfare. For full story, click here.
By Coral Davenport – The New York Times – December 13, 2016
The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas extraction technique also known as fracking, has contaminated drinking water in some circumstances, according to the final version of a comprehensive study first issued in 2015. The new version is far more worrying than the first, which found “no evidence that fracking systemically contaminates water” supplies. In a significant change, that conclusion was deleted from the final study. For full story, click here.
By Hannah Northey – E&E News – December 13, 2016
The Department of Energy is refusing to fulfill a request from President-elect Donald Trump's advisers for the names of employees and contractors tied to President Obama's climate agenda. "We will be forthcoming with all publicly-available information with the transition team," DOE spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said in an email. "We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team." DOE officials received "significant feedback" from workers across the department and 17 national labs after Trump's transition team submitted a questionnaire attempting to zero-in on employees and contractors who attended climate-related meetings. For full story, click here.
Congress OKs Pechanga water rights settlement
By Aaron Claverie– The Press Enterprise – December 12, 2016
At long last, there is water rights peace in the Temecula Valley. Congress has approved a settlement agreement with the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians that protects the tribe’s access to groundwater in the region and provides the tribe with more than $30 million in federal funding to pay for water storage projects. For full story, click here.
By Mary Esch - Associated Press – ABC News – December 11, 2016
A century after the first commercial dam was built on the St. Regis River, blocking the spawning runs of salmon and sturgeon, the stream once central to the traditional culture of New York's Mohawk Tribe is flowing freely once again. The removal of the 11-foot-high Hogansburg Dam this fall is the latest in the tribe's decades-long struggle to restore territory defiled by industrial pollution, beginning in the 1980s with PCBs and heavy metals from nearby General Motors, Alcoa and Reynolds Metal plants, a cleanup under federal oversight that's nearly complete. For full story, click here.
By Ledyard King – TCPalm – December 10, 2016
Legislation authorizing nearly $2 billion for Everglades is headed to President Obama’s desk for his signature after the Senate early Saturday morning passed the bill. Senators also passed a separate spending bill to keep the government open through April 28 that includes $74 million to fix Kennedy Space Center structures damaged by Hurricane Matthew in October. Both measures had been tied up in the Senate over unrelated disputes lawmakers were able to resolve late Friday. The House passed both Thursday. For full story, click here.
By Corbin Hiar – E&E Publishing, LLC – December 9, 2016
A top Republican with the ear of the Donald Trump team is aiming to shoot down the Endangered Species Act — spurring conservationists to prepare for battle. "I'm not sure if there's a way of actually reforming the Endangered Species Act or if you simply have to start over again," House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop said in a recent interview with E&E News. "Repeal it and replace it," the Utah Republican said is his preferred approach. Rather than ending funding for agencies that carry out the four-decade-old law, it must be dismantled altogether, Bishop argued. "Some people give the simplistic approach: Why don't you just defund it? That doesn't solve the problem," he said. Bishop, who opposes the ESA because of restrictions it can place on development and recreation, likewise said minor adjustments to the law or passage of riders to remove protections from individual species are insufficient. For full story, click here.
USDA Invests $33 Million to Improve Water Quality in High-Priority Watersheds
Contact Office of Communications – U.S. Department of Agriculture – December 6, 2016
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an investment of more than $33 million in 197 high-priority watersheds across the country to help landowners improve water quality through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). For full news release, click here.
NRCS Washington Announces $10.1 Million in Financial Assistance Available to Help States, Private Partners Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands, and Working Lands
Contact Dave Kreft – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – December 2, 2016
State Conservationist Roylene Rides at the Door announced today the availability of $10.1 million in financial assistance for Washington landowners and cooperating entities to help protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the state. Funding is provided through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The program was created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private landowners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources. For full news release, click here.
By Christina Shockley – Michigan Radio – November 29, 2016
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would rescind the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which outlines what kinds of water bodies are federally protected. Environmentalists say the rule is necessary to safeguard our ecosystems and drinking water. But many in the agriculture industry don’t like the rule—they say it’s an over-reach, and they’re worried it will give the federal government more say over what they can (and can’t) do on their fields. The Waters of the U.S. Rule (a.k.a. the Clean Water Rule) isn’t actually being enforced right now. There were so many challenges to the rule when it was enacted in August of 2015, that it’s been stayed in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. For full story, click here.
By Brady Dennis – The Washington Post – November 21, 2016
Federal officials on Monday moved to block new mining claims at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, the latest push by the Obama administration to protect environmentally sensitive areas during the president’s final months in office. Mining claims will be prohibited on about 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near the park’s northern entrance in Montana. The prohibition will remain in effect for two years while officials gather public comment and evaluate whether to designate the area off-limits to new mining claims for an additional 20 years. For full story, click here.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Final Policy on Mitigating Impacts of Development to Further Conservation of Nation’s Wildlife and their Habitats
Contact: Vanessa Kauffman – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – November 18, 2016
In November, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the final revisions to its Mitigation Policy in the Federal Register. The Mitigation Policy, first published in 1981, guides the Service’s recommendations and requirements for mitigating adverse impacts of projects on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The revised Mitigation Policy was issued in response to the Presidential Memorandum: Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment which directed the Service to finalize a mitigation policy to establish principles to guide the Service in its planning and permitting practices and other activities. For full press release, click here.
By Tiffany Stecker – E&E Publishing, Inc. – November 16, 2016
The Obama administration's controversial Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule was already on life support before the election. Dozens of lawsuits and a nationwide stay halted U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers' plans to implement the new standards on the ground. At the same time, congressional opponents and industry groups continued to paint the rule as invasive, hastily written and illegal. With Donald Trump's promise to pull the plug on the measure, it's only a matter time before it dies, say observers. "I think this rule is ultimately doomed," Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau said in an email. For full story, click here.
Republicans seek quick repeal of latest Obama administration regulations
By Erin Kelly – USA Today – November 15, 2016
Congressional Republicans are poised to act quickly next year to repeal tens of billions of dollars in environmental regulations and other federal rules issued by the Obama administration during its final seven months in power. As soon as Donald Trump won the presidential election last week, GOP lawmakers began scrambling to research the approximately 180 regulations that have been finalized since mid-May and may be eligible for repeal under a rarely used law called the Congressional Review Act. Republicans can undo any of those regulations they don't like if they act fast after Trump is sworn into office Jan. 20. For full story, click here.
Dakota pipeline protesters win temporary victory with promise for more review
By William Yardley – Los Angeles Times – November 14, 2016
Invoking the historic mistreatment of Native Americans, the Obama administration said Monday it will continue to withhold a final permit for completion of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline while it conducts further analysis of concerns that the project will damage sacred tribal sites and water supplies. Developers of the 1,170-mile pipeline say it would provide a vital and safe means of transporting as much as 500,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken region of North Dakota to an existing pipeline in Illinois. But the pipeline has stirred national controversy and become a rallying point among Native Americans across the country because it would cross a major waterway just a half-mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation. For full story, click here.
Crow Creek tribe sues U.S. government for $200 million
By Seth Tupper – Rapid City Journal – November 13, 2016
About 270 river-miles downstream from the Dakota Access pipeline protest camp, a South Dakota Native American tribe is quietly fighting for $200 million in compensation over alleged water-rights violations.
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, which resides on a reservation on the eastern banks of the Missouri River in central South Dakota north of Chamberlain, is locked in a legal showdown with the federal government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. For full story, click here.
By Brady Dennis – The Washington Post – November 11, 2016 – Video
President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his disdain for the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the regulations it has put out under President Obama are “a disgrace.” He has vowed to roll back Obama’s signature effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, known as the Clean Power Plan, and to scrap a litany of other “unnecessary” rules, especially those imposed on the oil, gas and coal sectors. The man planning how a Trump administration can obliterate Obama’s environmental legacy is Myron Ebell, a Washington fixture who has long been a cheerful warrior against what he sees as an alarmist, overzealous environmental movement that has used global warming as a pretext for expanding government. For full story and to view video, click here.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – November 10, 2016
Starting in November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept and process applications for enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program. Applications will be made available in local service centers. For more information, click here.
By Jeff Tollefson, Lauren Morello, and Sara Reardon – Nature – November 9, 2016
Republican businessman and reality-television star Donald Trump will be the United States’ next president. Although science played only a bit part in this year’s dramatic, hard-fought campaign, many researchers expressed fear and disbelief as Trump defeated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on 8 November. “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had,” says Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC. “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.” For full story, click here.
By Dan Chapman – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – November 4, 2016
Fifteen years ago, scientists from Georgia, Florida and Alabama played volleyball in order to build trust and let off steam after grueling days spent analyzing water-sharing scenarios involving the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. One day the games stopped. Negotiations among their bosses to create a three-state commission, or “compact,” to regulate the flow of the waters from North Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico had broken down. But the push for a tri-state compact never really died. And Ralph Lancaster Jr., appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the latest water war legal battle, resurrected talk of a compact three times this week during trial. Once, he asked a witness whether an earlier attempt to create a regional water board was “a good thing”. For full article, click here.
KTIC Radio – November 3, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is contacting 16,300 farmers and ranchers now through March to take part in a national survey that will more accurately measure the environmental benefits associated with implementation and installation of conservation practices on agricultural land. The results of the National Resources Inventory Conservation Effects Assessment Project (NRI-CEAP) survey will help further develop the science-based solutions for managing the agricultural landscape to improve environmental quality. For full story, click here.
EPA Releases Updated Federal Interagency Report on Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate
Federal Water Resources and Climate Change Workgroup – November 2016
An updated report addressing ways to build resilience to climate change for water resources has been released by the Federal Water Resources and Climate Change Workgroup. "Looking Forward: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate" updates a 2011 National Action Plan and outlines priority actions to make progress in three key areas: data and research; planning and decision support; and training and outreach. Fourteen federal agencies were involved in developing this report and are undertaking efforts to build the nation's preparedness to extreme events. Read the Full Report.
Contact: Tricia Lynn – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – October 27, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020), the Agency’s environmental justice strategic plan for 2016 to 2020. EJ 2020 will further integrate environmental justice considerations in all of the Agency’s programs, strengthen EPA’s collaboration with partners, and demonstrate progress on significant national challenges facing minority and low-income communities. For full news release, click here.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program seeks to develop nation-wide-community stewardship of local natural resources, preserving these resources for future generations and enhancing habitat for local wildlife. Projects seek to address water quality issues in priority watersheds, such as erosion due to unstable streambanks, pollution from stormwater runoff, and degraded shorelines caused by development. For more information, click here. Proposals due by January 31, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. ET.
Oregon standoff defendants found not guilty in 'unbelievable, truly astonishing' verdict
By Maxine Bernstein – Oregon Live – October 27, 2016
A jury Thursday delivered a stunning across-the-board acquittal to the leaders and participants in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation and a remarkable blow to the federal government as it tries to tamp down a national movement led by a Nevada family to open public lands to ranchers, miners and loggers. The verdicts finding Ammon Bundy, older brother Ryan Bundy and five others not guilty of a federal conspiracy drew elation from defense attorneys who spent five weeks arguing that the armed takeover amounted to a time-honored tradition of First Amendment protest and civil disobedience. For full story, click here.
By Brett Walton – Circle of Blue – October 27, 2016
Clinton v. Trump is the main draw for the November 8 election, but down the ballot voters in several states will be asked to approve or reject policies and spending measures that affect water supplies. California residents, for instance, could alter the approval process for large infrastructure projects, while Washington voters have a chance to usher in the country’s first state carbon tax. Other state and county proposals seek tax extensions or public bonds for water quality improvements. For full story, click here.
Great Lakes Commission – October 26, 2016
The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) will lead two projects to spark the adoption of green infrastructure across the Great Lakes region. With support from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the GLC is working with Lawrence Technological University through the Great Lakes Stormwater Technology Transfer project to advance adoption of stormwater management best practices and technologies across all sectors in the basin. An advisory group comprised of stormwater and green infrastructure experts met for the first time Thursday, Sept. 29 in Ann Arbor to launch the effort. For full article, click here.
Contact: Margot Perez-Sullivan – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – October 24, 2016
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of the Pala Band of Mission Indians’ application for “Treatment in a similar manner as a State” under the federal Clean Water Act. Tomás Torres, EPA’s Water Division Director for the Pacific Southwest, presented the signed Certificate of Achievement to Tribal Water Resources Specialist Heidi Brow in a ceremony at the Regional Tribal Operations Committee meeting in San Francisco. For full news release, click here.
By Ian James – The Desert Sun – October 20, 2016 – Video
Lawyers for the Coachella Valley’s largest water districts and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians presented their arguments to a federal appeals court in a water rights case that could set a precedent for tribes across the country. The case hinges on the question of whether the Agua Caliente tribe holds a federally granted “reserved right” to groundwater beneath its reservation in Palm Springs and surrounding areas. Lawyers for the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency urged the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a 2015 decision in which a judge sided with the tribe. If the water districts lose their appeal, a court would eventually determine how much groundwater the tribe is entitled to, and Agua Caliente leaders would gain greater influence in decisions about how the desert aquifer is managed. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Ellen M. Gilmer – E&E Publishing, LLC – October 18, 2016
North Dakota regulators did not see this coming. Forty-five miles from the massive demonstration formed to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, Brian Kalk sits in his Capitol office and recalls hours and hours of pipeline hearings with no hint of the fervent resistance that would eventually follow. "I don't think anyone thought it would turn into what we have now," he said, referring to the thousands of tribal members and environmentalists who have cycled through the anti-pipeline camp south of here, plus the hundreds who have engaged in work site protests, sometimes with violent results. For full story, click here.
Contact: Tricia Lynn – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – October 11, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding $1.3 million to 22 organizations in 18 states to help protect and restore urban waters and to support community revitalization and other local priorities. “Often underserved communities in our nation’s cities face disproportionate impacts from pollution, and too often they lack the resources to do something about it,” said Joel Beauvais, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water. “EPA provides support to empower these communities to improve the quality of their waterways and to help reconnect people and businesses with the water they depend on.” For full news release, click here.
The world just agreed to the strongest protections ever for endangered animals
By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – October 5, 2016
With some scientists predicting a sixth mass extinction, the world’s protectors of wildlife acted with a greater sense of urgency at a marathon meeting to toughen regulations against killing such endangered animals as sharks, manta rays and anteaters and trading their remains. By the time the gathering in Johannesburg ended a day early Tuesday, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, had issued several trade bans, including one for the African grey parrot, favored by animal lovers for its ability to mimic human speech. CITES also moved to shut down the black-market trade of an exotic anteater called the pangolin, which is killed and sent mostly to China so its scaly skin can be roasted for traditional medicine. “With 183 parties bound by the convention, CITES is the largest conservation agreement in existence,” said Adam M. Roberts, chief executive of Born Free USA. “This meeting represents a clear win for conservation overall — but much work remains.” For full story, click here.
Mississippi’s Claim That Tennessee Is Stealing Groundwater Is A Supreme Court First
By Brett Walton – Circle of Blue – October 3, 2016
Sometime in the next few months, lawyers for the state of Mississippi will stand before a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed legal expert, clear their throats, and argue that Tennessee, a neighbor, is stealing water. However it is decided, the courtroom tussle breaks new legal ground and more. It is the first time the Supreme Court has considered a lawsuit that involves the use and distribution of groundwater reserves that lie beneath multiple state boundaries. Dozens of major aquifers cross state borders. None, though, is subjected to the well-established legal instruments for allocating water that rivers are. For full story, click here.
By Christine Dell'Amore – National Geographic – October 1, 2016 – Video
As the legend goes, when star-crossed lovers Naupaka and Kaui knew they'd be forever separated, Naupaka took the flower from behind her ear and tore it in two pieces, keeping one and giving Kaui the other. As she went to the mountains, and he to the sea, the plants around them felt their sorrow, and from then on bloomed only in half-flowers. Such is the Hawaiian myth behind the naupaka, a beach shrub native to the islands whose flowers look like they're missing half of their petals. Now the plants are linked to another sad event: Their primary pollinators, a group of more than 60 yellow-faced bee species in the genus Hylaeus, are disappearing fast. So fast that on September 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed seven Hylaeus species as endangered—the first bees ever on the list. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Justin Harclerode – U.S. House of Representatives Transport –September 28, 2016
The House of Representatives today approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 (H.R. 5303), comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to address the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other water resources infrastructure. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 399 to 25. “This bill is fundamental to America’s competitiveness, and gets Congress back to the regular business of addressing some of our most pressing infrastructure needs. An efficient maritime and waterways transportation system is fundamental to the country’s economy,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), sponsor of the legislation. “The process reforms Congress put in place in the 2014 water resources bill are working. Enacting a WRDA bill every two years is essential to maintaining an efficient transportation system, moving commerce effectively, and promoting economic growth throughout the country.” For full story, click here.
Michelle Mendlewicz – Conservation Finance Network – September 28, 2016
The current conservation finance gap is estimated to be $200-300 billion per year. As public and philanthropic investment in conservation are in decline, private investment has the potential to bridge it. That was the key message conveyed by the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC) launched at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2016 World Conservation Congress on Sept. 2, in Honolulu, Hawaii. For full story, click here.
By Melanie Zanona – The Hill – September 28, 2016
The House easily passed a major waterways bill on Wednesday that included a bipartisan compromise to address the drinking-water crisis in Flint, Mich. A late-night deal on Flint aid helped resolve Democratic opposition to a stop-gap spending bill that lacked emergency funding for the city, paving the way for Senate passage of a continuing resolution earlier in the day and ending the threat of a government shutdown. For full story, click here.
By Robin Bravender – Scientific American – September 26, 2016
Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign. Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for EPA, the sources said. For full article, click here.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – September 26, 2016
In section 518(e) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), Congress authorized EPA to treat eligible federally recognized Indian tribes in a similar manner as states for purposes of administering section 303 and certain other provisions of the CWA, and directed the agency to promulgate regulations effectuating this authorization. EPA has issued regulations establishing a process for federally recognized tribes to obtain treatment in a similar manner as states (TAS) for several provisions of the CWA; 53 tribes, for example, have obtained TAS authority to issue water quality standards under CWA section 303(c). EPA, however, has not yet promulgated regulations expressly establishing a process for such tribes to obtain TAS authority to administer the water quality restoration provisions of CWA section 303(d), including issuing lists of impaired waters and developing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) under CWA section 303(d), as states routinely do. For more information, go here.
Contact: Emily Bender – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – September 23, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $4,637,000 for eight grants focused on coastal watershed efforts in southeast Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The projects selected for grant funding are intended to identify, test, and promote effective new regional approaches in critical areas such as water monitoring, watershed planning, nutrient and/or septic management, and resilience to climate change. For full news release, click here.
By Rod Nickel – PlanetArk – September 23, 2016
Aboriginal tribes from Canada and the northern United States signed a treaty on Thursday to jointly fight proposals to build more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands, saying further development would damage the environment. The move came as Native American tribes on Thursday took their fight to Washington to stop development of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline, which would cross federally managed and private lands in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. For full story, click here.
RELEASE: New Public-Private Partnership Launched to Help Communities Bridge Gap Between Climate Data and Resiliency Planning
World Resources Institute – September 22, 2016
Climate change is accelerating the intensity and frequency of extreme weather across the globe, with increasing risks to communities and businesses. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), World Resources Institute (WRI), U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and a network of partners today launched the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) to help communities, companies and investors use data to improve climate resilience planning. Harnessing the data revolution to improve climate resilience efforts will require a diverse set of partners including government, civil society, the private sector, and international organizations. For full story, click here.
Governments of Canada and the United States have finalized a Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan
Binational.net – September 19, 2016
Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the United States have finalized a Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) which is an ecosystem-based strategy for restoring and protecting Lake Superior water quality. The LAMP documents ecosystem conditions and threats, and presents science and action priorities. The LAMP was developed with the help of over 30 science-based government agencies and involved over 50 other organizations representing thousands of people and many diverse interests. For more information and to download LAMP, click here.
The National Wetland Condition Assessment Campus Research Challenge gives graduate students the opportunity to use NWCA data to conduct scientific research and analysis. This challenge is intended to encourage external, innovative research and information development in support of enhanced wetland assessment and management at multiple scales. EPA encourages student applicants to work with their advisors and other faculty; and to consider how this work may also be incorporated into your thesis, a standalone project, journal articles, and/or presentations or posters at conferences. For more information, click here.
By Emily J. Gertz – TakePart – September 17, 2016
Rivers that flow into the Great Lakes are awash with tiny plastic bits, some barely visible to the human eye but big enough to infiltrate the food chain, according to the largest study of microplastics in rivers to date. Scientists found the harmful pollutants in every one of the 107 samples taken from 29 rivers across six states, according to research published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. For full story, click here.
By Juliet Eilperin – The Washington Post – September 15, 2016 – Video
President Obama declared the first fully protected area in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, designating 4,913 square miles off the New England coastline as a new marine national monument. Obama’s previous marine conservation declarations have focused on some of the most remote waters under U.S. jurisdiction, including last month’s expansion of a massive protected area in Hawaii. But the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is more accessible, lying 130 miles off the southeast coast of Cape Cod. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – September 14, 2016 – Video
For nine years, a team of researchers studied greater sage grouse hens in Nevada and basically watched their chicks die. “They just disappear,” said Dan Gibson who led a study of sage grouse that was released Wednesday. The researchers caught females, put tracking collars on them, followed them to the areas where they built nests and checked on them nearly every week for observations that ended in 2012. “You see a female and her brood and she’ll have seven chicks with her. A week later, she’ll have five. Then three. Until slowly it goes to zero.” For full story and to view video, click here.
By Christine Gorman – Scientific American – September 13, 2016
This year’s highly unusual presidential election resembles the past two campaigns in at least one way. The candidates of the two major parties— Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump—provided answers to 20 questions about the most important science-based issues the U.S. faces in coming years. Green Party candidate Jill Stein answered the questions as well. (Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson has not responded so far.) The questions were developed and refined by dozens of scientific organizations representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers after a crowd-sourcing effort led and coordinated by ScienceDebate.org. Scientific American, as the group’s media partner, plans to grade the candidates’ answers in advance of the September 26 presidential debate. For full story, click here.
By Jack Healy and John Sschwartz – The New York Times – September 9, 2016
The federal government on Friday temporarily blocked construction on part of a North Dakota oil pipeline, an unusual intervention in a prairie battle that has drawn thousands of Native Americans and activists to camp and demonstrate. In announcing the pause, the government acknowledged complaints from the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations that their concerns had not been fully heard before federal overseers approved a pipeline that the tribe said could damage their water supplies and ancestral cultural sites. The Justice Department and other agencies called for “serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” For full story, click here.
By Dan Elliott, Associated Press ABC News September 7, 2016
A Colorado mine that spewed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states was designated a Superfund site Wednesday, clearing the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the inactive Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby sites to the Superfund list. It also included nine other sites in eight states and Puerto Rico. The Colorado Superfund designation is the beginning of a years-long effort to clean up the wreckage of a once-booming mining industry in the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern corner of the state. Abandoned mining sites send millions of gallons of acidic wastewater to creeks and rivers every year. For full story, click here.
Contact: Tricia Lynn – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – September 1, 2016
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a competition for college and university students to design innovative solutions for our nation’s water infrastructure. Using their campuses as labs, teams develop green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Since 2012, more than 420 student teams have participated in the challenge. For full news release, click here. Teams can register for the 2016 Challenge from September 1st to September 30th.
Service Creates ESA Listing Workplan to Provide Predictability and Encourage Proactive Conservation of Imperiled Wildlife
Contact: Brian Hires – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – September 1, 2016
As part of its ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness and implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and provide the best possible conservation for our nation’s imperiled wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released today its National Listing Workplan for addressing ESA listing and critical habitat decisions over the next seven years. This announcement comes as Service biologists wrap up work on a previous list of more than 250 species that had been identified as candidates for protection under the ESA. This new workplan will allow the Service to meet its current and future ESA obligations while creating opportunity for partnerships aimed at delivering conservation on the ground to keep working lands working, protect local ways of life and reduce regulatory burdens, saving the ESA’s protection for the species that need it most. For full press release, click here.
Dakota Pipeline Was Approved by Army Corps Over Objections of Three Federal Agencies
By Phil McKenna – InsideClimate News – August 30, 2016
Senior officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two other federal agencies raised serious environmental and safety objections to the North Dakota section of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, the same objections being voiced in a large protest by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that has so far succeeded in halting construction. But those concerns were dismissed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which relied on an environmental assessment prepared by the pipeline's developer, Dakota Access LLC, when it approved the project in July, according to public documents. For full story, click here.
Obama Creates the World's Largest Marine Reserve
Environmental News – August 30, 2016
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, first named a national monument by President George W. Bush in 2006, is a massively important marine nature reserve. Designated a World Heritage site, the region surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands teems with more than 7,000 marine and land species — some of which are unique to the area, including endangered whales and sea turtles. As a result, the region has been deemed irreplaceable by scientists. Environmental advocates have repeatedly called for an expansion of the monument’s protections to ensure that the area is safeguarded from commercial operations long into the future. Clearly, President Obama agrees. For full story, click here.
By Jim Robbins – Environment360 – August 24, 2016
In a small cabin that serves as the Glacier National Park climate change office, Dan Fagre clicks through photos that clearly show the massive glaciers that give this park its name are in a hasty retreat. "There was a hundred square kilometers of ice in 1850," Fagre, a United States Geological Survey researcher who has studied the glaciers of Glacier since 1991, explains. "We are down to 14 to 15 square kilometers, so an 85 to 86 percent loss of ice in the park. There's no doubt they are going to disappear unless some massive cooling happens," he says, which isn't likely. The flows of mountain streams and rivers throughout the park will dwindle as their sources melt. And one species that will dearly miss the ice-cold runoff from the glaciers is the meltwater stonefly, an insect that's only found in a few glacier-fed streams in the park. It will likely disappear when the glaciers vanish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. For full story, click here.
National Park Service turns 100, and some sites are showing their age
By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – August 24, 2016
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell commemorated the National Park Service’s 100 birthday in a speech late Thursday, calling their creation “one of the nation’s most revolutionary ideas — that these lands, our iconic historic sites and our culturally significant places should belong to every American.” Standing on a stage erected near the Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Mont., Jewell said, “I can think of no better place to commemorate this milestone than here, at America’s first national park, under a big sky, on a crisp night, in the shadows of beautiful mountains and on the shoulders of conservation giants who came before us.” For full story, click here.
The Saltmarsh Sparrow Is Creeping Dangerously Close to Extinction
By Hannah Furfaro – Audubon – August 23, 2016
It’s first light, and the sky against the Connecticut coast is silky and pale. Two scientists stand ankle-deep in the marsh, stringing up nets in hopes of catching a ghost. Chris Elphick, a conservation biologist at the University of Connecticut, strides through the coarse grass to meet them. Suddenly, he stops in his tracks. He’s spotted our specter. “There! There’s a bird sitting up on that stick,” he says, motioning to a palm-sized, orange-faced Saltmarsh Sparrow about 50 feet away. Dozens of these birds are probably hiding around us, but the sighting still feels lucky. For full story, click here.
By Chris Prentice – Reuters – August 21, 2016
One of the top U.S. public health officials on Sunday warned that the mosquito-borne Zika virus could extend its reach across the U.S. Gulf Coast after officials last week confirmed it as active in the popular tourist destination of Miami Beach. The possibility of transmission in Gulf States such as Louisiana and Texas will likely fuel concerns that the virus, which has been shown to cause the severe birth defect known as microcephaly, could spread across the continental United States, even though officials have played down such an outcome. For full story, click here.
Great Lakes Commission leads fight against web trafficking of aquatic invasive species
Great Lakes Commission – August 17, 2016
The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) announced today that it has completed development and testing of an innovative web data mining tool to find aquatic invasive species for sale on the internet, and is continuing with implementation of the tool. The GLC is receiving $340,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work with invasive species managers to apply the Great Lakes Detector of Invasive Aquatics in Trade (GLDIATR) to shield against this threat. For full story, click here.
Ever wanted to track where your fish comes from? Now you can
By Alex Whiting – Thomason Reuters Foundation News –August 17, 2016
Anyone with internet access and a passion for seafood will soon be able to track commercial fishing trawlers all over the world, with a new tool that its developers hope will help end the overfishing that has decimated the world's fish stocks. For full story, click here.
National Estuaries Week is September 17-24!
Restore America’s Estuaries
Since 1988, National Estuaries Week has celebrated the many ways we benefit from healthy, thriving coastal ecosystems. All throughout the country, local organizations including Restore America’s Estuaries member groups, National Estuarine Research Reserves and National Estuary Programs organize special events, like beach clean-ups, hikes, canoe and kayak trips, workshops and more to recognize the special role these places play in our everyday lives. National Estuaries Week is a terrific opportunity to learn more about estuaries and the perfect excuse to spend time on your local bay! For more information, click here.
How a 1995 firearms case led to Clean Water Act muddle
By Amanda Reilly – E&E Publishing, LLC – August 11, 206
Court rulings in Clean Water Act cases largely gave federal agencies broad regulatory authority until an unrelated 1995 Supreme Court decision on the possession of firearms in school zones, according to Congress' research arm. In United States v. Lopez, the high court struck down a federal statute for the first time in more than 50 years on the grounds that it exceeded the powers given to Congress by the Commerce Clause. "Lopez set the backdrop" for future rulings limiting federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction, the Congressional Research Service said in a report released Monday. For full story, click here.
'One Water': Concept for the Future?
By John Dyson – WaterWorld
The concept of “one water” has been around for several years in the water and wastewater industry, but what does it mean? I am sure if you gathered top industry professionals together to define the term, it would take days of discussions and still would vary greatly depending on the person. As a general rule, our industry has kept drinking water and wastewater separate. Now, due to water shortages in some areas of North America and throughout the world, we’ve added reuse to the mix, which further complicates the issues. Should we change our entire approach to water use in North America and throughout the world by considering it a single resource? For full story, click here.
NOAA Announces New Partnerships to Restore Habitat in the Great Lakes
NOAA Habitat Conservation – August 9, 2016
NOAA is announcing $8.9 million in funding for three Great Lakes habitat restoration partnerships. Funding for these partnerships is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. We are working with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to implement habitat restoration projects that will help improve “toxic hotspots” known as Areas of Concern. For full story, click here.
EPA provides $602,000 to Navajo Nation Government for Gold King Mine response costs
Contact: Margot Perez-Sullivan – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – August 5, 2016
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding more than $445,000 to reimburse the Navajo Nation for response costs for actions associated with the August 5, 2015 Gold King Mine release near Silverton, Colo. This is in addition to $157,000 awarded in March. These funds include costs incurred for various activities associated with the release response, including field evaluations, water quality sampling, laboratory analyses, and personnel. EPA continues to evaluate state, tribal and local response costs and has reimbursed approximately $3 million to date through cooperative agreements established with partners. Today’s announcement is part of EPA’s ongoing evaluation of costs consistent with the Agency’s authorities and the requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund. For full news release, click here.
$2.2 Million in Conservation Grants Announced by Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program
EIN News – July 26, 2016
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced at the Urban Waters National Training Workshop that 58 community-led wetland, stream and coastal restoration projects across the nation have been awarded approximately $2.2 million in grants. The grantees have committed an additional $5.2 million in local project support, creating a total conservation investment of more than $7.4 million in projects that will restore wildlife habitat and urban waters. These projects will engage thousands of volunteers, students and local residents in community-based conservation projects. For full story, click here.
EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets
By Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Ellen Gilinsky, EPA Office of Water Senior Policy Advisor – US Department of Agriculture – August 2, 2016
In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements. For full blog post, click here.
Announcement of 2016-2017 Campus RainWorks Challenge
U.S. Department of Education – August 2, 2016
EPA is announcing the fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge prize competition that asks student teams to design green infrastructure for their campus. This year, teams will incorporate climate resiliency and consider community engagement in their stormwater management designs. EPA is calling for college and university students to form teams with a faculty advisor to participate in the competition. EPA encourages teams to be multidisciplinary (comprised of planners, engineers, designers, scientists, and more). Teams will be able to submit in either the master plan or demonstration project categories. Registration for this year’s competition will be open from September 1-30, 2016. Submissions for this year’s competition will be due December 16, 2016 and winners will be announced in Spring 2017. For full story, click here.
China tried to drive a furry mammal to extinction. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
By Simon Denyer – The Washington Post – July 22, 2016
As he gazes out across the rolling grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, where hundreds of his yaks are grazing, 70-year-old Awang Chumpey is less than happy. The land he shares with his neighbors is dotted with thousands of tiny burrows, home to a colony of plateau pika that he blames for eating his animals’ grass. A smaller relative of the rabbit, the plateau pika occupies an almost identical ecological niche to the United States’ prairie dog. And it is equally unpopular in many rural communities. For full story, click here.
Look to the Soil for Water Supply Answers
By Matt Weiser – Water Deeply – July 26, 2016
Throughout the ongoing drought, millions of Californians have lifted eyes skyward, yearning for rain. But Judith Schwartz believes we should spend just as much energy puzzling over the ground at our feet. In her new book, “Water in Plain Sight,” Schwartz argues that the amount of rain that falls is less important than what happens to the rain, how fast it moves across the land and where it goes. Soil health, land management and wildlife diversity all figure into the results. For full story, click here.
Cleaner air may be driving water quality in Chesapeake Bay
PHYS.org – July 26, 2016
A new study suggests that improvements in air quality over the Potomac watershed, including the Washington, D.C., metro area, may be responsible for recent progress on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have linked improving water quality in streams and rivers of the Upper Potomac River Basin to reductions in nitrogen pollution onto the land and streams due to enforcement of the Clean Air Act. For full story, click here.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Girls Inc. Inaugurate Girls in Nature
By Megan Moosetrack – Montana Outdoor Radio Show – July 1, 2016
Seeking to expand opportunities for young girls nationwide to experience nature and explore careers in wildlife conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Girls Inc. has signed a historic partnership agreement. The agreement commits the two organizations to work together to help girls, particularly those from communities of color and urban areas traditionally underrepresented in natural resource conservation fields, to explore conservation and natural resource management. For full story, click here.
USFWS Announces Final Methodology for Prioritizing and Addressing ESA Status Reviews
By Justin Stakes – Ammoland – July 28, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its final methodology for improving the way it identifies and prioritizes pending Endangered Species Act (ESA) status reviews, the scientifically rigorous process the agency uses to determine whether a species warrants federal protection. The new approach will allow the Service to be more strategic in how it addresses pending status reviews, to be more transparent in how it establishes workload priorities, and to work better with partners to conserve America’s most imperiled plants and wildlife. For full story, click here.
United States, Enbridge Reach $177 Million Settlement After 2010 Oil Spills in Michigan and Illinois
U.S. Department of Justice – July 20, 2016
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership and several related Enbridge companies to resolve claims stemming from its 2010 oil spills in Marshall, Michigan, and Romeoville, Illinois. Enbridge has agreed to spend at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent spills and improve operations across nearly 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region. Enbridge will also pay civil penalties totaling $62 million for Clean Water Act violations -- $61 million for discharging at least 20,082 barrels of oil in Marshall and $1 million for discharging at least 6,427 barrels of oil in Romeoville. For full news release, click here.
A new report rated countries on ‘sustainable development.’ The U.S. did horribly
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – July 21, 2016
Last September, urged on by Pope Francis, the United Nations and its 193 member states embraced the most sweeping quest yet to, basically, save the world and everyone in it — dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s a global agenda to fix climate change, stop hunger, end poverty, extend health and access to jobs, and vastly more — all by 2030. For full story, click here.
Wildflowers planted to aid bees may be crippling them
By Dan Gunderson – MPR News – July 22, 2016
Swaths of Midwestern wildflowers planted by well-meaning governments and nonprofits to attract bees may be inadvertently harming them. That's the surprising finding of a new scientific study that concludes a bee-killing pesticide carried by wind or water from nearby farms is landing on the wildflowers, putting pollinators at risk. For full story, click here.
House passes Interior, EPA spending bill
By Devin Henry – The Hill – July 14, 2016
The House passed a $32.1 billion bill funding the Interior Department and environmental programs next year, the first time the legislation has cleared the House since 2009. The bill would cut spending for Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other programs by $64 billion over current levels, and is $1 billion less than what President Obama requested in his budget. For full story, click here.
Service Proposes Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges
Contact: Vanessa Kauffman – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – July 13, 2016
The value to Americans provided by national wildlife refuges was highlighted today when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced the agency is proposing to expand hunting and fishing opportunities at 13 national wildlife refuges across the United States. This includes migratory bird, upland game, big game hunting and sport fishing. For full press release, click here.
The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – July 14, 2016
In an ambitious study that represents the latest merger between big data approaches and the quest to conserve the planet, scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth’s land surface — including some of its most important types of terrain and its most populous regions — the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a “safe” level identified by biologists. For full story, click here.
What You Need to Know About the World's Water Wars
By Laura Parker – National Geographic – July 14, 2016
Beijing is sinking. In some neighborhoods, the ground is giving way at a rate of four inches a year as water in the giant aquifer below it is pumped. The groundwater has been so depleted that China’s capital city, home to more than 20 million people, could face serious disruptions in its rail system, roadways, and building foundations, an international team of scientists concluded earlier this year. Beijing, despite tapping into the gigantic North China Plain aquifer, is the world’s fifth most water-stressed city and its water problems are likely to get even worse. For full story, click here.
UM researchers find lack of government accountability on widespread herbicide use on public land
By David Erickson – Missoulian – July 7, 2016
Herbicides have been widely used on public lands in North America to kill non-native and invasive plants for decades. But a new report raises serious questions about whether taxpayers are footing a significant bill for a widespread but not widely known land management practice that may be causing more harm than good. A pair of researchers at the University of Montana recently contributed to a new study that has found a lack of government data and accountability on whether this method is actually destroying “non-target” species and ecosystems and possibly allowing more destructive invasive species to take root. For full story, click here.
USDA Announces $49 Million Public-Private Investment to Improve Critical Wetlands in 12 States
Contact: Office of Communications – USDA Department of Agriculture – July 7, 2016
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is awarding $44.6 million through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership to support 10 wetland enhancement projects on private and tribal agricultural lands in 12 States. Recipients for each project are providing more than $4.3 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to approximately $49 million. In total, the projects will help to protect, restore or enhance 15,000 wetland acres in critical watersheds across the United States. For full story, click here.
EPA removes underground tanks on Navajo Nation to protect local water
Newsroom America – June 30, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency located and removed two underground storage tanks at the former Smith Lake Trading Post in McKinley County, New Mex. last month. The thousand-gallon tanks may have been buried for over 70 years. The trading post burned down in 1995 and was abandoned. The Navajo Nation EPA identified this site as one of many abandoned gas stations throughout the reservation. The two underground storage tanks at the site are thought to have been taken out of service in 1981. At that time, the tanks were not checked to see if petroleum product remained. This work is part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to identify and remove abandoned underground storage tanks that have the potential to contaminate groundwater throughout the Navajo Nation. For full story, click here.
Water Systems Violate Lead Rules Nationwide, Advocacy Group Finds
By Maggie – Fox NBC News – June 28, 2016 – Video
More than 5,000 water systems across the country are violating rules meant to keep lead out of drinking water, advocates said Tuesday. While the case in Flint, Michigan has dominated headlines, cities and towns across the U.S. are in similar danger, the Natural Resources Defense Council found in a report. For full story and to view video, click here.
Summer reading for the enviro science crowd
By Douglas Fischer – Environmental Health News – July 1, 2016
Summertime in the mother of all election years, and the reading needs to be easy. No political tomes from us this year. The front pages and websites in our noisy media world have more than enough. So let's get far from Brexit analysis and presidential politics. Head west. Start your environmentally themed summer reading this year with a Western. For full story and a list of summer reading, click here.
Gulf Coast Activists Tell 'Big Green' to Quit Exploiting Their Disasters for Financial Gain
By Yessenia Funes – Colorlines.com – June 30, 2016
In a new open letter, a group of 11 Gulf Coast environmental justice activists are demanding "respect and solidarity" from national "Big Green" organizations that they accuse of exploiting their local disasters for financial gain and treating poor people of color as "poster children for environmental injustice." The activists, who hail from EJ groups including 350 Louisiana, Houstonians Against Tar Sands and Radical Arts & Healing Collective, published the letter on a New Orleans website June 27 and sent it to Colorlines yesterday. While the statement does not name any groups or funders, "Big Green" is a term critics use to describe the largest environmental organizations in the United States, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. For full story, click here.
Court strikes down Obama fracking rules for public lands
By David Bailey and Ernest Scheyder – Reuters – June 22, 2016
A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration's rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a victory for oil and gas producers and state regulators who opposed the rules as an egregious overreach. The ruling, which the White House vowed to appeal, halts the administration's efforts to address what it sees as safety concerns in the industry and reverses what producers had seen as a first step toward full federal regulation of all fracking activity. For full story, click here.
It's Not Just Crimes Against Nature, It's Crimes Against People
By Terry Odendahl – EcoWatch – June 22, 2016
Many of us who have dedicated our lives to environmental protection believe that all crimes against nature are also crimes against people. After all, nature is the life source for the human species. But unfortunately, not all members of the public agree with us. Some people care more about saving animals, a wetland or a forest. None of these matters are of much interest to the media, government or funding organizations. However, when people are also involved and directly harmed by the crime against nature, it can help draw attention to efforts to protect the health and life of people as well as the environment. For full story, click here.
EPA and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities Award $1.4 Million to Protect and Sustain Healthy Watersheds
Contact: Enesta Jones – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – June 14, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) are providing for the first time $1.4 million in grants for nine projects to improve land management of hundreds of thousands of acres of watersheds in seven states. Grants were awarded to organizations in California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia to provide short-term funding to leverage larger financing for targeted watershed protection; to provide funds that help build the capacity of local organizations for sustainable, long-term watershed protection; or to support new techniques or approaches that advance the state of practice for watershed protection and that can be replicated across the country. For full news release, click here.
EPA awards $465,000 to Navajo Nation for water monitoring in the San Juan River
Newsroom America – June 16, 2016
This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency $465,000 for water quality monitoring in the San Juan River. This funding is in addition to $1 million awarded in October for water quality monitoring and ecological restoration activities throughout the Reservation. For full story, click here.
High court sides with property owners in wetlands case
By Sam Hananel, Associated Press – U.S. News –May 31, 2016
The Supreme Court is making it easier for landowners to bring a court challenge when federal regulators try to restrict property development due to concerns about water pollution. The justices ruled unanimously Tuesday that a Minnesota company could file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the agency's determination that its land is off limits to peat mining under the Clean Water Act. For full story, click here.
Army Corps of Engineers Releases Living Shoreline Permit
By Laura Lightbody The Pew Charitable Trusts June 1, 2016
On June 1, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended a new general permit for natural shoreline defenses—Proposed Nationwide Permit B. Living Shorelines—which use natural materials such as plants, sand, and rocks to reduce erosion. Fourteen percent of the U.S. coastline is armored with hard infrastructure, such as bulkheads and seawalls, which often leads to erosion and loss of wetlands and habitat, but the Corps’ current permit program does not include most living shoreline activities. As a result, those projects face a rigorous and lengthy review. For full story, click here.
Pharmaceutical Chemicals Found in Every Stream Sampled in USGS Study
By Eric Chaney – The Weather Channel – June 1, 2016
Our waterways are filled with traces of drugs, says a new study conducted by the USGS. A team of researchers, led by hydrologist Paul Bradley, recently collected water samples from 59 small streams in the Southeast from Virginia to Georgia, which were analyzed for 108 pharmaceuticals and degradates. All 59 streams tested positive for at least one of compounds and the overall average was six different compounds per stream. “Pharmaceutical contaminants are growing aquatic-health concerns and largely attributed to wastewater treatment facility discharges,” the study says. But only 17 of the 59 streams have any reported wastewater discharges. For full story, click here.
EPA Streamlines Approach for Tribes to Administer Clean Water Act Programs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – May 16, 2016
Section 518 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes EPA to treat eligible Indian tribes with reservations in a similar manner to states (TAS) for a variety of purposes, including administering each of the principal CWA regulatory programs and receiving grants under several CWA authorities. EPA’s revised interpretation of CWA section 518 published on May 16, 2016, streamlines the process for applying for TAS for CWA regulatory programs, including the water quality standards program. This reinterpretation facilitates tribal involvement in the protection of reservation water quality as intended by Congress. For more information, click here.
EPA Releases Wetland Water Quality Standards Templates
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – May 16, 2016
Section 518 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes EPA to treat eligible Indian tribes with reservations in a similar manner to states (TAS) for a variety of purposes, including administering each of the principal CWA regulatory programs and receiving grants under several CWA authorities. EPA’s revised interpretation of CWA section 518 published on May 16, 2016, streamlines the process for applying for TAS for CWA regulatory programs, including the water quality standards program. This reinterpretation facilitates tribal involvement in the protection of reservation water quality as intended by Congress. For more information, click here.
Pre-publication Copy of Proposal to Reissue and Modify 2017 Nationwide Permit Released
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – May 20, 2016
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced today that it has prepared its proposal to renew and revise 50 nationwide permits. In addition, USACE will propose to issue two new nationwide permits that pertain to authorizing the removal of low-head dams and the construction and maintenance of living shorelines. A pre-publication copy of the proposal is available here. The proposal is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register in a few days. The public comment period will not begin until the proposal is published in the Federal Register. For more information, go here.
Draft Nearshore Framework for the Great Lakes Available for Comment
Binational.net – May 13, 2016
A Nearshore Framework for the Great Lakes has been drafted and is now available for a sixty-day review period ending on July 12, 2016. The Nearshore Framework satisfies a commitment in the Lakewide Management Annex of the Agreement to “develop, within three years of entry into force of this Agreement, an integrated nearshore framework to be implemented collaboratively through the lakewide management process for each Great Lake.” The scope of the Framework covers the nearshore waters and embayments along the coast of the Great Lakes, the lakes’ connecting river systems and the international section of the St. Lawrence River. Building upon existing monitoring, research and reporting (and in collaboration with key governmental and non-governmental partner agencies and organizations) the Nearshore Framework will allow for a comprehensive assessment of nearshore waters that will assist in identifying management priorities. This assessment will enable locally-led collaborations of federal, state and provincial governments, tribal governments, First Nations, Métis, municipal governments, watershed management agencies, local public agencies and the public to take action to protect nearshore areas of high ecological value, protect water quality, and restore degraded areas. For full story, click here. To download draft Framework, click here.
Over a third of North American bird species in danger: scientists
By David Ljunggren – Reuters – May 18, 2016
More than a third of all North American bird species are at risk of becoming extinct unless significant action is taken, scientists who are part of a tri-nation initiative said on Wednesday, adding that ocean and tropical birds were in particular danger. The study, compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative and the first of its kind to look at the vulnerability of bird populations in Canada, the United States and Mexico, said 37 percent of all 1,154 species on the continent needed urgent conservation action. For full story, click here.
Nationwide Permit Rule to be Published in Federal Register
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is about to publish its “Proposal to Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits” in the Federal Register. The Corps’ pre-publication version of the rule is posted on their webpage. ASWM will be hosting a series of webinars about the new rule, once it is published. Stay tuned!
EPA Releases Report Showing Nearly Half of Nation's Wetlands in Good Health
Contact: Enesta Jones – U.S. Environmental Protection Agecny – May 11, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the first-ever National Wetland Condition Assessment, showing that nearly half of the nation’s wetlands are in good health, while 20 percent are in fair health and the remaining 32 percent in poor health. The National Wetland Condition Assessment is part of a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys designed to advance the science of coastal monitoring and answer critical questions about the condition of waters in the United States. For full news release, click here.
Bison officially designated as national mammal of U.S.
By Laura Zuckerman – PanetArk – May 11, 2016
North America's bison, a living emblem of the Western frontier that roamed the continent by the millions before being hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s, was officially designated on Monday as the national mammal of the United States. The bison, whose image adorned the back of the U.S. nickel for 25 years and has graced the U.S. Interior Department seal since 1912, was bestowed symbolic status equal to that of the American bald eagle through an act of Congress. The measure, signed into law by President Barack Obama, proclaims the bison's role as a symbol for America's heritage as a whole. It cites the animal's history as "integrally linked with the economic and spiritual lives of many Indian tribes through trade and sacred ceremonies." For full story, click here.
New Science Provides Foundation for Proposed Changes to Service’s Comprehensive Eagle Conservation and Management Program
Contact: Laury Parramore – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – May 4, 2016
In a move designed to maintain strong protections for bald and golden eagles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is opening a 60-day public comment period on proposed improvements to the agency’s comprehensive eagle conservation and management program. The proposed changes include modifications to the regulations governing permits for incidental take of bald and golden eagles that will protect eagle populations during the course of otherwise lawful human activities. For full press release, click here. The public may submit comments on the proposed rule and the PEIS until July 5, 2016.
Gulf Coast could be ground zero for Zika
By Liz Szbo – USA Today – May 6, 2016 – Video
The Gulf Coast may know hurricanes, but this year the region of 60 million people could find itself unprepared and at ground zero for a different type of storm: a mosquito-borne Zika epidemic. A look at the region's urban hubs, small towns and rural outposts shows a patchwork of preparedness. Cities such as Houston have robust plans in place, while smaller towns, such as Corpus Christi, Texas, struggle with fewer resources. The Gulf Coast's steamy climate, abundant mosquitoes and international airports create an environment ripe for the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has spread to 37 countries and territories in the Americas. For full story and to view video, click here.
Environmental groups sue EPA, seek stricter rules over fracking waste linked to earthquakes
By Brady Dennis – The Washington Post – May 4, 2016
A collection of environmental advocacy groups on Wednesday sued the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the government has failed to adequately regulate the disposal of waste generated by oil and gas drilling. In particular, the lawsuit seeks to force the agency to impose stricter rules on the disposal of wastewater, including that from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. For full story, click here.
EPA Honors Winners of 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – April 16, 2016
EPA’s Office of Water is pleased to announce the winners of its fourth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge for undergraduate and graduate students. See the 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge Winners. EPA will announce the next round of the Challenge in the Summer of 2016. For full story, click here.
On the Bay: New group conducts census of citizen scientists
By Christina Jedra – Capital Gazette – April 26, 2016
A new environmental organization is conducting a census of volunteer water quality monitoring groups. The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative was formed by the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The CMC hopes to connect citizen scientist groups with other organizations and "provide a vehicle for their data to be used by larger groups," according to a news release from the alliance. For full story, click here.
Clean water crisis threatens US
By Sarah Ferris and Peter Sullivan – The Hill – April 25, 2016
The United States is on the verge of a national crisis that could mean the end of clean, cheap water. Hundreds of cities and towns are at risk of sudden and severe shortages, either because available water is not safe to drink or because there simply isn’t enough of it. The situation has grown so dire the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism. The problem is being felt most acutely in the West, where drought conditions and increased water use have helped turn lush agricultural areas to dust. But dangers also lurk underground, in antiquated water systems that are increasingly likely to break down or spread contaminants like lead. For full story, click here.
46 Environmental Victories Since the First Earth Day
By Brian Clark Howard – National Geographic – April 22, 2016
The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was a milestone event for the planet. An estimated 20 million people took to the streets across the U.S. to raise awareness about the impacts of human activities on the environment. Since then, the annual tradition has grown to involve billions of people around the world. This year, Earth Day turns 46. To mark this anniversary and to show how much has changed since 1970, we assembled 46 of the most significant accomplishments of the environmental movement since the first Earth Day. For full article, click here.
Major biodiversity panel desperately seeks social scientists
Olive Heffernan – Nature – April 21, 2016
A global science body set up to assess the ecological health and biodiversity of the planet is struggling to solve its own lack of diversity: a monoculture of natural scientists on its staff. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 to assess scientific and local knowledge on the state of the natural world. From the outset, the United Nations body planned to recruit a mixture of specialists to help to inform its reports: from natural scientists and economists to social scientists, anthropologists, environmental philosophers and indigenous peoples such as fishers and farmers with local knowledge about their environment. For full story, click here.
Kinder Morgan cancels widely opposed New England pipeline plan
By Mike Lee – E&E Publishing. LLC – April 21, 2016
Kinder Morgan Inc. yesterday canceled a natural gas pipeline through New England that drew protests from environmentalists, politicians and both Democratic presidential candidates, saying it couldn't get enough customers to sign up for the project. The $3.3 billion Northeast Energy Direct pipeline was originally planned to connect Kinder's Tennessee Gas system to utility companies and power generators in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut. It would have involved building 188 miles of 30-inch pipeline from Wright, N.Y., across Massachusetts and New Hampshire to Dracut, Mass. For full story, click here.
‘And then we wept': Scientists say 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef now bleached
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – April 20, 2016
The conclusions are in from a series of scientific surveys of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event — an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth — and scientists aren’t holding back about how devastating they find them. Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force has surveyed 911 coral reefs by air, and found at least some bleaching on 93 percent of them. The amount of damage varies from severe to light, but the bleaching was the worst in the reef’s remote northern sector — where virtually no reefs escaped it. For full story, click here.
Flood Damage Costs Will Rise Faster Than Sea Levels, Study Says
By Zahra Hirji – InsideClimate News – March 1, 2016
Communities facing rising sea levels are likely to see the cost of flood damage increase faster than water levels, concludes a new study. Three scientists in Germany made this sobering conclusion while developing a new analysis tool to help coastal communities worldwide understand and calculate the estimated economic costs of rising sea levels driven by climate change. For full story, click here.
USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical
Contact: Sylvia Rainford – USDA NRCS – April 5, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $15 million to help eligible conservation partners leverage local investments to provide technical assistance and financial resources for wetlands protection and improvements on private and Tribal agricultural land nationwide. For full news release, click here.
Two widely used pesticides likely to harm 97% of endangered species in US
By Oliver Milman – The Guardian – April 7, 2016
Almost all of the 1,700 most endangered plants and animals in the US are likely to be harmed by two widely used pesticides, an alarming new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis has found. Malathion, an insecticide registered for use in the US since 1956, is likely to cause harm to 97% of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act. Malathion is commonly used to treat fruit, vegetables and plants for pests, as well as on pets to remove ticks. A separate pesticide, chlorpyrifos, is also a severe risk to 97% of America’s most threatened flora and fauna. Chlorpyrifos, which smells a little like rotten eggs, is regularly deployed to exterminate termites, mosquitoes and roundworms. For full story, click here.
The link between vulnerabilities in energy, food, and water systems
By Michaela Elias – The Christian Science Monitor – March 15, 2016
Recently, the Sustainability Institute and School of Public Leadership in Stellenbosch, South Africa published a report, “Mitigating Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Energy-Food-Water Nexus in Developing Countries.” The report was compiled for the United Kingdom Department of International Development, and it outlines the dynamic interactions between energy, food, and water systems to identify vulnerabilities and propose policy solutions. The linkages described in the report include energy and water inputs in the food system; crops and water which are used to produce energy in the form of biofuels, fossil fuels, and hydroelectricity; and energy and agricultural production which adversely impact water quality. For full story, click here.
Obama admin appears headed for Supreme Court loss
By Robin Bravender – E&E Publishing, LLC – March 30, 2016
Supreme Court justices appear likely to smack down the government in another major clean water case. A vast majority of the justices today seemed dubious of the government's arguments that landowners shouldn't be able to challenge certain government decisions about water permits in court. For full story, click here.
Water Sector Announces New Initiatives at White House Water Summit
UIM online.com – March 27, 2016
On World Water Day, March 22, the White House hosted a Water Summit to shine a spotlight on creative, cross-cutting solutions to solve today's water challenges. Federal agencies, business leaders, local utilities and practitioners, and environmental organizations announced 150 new efforts and commitments to accelerate water innovation, investment and sustainability in the United States. For full story, click here.
The Importance of Native American Tribes and Their Landsto Conservation Recognized with Nearly $5 Million in Wildlife Grants
Contact: Christina Meister – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – March 25, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced nearly $5 million in Tribal Wildlife Grants to Native American and Alaska Native tribes in 16 states. The awards will support 29 fish and wildlife conservation projects that benefit a wide range of wildlife and habitat, including species of Native American cultural or traditional importance and species that are not hunted or fished. For full press release, click here.
Drones set to revolutionize ecological monitoring: research
Reiters – March 17, 2016
Ecologists have a new tool for protecting the environment and monitoring ecological changes, according to an Australian study published on Thursday: drones. Aerial surveillance robots are more precise than traditional surveying techniques for tracking changes in animal populations and the broader environment, research from Monash University found. For full story, click here.
Hearing on Flint erupts into partisan blowup
By Annie Snider – Politico – March 17, 2016
A House hearing on the Flint water crisis erupted into a bitter partisan clash Thursday over who was to blame for lead contamination in the Michigan city, with Republicans chastising the EPA chief and Democrats unloading on Michigan's governor. House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) zeroed in on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for the agency's failure to act quickly to warn residents about the dangers of the lead contamination in the drinking water. For full story, click here.
Observers: Judge Garland Typically Deferential to EPA
By Rebecca Wilhelm – Bloomberg BNA – March 16, 2016
Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, has generally been deferential to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, legal observers told Bloomberg BNA March 16. Garland, who has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997 and chief judge since 2013, has reviewed dozens of environmental law cases, including a challenge to the EPA's performance standards limiting particulate emissions from new power plants and a Commerce Clause challenge brought by a real estate developer whose construction plans were halted when the government determined that the project would jeopardize the endangered arroyo southwestern toad. For full story, click here.
Reshaping the Chesapeake Bay, one living shoreline at a time
By Gabriel Popkin – The Washington Post– March 14, 2016
“Where we’re standing was open water,” boasted Bhaskar Subramanian on a sun-soaked and unseasonably warm morning last fall. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources environmental scientist was standing on a sandy, crescent-shaped beach. Behind him, two small curved jetties, made of rock and covered in grasses, jutted into Chesapeake Bay. For full story, click here.
These experts say Congress is ‘legislating scientific facts’ — and wrong ones, too
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – February 26, 2016
A group of forest scientists, ecologists and climate researchers has sent a strongly worded letter to the U.S. Senate, arguing that pending bipartisan energy legislation incorrectly claims that burning trees for energy is carbon neutral. “Legislating scientific facts is never a good idea, but is especially bad when the ‘facts’ are incorrect,” say the researchers, led by Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. “We urge you and other members of the Senate to reconsider this well-intentioned legislation and eliminate the misrepresentation that forest bioenergy is carbon-neutral.” The letter is endorsed by 65 researchers, including a number of leaders of forest science, and also endorsed by several scientific societies. For full story, click here.
A 'smeary' Lake Erie sees progress, setbacks
By Brian Bienkowski – Environmental Health News – March 10, 2016
When Dr. Suess wrote his iconic children’s book "The Lorax" in 1971, he took a swipe at the Great Lakes.
"They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary, in search of some water that isn't so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie." If the line doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry: It was removed after Ohio Sea Grant employees wrote the author to fill him in on the major strides in improving the lake’s health. Lake Erie and its four great cousins have benefited mightily from cleanup and research in the 45 years since Dr. Suess penned what became his personal favorite. However, from plummeting prey fish populations to poopy Michigan rivers, grave threats to the region's ecosystems remain, scientists and officials said at the annual Michigan Water Heritage conference held at Michigan State University Tuesday. For full story, click here.
Supreme Court shoots down challenge to cleanup plan
By Robin Bravender – E&E Publishing, LLC – February 29, 2016
The Supreme Court today rejected an industry-led effort to topple U.S. EPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan. In a short order issued this morning, the court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court's decision that upheld EPA's "pollution diet" for the watershed. The American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies, including 22 states and dozens of lawmakers, had urged the justices to take the case, arguing that EPA's plan violates the Clean Water Act. For full story, click here.
Monarch Butterfly Migration Rebounds, Easing Some Fears
By Victoria Burnett – The New York Times – February 27, 2016
After years of being ravaged by severe weather and shrinking habitats, the monarch butterflies hibernating in the Mexican mountains rebounded last year, kindling cautious hope that one of the insect world’s most captivating migrations may yet survive. The World Wildlife Fund said at a news conference here on Friday that the orange-and-black butterflies, which fly more than 2,500 miles each year from Canada and the United States to a cluster of mountain forests in Mexico, covered about 10 acres this winter, an area more than three times as large as the space they covered last year. For full story, click here.
BP oil spill damage 'dramatically diminished', scientists say
By Mark Schleifstein – NOLA .com – The Times-Picayume – March 2, 2016
Damage to wetlands, insects and fish along Louisiana's coast from millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is finally on the downswing. Despite the unprecedented size of the spill and its acute effects on wildlife, the recovery after five years is not unexpected, said three researchers during last week's American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences meeting in New Orleans. For full story, click here.
Republican candidates' calls to scrap EPA met with skepticism by experts
By Oliver Milman – The Guardian – February 26, 2016
Amid prolonged bickering with his rivals, Donald Trump outlined a fairly radical proposal during Thursday’s Republican debate: to scrap the US Environmental Protection Agency. Typically there was little policy detail. But it was clear that the EPA – and its $8bn budget – would be on the chopping block should the Republican frontrunner become president. For full story, click here.
Court to hear case against Obama’s water rule
By Timothy Cama – The Hill – February 22, 2016
A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court ruled Monday that it has the jurisdiction to hear numerous consolidated challenges to the Obama administration’s contentious water pollution rule. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected calls from opponents of the regulation to dismiss their cases and allow them to first go to lower courts with their challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule. For full story, click here.
House Republicans seek to open up national forests to mining and logging
Oliver Milman – The Guardian – February 24, 2016
Congress is to consider two bills that would allow states to hand over vast tracts of federal land for mining, logging or other commercial activities – just weeks after the arrest of an armed militia that took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in protest at federal oversight of public land. The legislation, which will be presented to the House committee on natural resources on Thursday, would loosen federal authority over parts of the 600m acres (240m hectares), nearly one-third of the land mass of the US, it administers. For full story, click here.
Updated Policy Re-affirms Federal-State Collaboration on Implementing the ESA
Contacts: Brain Hires and Connie Barclay – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – February 19, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (together the Services) have updated a long-standing policy on the role of state fish and wildlife agencies in implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The updated policy, developed in coordination with state fish and wildlife agencies, re-affirms the commitment for engagement and collaboration between the Services and state agencies on many aspects of ESA implementation. For full press release, click here.
EPA Releases Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters
Contact: Robert Daguillard – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – February 19, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released DWMAPS – the Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters. This robust, online mapping tool provides the public, water system operators, state programs, and federal agencies with critical information to help them safeguard the sources of America’s drinking water. DWMAPS allows users to learn about their watershed and understand more about their water supplier. DWMAPS also lets users see if sources of their drinking water are polluted and if there are possible sources of pollution that could affect their communities’ water supply. DWMAPS can even guide users to ways they can get involved in protecting drinking water sources in their community. For full news release, click here.
U.S. House passes controversial bill on NSF research
By Jeffrey Mervis – cience/AAAS – February 11, 2016
As expected, the House of Representatives yesterday passed HR 3293 by a 236 to 178 vote. Lawmakers voted largely along party lines, with just seven Democrats voting in favor of the bill and four Republicans against. After the Wednesday vote, leaders of the House science committee’s majority and minority blocs issued dueling statements. For full article, click here.
New web site aims to help public track Bay restoration
By Timothy B. Wheeler – Bay Journal – February 17, 2016
People wanting to know if the Bay is being saved now have a handy new place online where they can check. The Chesapeake Bay Program has launched “Chesapeake Progress,” a website designed to provide “accurate, up-to-date and accessible information” about what’s been done to achieve the restoration goals and outcomes spelled out under the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. For full article, click here.
A Look at Obama's Final Budget Proposal
The Associated Press – abc News – February 9, 2016
Obama's budget for the Agriculture Department includes a proposed $12 billion over 10 years to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer. Nearly 22 million low-income children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, but just a fraction of those kids receive meals when school is out. Benefits under the proposed program would be loaded onto a debit card that can only be used for food at grocery stores. For full story, click here.
This study just undermined a huge myth about the Endangered Species Act
By Chelsea Harvey – The Washington Post – December 14, 2015
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has raised continual controversy since its enactment more than four decades ago, inciting many a heated debate over the need to protect threatened plants and animals versus how such protections could crimp land use or economic development. But a surprising new analysis shows that the Act might not be quite the economic threat that critics believe it is — at least, not anymore. For full story, click here.
Economists keep saying we should put a price on nature. Now they've finally done it
By Chelsea Harvey The Washington Post February 8, 2016
Putting a price on nature may seem like an impossible task, but economists believe that finding a way to calculate the value of natural resources is crucial when it comes to deciding whether our use of a resource is sustainable. Natural resources are capital assets, economists have argued, in the same way that land, buildings and stocks are considered assets — and spending money to protect these resources should be viewed as an investment in the future rather than just another cost. For full story, click here.
The Environmental Impact of the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
By Melissa Gaskill – Newsweek – February 14, 2016
A line of 18-foot-tall steel posts placed four inches apart cuts like a scar across the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge near McAllen, Texas. It’s a stretch of a barrier extending intermittently across 650 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas, and presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio vow to enlarge it if elected. The barrier is intended to deter illegal immigration and smuggling. Whether it has achieved those aims remains unclear, but what is clear in this part of Texas is that sections of the barrier bisect and isolate public and private lands, threatening to decimate wildlife habitats and leaving communities on both sides of the border that rely on wildlife tourism to wither. For full story, click here.
House passes bill requiring EPA actions on lead-laced water
By Timothy Gardner – Planet Ark – February 12, 2016
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday easily passed a bill requiring federal environmental regulators to act faster when lead contamination is found in drinking water. The bill passed 416-2. It was crafted by Michigan Representatives Dan Kildee, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican, in the wake of Flint's drinking water crisis. The measure requires the Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public when concentrations of lead in drinking water rise above mandated levels and to create a plan to improve communication between the agency, utilities, states, and consumers. For full story, click here.
Chesapeake Conservancy: Obama Budget Contains $29M for Bay
CBS Baltimore – February 10, 2016
The Chesapeake Conservancy says the Obama administration included $29 million in the fiscal 2017 budget for land conservation across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The conservation group says the funding will help protect significant wildlife habitat and historical sites in Virginia and Maryland. Under the proposed spending plan, the National Park Service and other federal agencies would receive the funding. For full story, click here.
President's FY 2017 Budget Request of $1.6 Billion for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contact: Gavin Shire – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – February 9, 2016
President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) underscores the Administration’s commitment to building partnerships, strengthening management and using science to conserve wildlife and ecosystems. It emphasizes improving the resilience of communities and wild landscapes, enabling them to better adapt to a rapidly changing environment, and uses smart investments in conservation and landscape-level planning to improve the Service’s ability to facilitate economic growth, while avoiding and mitigating the impacts on wildlife and habitat. For full press release, click here.
Environmentalists dismayed at proposed budget cuts to Great Lakes restoration programs
By James F. McCarty – Clevland.com – February 9, 2016
Environmental groups reacted with dismay today after it was learned that President Obama's proposed budget would cut $50 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Great Lakes program currently is funded with $300 million. But the president's proposal would reduce that funding to $250 million – the third year in a row the president has recommended cutting funding to the initiative, said Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. For the past six years, the initiative has supported more than 2,900 projects in Ohio and the other seven Great Lakes states to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollutants, combat invasive species, and reduce runoff from cities and farms. "Now is not the time to cut successful programs that protect our drinking water, jobs and way of life," Ambs said. For full story, click here.
Views on coal mining clash in Senate hearing on stream protection rule
By Curtis Tate – McClatchyDC – February 3, 2016
An ongoing cultural battle between coal mining and environmental groups played out in a Senate hearing Wednesday over an Obama administration proposal to mitigate the impacts of coal mining activity on streams. The hearing, in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, afforded an opportunity for mining interests and their mostly Republican supporters to hammer administration officials over the Stream Protection Rule, though the proposed rule itself isn’t to blame for coal’s troubles. In return, Democrats who support environmental groups got a chance to hit back using the recent water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., though the lead-tainted water there was not the result of coal mining. For full story, click here.
Chesapeake Bay report card finds improving crab populations, grass growth
By Scott Dance – The Baltimore Sun - B'More Green – February 2, 2016
Multistate efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay are starting to pay off, with a surge in blue crab populations, growth of underwater grasses and improvements in water quality, according to a bay report card released Tuesday. There were 101 million female blue crabs in the bay last year, 50 percent more than in 2014, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s annual “Bay Barometer.” Underwater grasses covered nearly 76,000 acres in 2014, 41 percent more than in 2013, the report found, and officials estimate that nitrogen pollution flowing into the bay fell by 6 percent between 2009 and 2014. The program’s leader said the improvements are the result of broad efforts to clean up the bay, including a 2010 directive from the Environmental Protection Agency limiting nitrogen runoff and a 2014 agreement between six states and the District of Columbia across the bay watershed to set goals for bay health measures. For full blog post, click here.
Unsafe Lead Levels in Tap Water Not Limited to Flint
By Michael Wines and John Schwartz – The New York Times – February 8, 2016
In Sebring, Ohio, routine laboratory tests last August found unsafe levels of lead in the town’s drinking water after workers stopped adding a chemical to keep lead water pipes from corroding. Five months passed before the city told pregnant women and children not to drink the water, and shut down taps and fountains in schools. In 2001, after Washington, D.C. changed how it disinfected drinking water, lead in tap water at thousands of homes spiked as much as 20 times the federally approved level. Residents did not find out for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,600 homes — and discovered three years later that many of the repairs had only prolonged the contamination. For full story, click here.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Over $20 Million in Grants to Conserve Coastal Wetlands
Contact Vanessa Kauffman – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – February 2, 2016
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced over $20 million will be provided to 28 projects in 12 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $20 million in additional funds to these projects, which acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats. For full news release, click here.
EPA 'seeks to strengthen' safe water laws amid widespread testing concerns
By Oliver Milman – The Guardian – February 2, 2016
The US Environmental Protection Agency aims to “strengthen” existing safe water laws, in response to findings that many cities are downplaying the levels of lead in their water. Since news proliferated of dangerous lead contamination in Flint’s water, the Guardian revealed that numerous US cities and states, including Philadelphia, Detroit and Rhode Island, advise residents to run their faucets for several minutes the night before taking a sample of water for lead tests. The EPA, which has come under fire for its response to the Flint crisis and its reluctance to stamp out the altered tests, will work to clarify best practice with water authorities, a spokeswoman told the Guardian. An update to the 25-year-old lead and copper rule is expected in 2017 but the EPA said it would act in the meantime. For full story, click here.
World Wetlands Day aims to continue sustainable livelihoods
By Joel Lefevre – iNews990 – January 31, 2016
More than a billion people make a living from it and it’s something groups like Ducks Unlimited are committed to preserving. Tuesday is World Wetlands Day where the aim is raise awareness on the importance of protecting coastlines, providing natural sponges against river flooding and storing carbon dioxide to regulate climate change. For full story, click here.
USDA Seeks Proposals for Market-Based Wetland Protection Systems
Contact: Office of Communications – USDA – January 28, 2016
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the establishment of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wetland Mitigation Banking Program, made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. Through the program, NRCS will provide $9 million to help states, local governments or other qualified partners develop wetland mitigation banks that restore, create, or enhance wetland ecosystems, broadening the conservation options available to farmers and ranchers so they can maintain eligibility for other USDA programs. For full news release, go here.
How cases like Flint destroy public trust in science
By Chelsea Harvey – The Washington Post – January 27, 2016
As the investigation into the water crisis in Flint, Mich., continues to unfold, disturbing reports have arisen that raise questions about the integrity of government science agencies and their possible engagement in scientific misconduct or even outright science denial. It’s a component of the story that may represent the next major blow to public trust in science — a problem that is linked to everything from doubt over the existence of anthropogenic climate change to worries over the safety of vaccines. For full story, click here.
New Conservation Finance Network Website Will Be a Hub for News, Events and Community
Conservation Finance Network – January 15, 2016
We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Conservation Finance Network (CFN) website. This fresh site represents a new partnership between the CFN program at Island Press, Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY), and The Conservation Fund (TCF). It will bring together news, training opportunities, and a professional community for conservation finance. To visit website, click here.
Weyerhaeuser to Buy Timber Rival Plum Creek for $8.4 Billion
By Jen Skerritt – Bloomberg.com – November 9, 2015
Weyerhaeuser Co. agreed to buy Plum Creek Timber Co. for about $8.4 billion to create a real estate investment trust that will be the largest private owner of timberland in the U.S. The new company will own more than 13 million acres (5.3 million hectares) of timberland across the U.S. and produce lumber and wood-fiber boards used in construction. The companies said the merger will save $100 million of costs each year. For full story, click here.
Senate fails to override Obama veto
By Timothy Cama – The Hill – January 21, 2016
Senate Republicans fell short Thursday in their attempt to override a veto from President Obama and repeal a contentious water regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency. Fifty-two senators voted to move forward with an attempt to override Obama’s veto of the resolution, short of the 60 votes that were needed. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) joined Senate Republicans in voting to proceed with the veto override. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican to vote against. Even if the Senate had achieved cloture on the resolution, final passage would have required a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress, a steep climb. The 52-40 Thursday vote closes the latest chapter in the GOP’s push to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to assert power over small waterways like streams and wetlands. The rule is known as the Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States,” and was made final last year. For full story, click here.
West's water reservoir managers face big losses from evaporation
By Bruce Finley – The Denver Post – December 30, 2015
As water managers in the western United States increasingly consider new and expanded reservoirs to store more water, they face potentially huge losses from evaporation. Some are looking at underground storage, covering and shading reservoirs, and adjusting water levels to try to save hundreds of billions of gallons. Water equivalent to roughly 10 percent of the annual flow in the Colorado River is lost each year to evaporation from just two massive reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, according to researchers at the University of Colorado. For full story, go here.
EPA Launches Visualize Your Water Challenge to Find Solutions to Nutrient Pollution
Visualize Your Water is an exciting challenge that will equip high school students with new technology skills and help to broaden their understanding of nutrient pollution issues. Students will submit their best, most innovative visualization that tells a story about nutrient pollution in a local waterway. For more information, go here.
House approves bill to block Obama stream-protection rule for coal; WH threatens veto
By Matthew Daly, Associated Press – U.S. News – January 12, 2016
The Republican-controlled House approved a bill Tuesday blocking new Obama administration regulations designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal mining on the nation's streams. The White House has vowed to veto the bill, saying the proposed rules would protect about 6,500 miles of streams nationwide while ensuring that mountains damaged by coal mining are restored once mining is completed. The bill was approved, 235-188, and now goes to the Senate. For full story, go here.
U.S. Restricts Movement of Salamanders, for Their Own Good
By Carl Zimmer – The New York Times – January 12, 2016
The Fish and Wildlife Service is barring the door against 201 species of salamanders, making it illegal to import them or move them across state lines, the agency announced on Tuesday. Scientists hope the ban will help prevent a devastating outbreak from driving native salamander species extinct. In 2013, scientists in the Netherlands discovered a species of fungus infecting native fire salamanders. Later research revealed that the fungus, called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, was carried by Asian salamanders that were imported into Europe as pets. While the fungus was harmless to the Asian amphibians, it was lethal to the Dutch ones. Although Bsal has continued to spread in Europe, there is no sign that it has taken hold in the United States. For full story, go here.
Watchdog finds no wrongdoing in EPA’s moves to block controversial Alaskan gold mine
By Joby Warrick – The Washington Post – January 13, 2016
The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog has found no evidence of bias in the agency’s efforts to block a proposed gold mine from being built near Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The EPA’s Inspector General, in a report released on Wednesday, said agency officials followed normal guidelines in assessing whether the controversial Pebble Mine project should be built. The EPA is moving toward a formal decision to bar mining operations in the region citing risks to wildlife, including the world’s biggest run of sockeye salmon. For full story, click here.
EPA Survey Shows $271 Billion Needed for Nation’s Wastewater Infrastructure
Contact: Robert Daguillard – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – January 13, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a survey showing that $271 billion is needed to maintain and improve the nation’s wastewater infrastructure, including the pipes that carry wastewater to treatment plants, the technology that treats the water, and methods for managing stormwater runoff. The survey is a collaboration between EPA, states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. To be included in the survey, projects must include a description and location of a water quality-related public health problem, a site-specific solution, and detailed information on project cost. For full news release, click here.
Bees threatened by a common pesticide, EPA finds
By Geoffrey Mohan – The Baltimore Sun – January 6, 2016
An insecticide widely used on grains, vegetables, fruit and other crops nationwide threatens honeybees, federal environmental regulators said in a decision that could lend impetus to efforts to ban the chemical. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that imidacloprid, a nicotine-imitating chemical found in at least 188 farm and household products in California, “potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.” The EPA's decision was prompted by increasing concern that the chemicals might be contributing to the sudden collapse of commercial honey bee colonies over the last decade. For full blog post, click here.
Top Trends Conservationists Should be Paying Attention to — But Aren’t
By Mary Hoff Ensia – December 28, 2015
Artificial intelligence, testosterone and ship tracking technology probably aren’t on many conservation organizations’ “top things to think about” lists right now. But they should be, suggests a new report in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. “A Horizon Scan of Global Conservation Issues for 2016,” authored by University of Cambridge conservation biologist William Sutherland and 23 other researchers, practitioners, professional horizon scanners and journalists, offers a list of 15 emerging trends and developments that are not well known but could have big implications — positive, negative or both — for biodiversity on a global scale. For full story, click here.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases 2015 List of Candidates for Endangered Species Act Protection
Contact: Vanessa Kauffman – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – December 23, 2015
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released the Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly status appraisal of plants and animals that are candidates for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. Two species were removed from the list, and two changed in priority from the last review, conducted in December 2014. There are now 60 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection. All candidate species are assigned a listing priority number based on the magnitude and imminence of the threats they face. When adding species to the list of threatened or endangered species, the Service first addresses species with the highest listing priority. Today’s notice announces changes in priority for two species. For full press release, click here.
Administration Announces Public-Private Innovation Strategy to Build a Sustainable Water Future
The White House – December 15, 2015
Last week, representatives of more than 190 nations agreed to an unprecedented global climate agreement that establishes a long-term, durable framework to address one of the gravest threats facing humanity. As the President said, the agreement in Paris creates a mechanism for us to continually tackle climate change in an effective way and begin the next phase of building a low-carbon, climate-resilient future while generating new jobs and industries. That’s why today the Administration is taking action to build upon the tremendous progress we’ve made here at home by announcing a new public-private water innovation strategy. This strategy includes an aggressive two-part approach led by Federal agencies to address the impacts of climate change on the use and supply of our nation’s water resources and calls on private sector and other stakeholder groups to help significantly scale up research and investment in water efficiency solutions. For full press release, click here.
Supreme Court wades into major permitting squabble
By Robin Bravener and Jeremy P. Jacobs – E&E Publishing LLC – December 11, 2015
The Supreme Court agreed today to consider whether a federal determination that a wetland qualifies for Clean Water Act protection can be subject to a court challenge. The justices will hear U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc., setting the stage for what many see as the term's highest-profile environmental case. The Obama administration and property rights advocates had asked the Supreme Court to review whether Army Corps and U.S. EPA Clean Water Act jurisdictional determinations are subject to judicial review. For full story, click here.
House Votes to Ban Tiny Polluting Microbeads From Your Face Wash
By Lucy Bayly – NBC News – December 10, 2015
The House of Representatives voted this week to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics, calling the tiny plastic spheres "unnecessary plastic pollution" in the nation's waterways. Recent studies estimate that plastic waste causes up to $13 billion a year in environmental damage. If passed in the Senate, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 will prohibit the manufacture of "rinse-off" cosmetics that contain "intentionally added plastic microbeads" as of 2017, ban their use in cosmetics starting in 2018, and prohibit their use in over-the-counter drugs from 2019. For full story, click here.
New institute launched to help improve nation's soil health
By The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation – AG Professional – December 7, 2015
With more than one million organisms in a single teaspoon of Earth, soil is the starting point for plant, animal and human life. It is the foundation for society, providing the basis for food production, healthy families and economies. To ensure that soil continues to be a vital natural resource for generations to come, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation, NFP, announced the formation of the Soil Health Institute. The announcement coincides with World Soil Day (Dec. 5) and celebrates the 2015 International Year of Soils. The Soil Health Institute's mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of the soil. It will work directly with conventional and organic farmers and ranchers, public- and private-sector researchers, academia, policymakers, government agencies, industry, environmental groups and consumers - everyone who benefits from healthy soils. For full story, click here.
Researchers to Probe Links Between Human Activities, Water Quality
By Rory Halligan-Virginia Tech – newswise – December 8, 2015
Understanding human interactions with the natural environment can enhance the protection of surface water quality in lakes and streams. A multidisciplinary team of researchers will examine the linkages between humans and freshwater quality using a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program.The goal of the research project is to investigate human-natural feedbacks in freshwater systems by examining the linkages between land-use decision-making, water quality, and collective action taken by the public to protect water quality. For full story, click here.
Are humans using too much water?
By Eva Botkin-Kowacki – The Christain Science Monitor – December 6, 2015
Water is essential for life as we know it. But freshwater, the stuff we drink and use to grow crops, makes up just 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water, according to the US Geological Survey. Is that enough? How are humans manipulating this vital natural resource? And just how much are we using? Scientists set out to figure just how big the global freshwater footprint really is. That footprint could be more significant than previously thought, and it might just be because we’re trying to control it. For full story, click here.
Embattled mercury rule likely to withstand court assault
By Robin Bravender – E&E Publishing, LLC – December 4, 2015
U.S. EPA's landmark air standards for mercury appear likely to survive an effort by industry and states to kill the rules in court.
A panel of federal judges this morning seemed reluctant to vacate EPA's rules to slash mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from power plants after the Supreme Court sent the standards back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The high court ruled that EPA failed to properly consider costs before issuing the standards, and opponents of the regulation urged the D.C. Circuit to toss out the rules. For full story, click here.
Agency Seeks Monitoring of Mercury Pollution in Great Lakes
By John Flesher – abc news – December 3, 2015
The U.S. and Canada should more closely monitor atmospheric pollution from as far away as Asia that may be causing mercury levels to rise in some Great Lakes fish, an advisory agency said Thursday. Many of the stations that once monitored the mercury content of rain and snow in the region are no longer operating, according to a report by the International Joint Commission, which recommends policies to both nations' governments on their shared waterways. For full story, click here.
Habitat loss seen as rising threat to world's migratory birds
By Will Dunham – Reuters – December 3, 2015
Habitat destruction along routes taken by the world's migratory birds poses an increasing peril to these long-distance fliers, with a vast majority crossing terrain that nations are inadequately protecting, according to scientists. The researchers said on Thursday they tracked the migratory routes, stopover locations, breeding grounds and wintering locations of 1,451 migratory species and assessed about 450,000 protected areas like national parks and other reserves. They found 1,324 species, about 91 percent, journeyed through locales that were not safeguarded from threats like development. For full story, click here.
African nations aim to restore 100 mln hectares of land by 2030
By Megan Rowling – Thomson Reuters Foundation – December 6, 2015
en African countries have committed to restore 31 million hectares of degraded and deforested land, under a new push to make 100 million hectares productive again by 2030. The AFR100 scheme, launched on Sunday in Paris, will be backed by $1 billion from the World Bank and additional funds from Germany, as well as $545 million in private-sector investment. "Restoring our landscapes brings prosperity, security and opportunity," said Rwanda's Minister of Natural Resources Vincent Biruta. For full story, click here.
Board questions EPA draft report on fracking
By Don Hopey – PowerSource-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – November 28, 2015
A review by an EPA advisory board says that a draft report on hydraulic fracturing did not support the conclusion that shale gas fracking hasn’t caused significant damage to the nation’s water supplies. The draft report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board raises questions about research, the lack of robust data and some of the language of the EPA’s fracking study draft, ordered by Congress to assess the risks to water supplies from hydraulic fracturing. Congress directed the EPA to create the advisory board in 1978 to review the quality and relevance of science the agency used to craft policy and regulations. For full story, click here.
EPA is developing guidelines for swimmers and toxic algae
By John Seewer – The Columbus Dispatch – November 27, 2015
New national guidelines are being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect swimmers and kayakers from growing threats posed by toxic algae in lakes and rivers. The focus will be on people who might swallow water during recreational activities. The EPA issued a report to Congress last week saying that it also will be looking at whether new health advisories are needed on algae toxins in drinking water. For full story, click here.
British Columbia, Alaska sign pact on protecting shared waterways
Reuter – November 25, 2015
The Canadian province of British Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding with Alaska on Wednesday to protect transboundary rivers, watersheds and fisheries and be more involved in major mining developments in each other's territory. Under the agreement, a bilateral group will be created to monitor water quality in transboundary waters. The two regions will also work toward allowing government representatives and scientists to be involved in each other's environmental assessment and permitting processes for mining projects. For full story, click here.
National water quality database released to address nutrient challenges
By National Corn Growers Association – Ag Professional – November 20, 2015
The National Corn Growers Association and the Water Environment Research Foundation announced the completion of the Agricultural Best Management Practices Database at the American Water Resources Association’s Annual Conference on Water Resources. Along with other project sponsors, such as the United Soybean Board, this database was developed to create a centralized repository of agricultural best management practice performance studies related to water quality in agricultural areas. For full story, click here.
New Report: Spotted Turtle Among 10 U.S. Species Most Threatened by Habitat Fragmentation
Contact: Collette Adkins – Center for Biological Diversity – November 18, 2015
The spotted turtle has been named one of the 10 U.S. species most threatened by habitat fragmentation in a new report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, No Room to Roam: 10 American Species in Need of Connectivity and Corridors, highlights 10 rare or endangered species that lack safe, navigable corridors to connect them to important habitat or other populations. The spotted turtle ranges across eastern United States, but local population extinctions have caused its range to contract and fragment. For full news release, click here.
USDA Announces $350M Available to Help States, Private Partners Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands, and Working Lands
Contact: Ciji Taylor – USDA NRCS – November 16, 2015
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of $350 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private owners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources. For full news release, click here.
US, Cuba sign first environmental accord since thaw
By Christine Armario – AP The Big Story – November 18, 2015
The United States and Cuba signed an agreement Wednesday to join forces and protect the vast array of fish and corals they share as countries separated by just 90 miles (140 kilometers), the first environmental accord since announcing plans to renew diplomatic relations. The memorandum signed by U.S. and Cuban officials in Havana directs scientists with the Florida Keys and the Texas Flower Garden Banks national sanctuaries to collaborate with researchers at two similarly fragile and protected reserves: Guanahacabibes National Park and the Banco de San Antonio, located on the island's westernmost region. For full story, click here.
How public lands fuel our economy
By Joshua Reichert – The Hill – November 20, 2015
One of America's greatest assets is our natural patrimony, with national parks and monuments, wildlife preserves, scenic rivers, and national forests containing some of the nation's most visited and treasured landscapes. However, beauty is not the only value of these places. They also provide significant and often overlooked economic benefits to surrounding communities and to the country at large. Data show that protected spaces put money in the coffers of U.S. businesses, municipalities, families and individuals — and that these gains are sustained over time. The Outdoor Industry Association's most recent report, in 2012, noted that consumers spent $646 billion on outdoor recreation, an economic sector that supports more than 6 million jobs. This includes gear, travel and costs associated with camping, snow sports, mountain biking and other activities, as well as professional guides for hunting, fishing and river trips. For full blog post, click here.
EPA: N.C. risking federal takeover of environmental regulation
Winston-Salem Journal – November 18, 2015
North Carolina’s recent tactic of blocking citizens from challenging state permits for industrial polluters could result in a federal takeover of the state’s regulatory program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put state officials on notice that North Carolina’s strategy is putting the state at risk of losing its authority to regulate industrial water pollution and air pollution. Since receiving the warning two weeks ago, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is downplaying the incident as a misunderstanding. For full story, click here.
Draft National Wetland Condition Assessment Released For Comment
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – November 5, 2015
EPA has released the draft National Wetland Condition Assessment, the first national assessment of the ecological condition of the nation's wetlands. The draft report describes the results of a nationwide probabilistic survey of wetlands conducted in the spring and summer of 2011 by EPA and its state and tribal partners. Results are based on ecological data collected at more than 1,000 sites across the country using standardized field protocols and include estimates of wetland area in "good", "fair", or "poor" condition, nationally and by major ecoregion. EPA is seeking comment on the draft. Read more here.
New NOAA Guidance Promotes Living Shorelines for Improving Habitats
NOAA Habitat Conservation – October 28, 2015
NOAA has released a Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines, which outlines how we promote living shorelines as a shoreline stabilization technique. Along sheltered coasts, living shorelines can preserve and improve habitats and the benefits they provide and promote resilient communities. To read more, go here. To download Guidance, go here.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau aligns with American Farm Bureau to appeal Chesapeake Bay plan in Supreme Court
Pennsylvania Business Daily – November 10, 2015
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and agricultural and development stakeholders recently requested that the U.S. Supreme Court hear an appeal of a federal decision upholding an EPA action affecting Chesapeake Bay. The consortium of citizens is concerned about the effect of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, saying it will negatively impact farm families, communities and the rural economy in general. For full story, click here.
Bid to block Obama’s water rule falls short
By Timothy Cama – The Hill – November 3, 2015
The Senate failed Tuesday to move forward with a GOP-led bill to overturn the Obama administration’s rule expanding its authority over small waterways. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), would have repealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule and given the agency guidelines to re-write it, while exempting numerous waterways and consulting various stakeholders.For full story, click here.
Algae Bloom Off Pacific Coast Blamed For Marine Mammal Poisoning
By Jes Burns – Oregon Public Broadcasting - OPB – November 3, 2015
Scientists have found dozens of poisoned dolphins, whales and sea lions off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California this year. They tested positive for a toxin caused by a massive algae bloom this summer in the Pacific Ocean. Toxic domoic acid is produced by algae in the ocean, and this year the algae are thriving in the largest bloom ever recorded here. Marine mammals are poisoned when they eat fish that are contaminated. For full story, click here.
Obama order requires agencies to offset environmental impacts of development
By Gregory Korte – USA Today – November 3, 2015
Federal agencies will be required to take additional steps to offset the environmental impacts of development under a presidential memorandum signed by President Obama Tuesday. The new policy expands on the federal government's 26-year-old "no net loss" wetlands policy, first established under President George H.W. Bush, which requires that any wetlands that are destroyed by human development be replaced somewhere else. The Obama policy applies that concept to any natural resource — not just wetlands — and also encourages agencies to replace those resources even before they're destroyed. For full story, click here.
Proposed federal rule would protect streams near mines
By Edward Graham – The Durango Herald – October 28, 2015
A new stream-protection rule to protect waterways from surface coal mining contamination was met with stiff resistance by Senate Republicans on Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The rule, which was proposed by the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, would promote better safeguards, oversight and protection for streams near mines. OSM has been working for the last six years to update environmental regulations for streams and other ecosystems surrounding surface mines.For full story, click here.
Obama leaving mark on contentious law -- with scant Hill input
Phil Taylor and Corbin Hiar – E&E Publishing, LLC – October 21, 2015
The Obama administration is quietly reshaping the Endangered Species Act in hopes of tempering congressional critics and avoiding courtroom battles. Over the past several years, the administration has pushed a series of administrative reforms that it says will make the 1973 law more nimble, transparent and legally defensible. It has shifted course on how the law is applied, utilizing incentives over regulations to coax industry and private landowners to save vanishing habitats. "The law has inherent flexibility," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "We can apply that flexibility thoughtfully, and we can catalyze conservation, not command it." Lawmakers and Western governors want to legislatively overhaul the law -- a tall task in a deeply partisan Congress. But the law has already evolved significantly under President Obama and will continue to be molded by the next administration. For full story, click here.
U.S. Appeals Court Blocks EPA Water Rule Nationwide
By Brent Kendall and Amy Harder – The Wall Street Journal –October 9, 2015
A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would bring more waterways and wetlands under federal protection, in the latest sign the effort could face an uphill legal battle. The order, issued on a 2-1 vote from the Cincinnati-based Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was a preliminary boost for a group of 18 states that challenged the EPA regulation. The rule seeks to bring smaller bodies of water at the outer edges of watersheds under the Clean Water Act and was issued jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For full story, click here.
USDA to Invest $30 million to Help Protect Wetlands in Six States
Contact: Office of Communications – USDA – October 15, 2015
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $30 million to projects in six states to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands. The projects are being funded under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. "Through locally led partnerships like these, USDA is targeting conservation in the places that make sense, allowing us to address local concerns," Vilsack said. "These projects will improve water quality, prevent flooding, enhance wildlife habitat and meet increasing conservation challenges on over 19,000 acres of wetlands." For full news release, click here.
17 Candidate Species Found to No Longer Warrant Listing Due to Conservation Successes
Contact: Brian Hires – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – October 7, 2015
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) completed status reviews for 17 species that were candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and found that all are now doing well and no longer warrant listing. These species will be removed from the ESA Candidate List. These findings represent years of collaborative efforts across the United States to conserve and restore once-imperiled species and their habitats and eliminate the need for ESA protection. For full press release, click here.
'Report Card' Gives Mississippi River Basin a D+
By Jim Salter – ABC News – October 14, 2015
A report card is out on the Mississippi River basin, and the grade is not good: a D+, with an aging transportation infrastructure topping the list of concerns. The report by America's Watershed Initiative, released Wednesday in St. Louis, assesses categories such as the abundance of clean water, flood control and risk, ecosystem health, the economy and recreation on the river and its watershed, which includes the Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio rivers and other tributaries. All told, the watershed touches parts of 31 states and covers two-fifths of the continental U.S. For full story, click here.
EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grants Program Request for Proposals is OPEN!
EPA – October 13, 2015
The mission of EPA’s Urban Waters Program is to help local residents and their organizations, particularly those in underserved communities, restore their urban waters in ways that also benefit community and economic revitalization. For the 2015/2016 grant cycle, EPA seeks to fund projects that address urban runoff pollution through diverse partnerships that produce multiple community benefits, with emphasis on underserved communities. Under this announcement, the EPA is soliciting proposals from eligible applicants for projects that will advance EPA’s water quality and environmental justice goals. Note that, proposed project activities must take place entirely within one of the Eligible Geographic Areas, as illustrated on the interactive map provided on the Urban Waters Small Grants mapping website. For more information, click here.
U.S. court orders EPA to rewrite ship ballast water dumping rules
By Jonathan Stempel – Reuters – October 5, 2015
A federal appeals court in New York ordered the government to rewrite its rules regulating the discharge of ballast water by ships, in a victory for environmental groups that said the rules were too lenient and threatened the nation's waterways. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday said the Environmental Protection Agency acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when it decided in 2013 to follow an international standard governing the discharge of harmful organisms, though technology was available to adopt a higher standard. Writing for a 3-0 appeals court panel, Circuit Judge Denny Chin also said the EPA, using its authority under the Clean Water Act, should have considered onshore facilities to treat ballast water rather than focus on pollution controls aboard ships, where a lack of space might limit their effectiveness. For full story, click here.
The Visualize Your Water Challenge Seeks Compelling Data Visualizations
Gisuser – October 7, 2015
Nutrient pollution is one of the nation’s most difficult environmental challenges. While nutrients are essential compounds for functioning ecosystems and the production of food, fiber, and livestock feed, excessive nutrient levels can dramatically alter aquatic environments and threaten economic and human health. Today, EPA, USGS, ED, the Great Lakes Observing System, and Esri are announcing the “Visualize Your Water” Challenge. This Challenge seeks to engage the innovative spirit of high school students in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watershed states to create compelling visualizations about nutrient pollution using geographic information system (GIS) software in conjunction with water quality data collected through Federal, state, and local efforts. For full blog post, click here.
A Shifting Approach to Saving Endangered Species
By Erica Goode – The New York Times – October 5, 2015
When the Obama administration announced last month that it would not add the greater sage grouse to the endangered species list, some conservation groups predictably criticized the ruling. “It’s a sign that politics as usual has taken over the process,” said Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians, which had lobbied to protect the bird. A more surprising development was that many other environmental organizations applauded the decision and the Interior Department’s proactive approach: With the threat of regulation under the Endangered Species Act hanging in the background, the department prodded states, federal agencies and private landowners to work together on a conservation plan that could make an endangered listing unnecessary. For full story, click here.
EPA Limits Toxic Pollutants Discharged into Waterways by Steam Electric Power Plants
Contact: Robert Daguillard – U.S. EPA – September 30, 2015
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized a rule that will reduce the discharge of toxic pollutants into America’s waterways from steam electric power plants by 1.4 billion pounds annually, as well as reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons per year, resulting in an estimated benefit of $463 million per year to Americans across the country. Toxic pollutants include mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium, which can cause neurological damage in children, lead to cancer, and damage the circulatory system, kidneys, and liver. For full news release, click here.
Land and Water Conservation Fund bites the dust. Now what?
By Phil Taylor – E&E Publishing, LLC – October 1, 2015
At midnight last night, the light flickered out on one of the nation's most popular conservation programs. But the political battle over the Land and Water Conservation Fund is sure to rage on into the fall, as lawmakers debate how to divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars it receives each year. The 50-year-old law, which was authorized at $900 million, pays for federal land acquisitions, private land conservation easements, state recreation projects and endangered species grants. It's been funded annually by revenues from offshore oil and gas development, accumulating an unappropriated balance of roughly $20 billion. Appropriators will still be able to draw from that fund when it comes time to pass another spending bill Dec. 11. But the program's expiration means oil and gas companies have stopped paying into it. That has increased the stakes for the program's backers in Congress. For full story, click here.
Court says BLM lacks authority to regulate fracking
By Ellen M. Gilmer – E&E Publishing, LLC – October 1, 2015
The Obama administration does not have authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a federal judge decided yesterday. In a major blow to the Bureau of Land Management and environmentalists who support stricter fracking oversight, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming enjoined BLM's years-in-the-making fracking rule, blocking enforcement of the new regulation while the court considers industry and state challenges. For full story, click here.
U.S. FWS and The League of United Latin American Citizens Sign Historic Partnership Agreement
Equities.com – October 2, 2105
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has signed an historic partnership agreement with the oldest and largest Latino advocacy organization in the United States, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The organizations will work together to engage Latino families in outdoor recreational sports on public lands and raise awareness and action on wildlife conservation issues that impact Latino health. The partnership will also provide new opportunities for urban youth to experience the natural world and promote career interest in conservation and the biological sciences. For full story, click here.
Greater sage grouse denied U.S. Endangered Species Act protection
By Keith Coffman – PlanetArk – September 24, 2015
A long-simmering debate in the American West over the fate of a ground-dwelling bird reached a climax on Tuesday as the Obama administration denied Endangered Species Act protections to the greater sage grouse in favor of less rigid habitat conservation measures. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the need to list the charismatic bird as threatened or endangered was averted by the success of "unprecedented" collaboration among state and local governments, scientists, ranchers and other private interests over the last five years. She credited those efforts with significantly reducing threats to the sage grouse across 90 percent of its breeding habitat, staving off any immediate risk of extinction. For full story, click here.
Top science book prize won by woman for first time
By Ian Sample – The Guaridan – September 24, 2015
The most prestigious science book prize in Britain has been won by a solo female writer for the first time in its 28-year history. Gaia Vince, a journalist and broadcaster based in London, was named the winner of the 2015 Royal Society Winton prize for Science Books at a ceremony in London on Thursday evening. Vince quit her job as an editor at the journal, Nature, to spend more than two years travelling the world to research her book, Adventures in the Anthropocene: a Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made. The word Anthropocene was coined in the 1980s to describe what some regard as a new epoch in Earth’s geological history: one in which humans replace nature as the most influential force on the planet. For full story, click here.
Nearly Half the World's Marine Animals Wiped out in Single Generation
By Lucy Cormack The Sydney Morning Heral September 17, 2015
Humanity's mismanagement of the ocean has led to the loss of almost half the world's marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish in a single generation, a World Wide Fund for Nature report says. The emergency edition of WWF's Living Blue Planet Report revealed a 49 per cent decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012. For some fish this figure was almost 75 per cent. For full story, click here.
National Estuaries Week 2015: September 19 -26
Restore America's Estuaries
National Estuaries Week is a terrific opportunity to learn more about estuaries and the perfect excuse to spend time on your local bay. You can take advantage of volunteer opportunities and hands-on restoration in your nearby bay or estuary, participate in a guided walk or boat tour, or simply explore your estuary with family and friends. Every year, Restore America's Estuaries member organizations, NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and EPA’s National Estuary Program organize special events like beach clean-ups, hikes, canoe and kayak trips, cruises, workshops, and more – all across the country! For more information, click here.
EPA's spill pales in comparison to everyday mine leaks
Manuel Quiñones – E&E Publishing, LLC – September 8, 2015
Politicians, activists, tribes and media outlets have expressed shock at last month's abandoned mine spill in Colorado, which sent 3 million gallons of polluted water down the Animas River. But environmental advocates and groups that have for decades been trying to clean up the legacy of unregulated mining say the incident pales in comparison to the broader problem of tens of thousands of mines leaking across the country. For full story, click here.
Federal Court to EPA: No, You Can't Approve This Pesticide That Kills Bees
By Tom Philott – MotherJones – September 11, 2015
On Thursday, a federal appeals court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's approval of a pesticide called sulfoxaflor. Marketed by agrichemical giant Dow AgroSciences, sulfoxaflor belongs to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which have been implicated by a growing weight of evidence in the global crisis in bee health. In a blunt opinion, the court cited the "precariousness of bee populations" and "flawed and limited data" submitted by Dow on the pesticide's effects on beleaguered pollinating insects. For full story, click here.
Coal ash contains radioactive contaminants: US
By Agence France-Presse – InterAksyon.com – September 3, 2015
High levels of radioactive contaminants have been found in coal ash in major coal-producing regions of the United States, raising concern about the dangers of this unregulated waste, researchers said Wednesday. "Levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to 10 times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity," said the study in the September 2 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology. Coal ash is currently unregulated and is stored in holding ponds and landfills near coal-fired power plants, which are blamed for much of the fossil fuel pollution that is leading to climate change. Leaks from these ponds can contaminate groundwater, and experts have long known that coal contains harmful agents such as selenium and arsenic. For full story, click here.
Diverted groundwater near mines may cause trees to die of thirst, study finds
By Gabrielle Chan – The Guardian – September 7, 2015
A new study has found open-cut mines that modify groundwater levels can affect trees and ecosystems several kilometres away from mine sites. The study has implications for the $1.2bn Shenhua Watermark coalmine and the federal government’s proposed “green lawfare” legislation which aims to limit the power of people to challenge projects unless they are directly effected. For full story, click here.