Friday, June 8, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

House Committee Passes Bill Restricting Agency Ability to Implement Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Policy
On Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considered and passed a bill impacting clean water act jurisdiction (H.R. 4965, "A bill to preserve existing rights and responsibilities with respect to waters of the United States, and for other purposes"). The bill (passed on a vote of 33-18, largely along party lines in the Republican controlled Committee) would prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from rewriting their guidance clarifying which waters of the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, and, by some accounts, might also prevent those agencies from enforcing a related Clean Water Act jurisdiction guidance that was put in place by the second George Bush Administration.  Passage nows clears the way for the bill's consideration before the full House.

House Agriculture Appropriations Bill Moving Through Committee
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee's Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies subcommittee passed on a voice vote a fiscal year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The proposed bill would provide discretionary funds for various FDA and USDA programs, including agriculture research, food safety, animal and plant health, rural development and farm services, nutrition, and  various Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation programs. In total, the legislation provides for $19.4 billion in discretionary funding, which would be a cut of $365 million below last year’s appropriated level, and $1.7 billion below the President’s 2013 budget request. More details can be found in this Committee press release, and in this draft of the subcommittee's bill.  The bill now moves on to the full Appropriations Committee.

House Approves Energy and Water Fiscal Year 2013 Spending Bill
Also on Wednesday, the The House easily approved the fiscal year 2013 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (on a vote of 255-165). The bill provides funding for the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program and for the Department of Energy, and would provide those agencies with $32.1 billion in funding; $965 million below the President’s budget request. There were several amendments approved by the House that are especially relevant to Mississippi River Basin water resource issues, including those that would:
  • add $10 million in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers Louisiana Coastal Area ecosystem restoration project
  • add $2 million to the Corps of Engineers Construction account to address numerous flood control needs
  • make a symbolic funding transfer within the Army Corps of Engineers that highlights the issues surrounding the Missouri Flood Study and to encourage the prioritization of maintenance projects on the Missouri River
  • prohibit funding to continue the “Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study” (there was no funding for the study in the bill in any case)
Links to the bill language, accompanying report, and the measure's amendments can be found on this Appropriations Committee web page.

It's good to keep in mind that during this election year, in particular, these individual spending bills have much more to do with election position posturing than with any actual spending ability that Federal agencies will see anytime soon.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Farm Bill-
  • Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute report on Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill proposal (PDF)
  • NY Times editorial: US Farm Bill - Where the Trough Is Overflowing
  • House Ag Committee Chair Lucas sets goal to get Farm Bill through his Committee before July 4 recess
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow ‘very optimistic’ about getting Farm Bill through the Senate by end of June
  • American Farm Bureau Federation raises concerns about Senate version of the farm bill.
  • US food and health leaders urge Congress to cut crop insurance subsidies; redirect money to nutrition; conservation
  • Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Farm Bill does little to encourage food better for you in ways better for the Earth
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow: broad ‘universe’ of Farm Bill amendments are planned just from Democrats
  • Likely floor assault from Congressional Members (both parties; various regions) threatens to kill final Farm Bill deal
  • North-South divide complicating attempts to overhaul federal farming subsidies; trim federal spending
  • Midwestern Governors Association releases "Midwestern Recommendations for Farm Bill Reauthorization"
  • Senate began consideration Tuesday of Farm Bill; expected to debate over several weeks
  • Amendment to limit crop insurance premium subsidies to largest farms one of some 30 pending Farm Bill amendments
  • Farm Bill remarks by Ag Committee Chair Stabenow on the Senate floor Tuesday
  • Senate floor Farm Bill remarks by Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts Tuesday
  • Thursday's 90-8 Senate vote officially begins Farm Bill debate
  • Obama administrations says it's looking forward to working with Congress on Farm Bill, "avoids any veto threat."
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow issues strong warning against senators attaching unrelated amendments to farm bill
  • As of Thursday, more than 30 amendments have been filed to the 2012 Senate farm bill
  • Obama supports passage of Senate’s farm bill but wants more cuts to support payments to farmers; position statement-
Agriculture -
  • After damning research, France proposes banning pesticide linked to bee collapse
  • "Startlingly high" US Midwest corn prices signaling that US will run short of corn this summer
  • Downpours in MN show need for more conservation on farm land
  • New research: Reintroduction of farm ponds could significantly reduce agricultural pollution in streams and rivers
Water Quality -
  • House defeats attempt to protect clean water guidance
  • EPA's Integrated Risk Information System ammonia health assessment open for public comment (used in ag fertilizers)
  • EPA defends aerial surveillance of NE & IA livestock operations as legal and cost-effective way to protect streams
  • Several southern Illinois cities qualify for share of $105 million atrazine settlement
  • Minnesota water pollution debate increases the divide between rural and city residents
  • EPA approves KS list of impaired waters: removing 561 waters from previous impaired waters list; adding 121
  • EPA settles alleged Clean Water Act (storm water) violations with the City of Huntington, WV
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Feet of sand dropped by Missouri River leave Iowa, Nebraska farms a wasteland year after flood
In the States -
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council Policy Update highlights numerous threats to PA environmental funding/programs:
  • Indiana clean water advocates say state needs to step up fight against pollution; IN officials cite progress
  • Editorial: Indiana's water cleanup efforts a trickle compared to other states
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Nominations solicited for participation on the Federal Invasive Species Advisory Committee
  • Aquatic invasives: MN posts more inspectors; starts mandatory roadside checks; doubles fines and increases decon units
  • AR man transports  live Asian carp from Arkansas breeding ponds to sell in Michigan; charged with felonies
  • Mississippi and Illinois rivers have more Asian carp than anywhere else; more than China where they came from
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • PBS: In coastal Louisiana, rising seas threaten Native American land
  • Before and after: 50 years of rising tides and sinking marshes. (via @EDF_Louisiana)
  • Louisiana Legislature unanimously approves 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan for restoring/protecting coastal wetlands
  • Deepwater Horizon disaster fine $$ to go directly into Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund
  • Louisiana coastal officials want speedier wetlands work by Army Corps of Engineers
Resource Extraction -
Federal Budget -
  • Register here for June 14 EPA Webcast on Section 319 Agricultural Nonpoint Source "success stories" from OK, VA and WI
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • $2.99 on Kindle: Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat
  • The latest issue of Delta Dispatches is out, with Coastal Louisiana restoration news and updates
  • Clean Water America Alliance June newsletter
Other news-
  • Data show US is experiencing hottest year on record thus far in 2012 and hottest 12-month stretch
  • Report: Humans near tipping point that could dramatically change Earth
Political Scene -
Last Word

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