Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week-Early Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

EPA-Interior  Should Pass Out of Committee Today
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday began its mark up of its version of the Ficsal Year 2013 Interior and Environment appropriations bill. The Committee will take up the bill again this morning (Thursday, June 28), when it is expected to easily pass and be sent on to the full House for consideration (possibly as early as the week of July 9). Among other things, the bill would cut the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) budget by about $1.4 billion, a 17 percent reduction from the current year's approved spending level. The legislation would also cap EPA’s personnel numbers at their lowest level since 1992.    The Committee's EPA budget cuts are largely targeted at environmental regulatory programs that the Republican majority has gone on record as opposing, such as greenhouse gas regulations relating to new power plants.

Among other funding cuts are those to the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Riders to the spending bill include one that would prevent the EPA from clarifying the scope of its regulatory jurisdiction relating to "navigable waters" and the Clean Water Act. The provisions of the House bill effectively have no chance of passing the Senate, since the Democratic majority there will vote for much higher agency funding, and push for the removal of contentious riders from any final legislation.

House USDA Appropriations and Farm Bills' Scheduling Uncertain
Meanwhile it's becoming less and less clear when the full House will end up considering the House's versions of the Farm Bill and the USDA-FDA fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill. House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK-3) has scheduled his Committee to begin mark-up of the Farm Bill on July 11 (a process that should take several days to complete). But Lucas has also said that he does not want the Farm Bill and the farm spending bill (already approved by the House Appropriations Committee) hitting the House floor at the same time. Unclear House leadership floor scheduling signals have contributed to the uncertainty, according to House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), who has said that
House leadership “has not been forthcoming” about floor time for either the Farm Bill or the agriculture appropriations bill, adding, “The only thing that’s going to screw this up is if we don’t get floor time.”

A Fragmented River Reality Perpetuated
That the people, cultures and institutions connected with the Mississippi River system are fragmented cannot be argued with a straight face. For all of its greatness, the region’s waters flow through a fragmented bureaucratic and social reality, whose functions and structures are equally fragmented. Recent calls to unify our approaches to how human society lives with the River are laudable and promising, giving hope for a future of inclusion and integration. But we have a long way to go. Two upcoming September conferences, the Upper Mississippi River Conference and the America’s Great Watershed Initiative Summit, offer wonderful examples of how far we have come - and how far we have yet to go - in bridging the gaps that separate River stakeholders.  Read more in this commentary.

No News Next Week!
The U.S. Congress will observe a July Fourth recess next week, and your FNB (Friendly Neighborhood Blogger) has it on good authority that no Mississippi River Basin water news will be forthcoming next week, either.  So the Mississippi River Basin water resource news team will take some time off, as well.  Our entire staff will spend the week in Great Britain; basking in its liquid sunshine!  Our next issue will be posted on Friday, July 13.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Farm Bill-
  • A full breakdown of Senate Farm Bill roll-call amendment votes can be found here (June 19-21):
  • NY Times: A look at the Senate Farm Bill and assessment of Farm Bill fate int he House
  • Conservation compliance & crop insurance Farm Bill amendments unlikely to be in final if not included in House version
  • Chair of House Ag General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee: Senate Farm Bill lacks regional balance
  • NY Times editorial board: Senate Farm Bill version takes "disproportionate whack from environmental programs"
  • Statement from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on U.S. Senate Approval of Farm Bill
  • House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas discusses major differences in approach between Senate and House on Farm Bill
  • Sen. Grassley (R-IA) on why he voted against Farm Bill amendment linking conservation compliance to crop insurance:
  • House Agriculture Committee schedule for farm bill markup uncertain; House GOP leadership signals mixed
Agriculture -
  • Much of the Midwest faces a drought expanding in size & intensity, damaging crops & raising fire threat concerns
  • July 2 EPA public info meeting for livestock producers re: concentrated animal feeding operation inspection program
  • For 3rd week in a row, US corn and soybean conditions declined on USDA’s weekly Crop Progress and Condition report
  • U.S. Midwest drought has pushed up corn prices 28 percent since June 15 - drought may rival 1988 "scorcher"
  • U.S. corn supplies declining at fastest pace since 1996 just as a Midwest heat wave hits
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) sees EPA aerial flyovers of confined animal feeding operations as "unfair to Iowa farmers"
Water Quality -
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Officials raise questions about major new segments of Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans area hurricane levees
  • MO Coalition for the Environment calls for support of USACE Jameson Island Shallow Water Habitat Restoration Project
  • National Flood Insurance Program is high on the week's US Senate agenda
  • Senate seems set to approve new flood insurance reform bill in major victory for Sens. Tester (D-MT) and Vitter (R-LA)
  • Senate flood insurance reform bill delayed as GOP decides which non-germane amendments to push
  • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions report: US flood insurance program faces "looming climate deficit"
  • Question of whether to use federal money to raise flood-prone homes or improve drainage return in 
    Jefferson Parish, LA
  • Senate marks time on flood program reform while trying to cut student loan/transportation deals behind scenes In the end, the bill to reauthorize the national flood insurance program for 5 years may be wrapped into the transportation/student loan bill
Forestry -
  • Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine releases new app featuring four treasured MN natural resources: (via @MyMNwoods)
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Minneapolis limits access to lakes in order to fight invasive species
  • New FWS web-based interactive endangered species map for every state. State stories, podcasts and videos
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • House votes to give Gulf states billions more in offshore oil revenue
  • U of New Orleans professor to take on new job as Water Institute of the Gulf chief scientist
  • US Senate EPW Committee passes bill that extends the Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Act
  • Army Corps of Engineers clears way to design/build $428 M project to restore parts of Louisiana's Gulf coastline
  • Study: BP oil spill hastened loss of Louisiana coastal marshes
Resource Extraction -
  • Coal (made up largely of dead things, it should be noted) is "dying" says a West Virginia author
  • Energy leaders defend hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil development in Ohio
  • Special Reuters Report: Chesapeake Energy Corp. and its top fracking rival conspired to suppress land prices
  • EPA reviewing information from 9 oil and gas companies for its study of fracking impact on drinking water
In the States -
Federal Budget -
  • House USDA Appropriations bill unlikely to hit floor until after House Agriculture Committee of farm bill markup
  • Pessimism growing on potential for a Federal budget sequestration deal to avert deep cuts to Pentagon spending
  • Highway conference committee members says no money exists in land and water conservation fund for Congress to raid
  • House Appropriations Committee releases report accompanying FY 2103 EPA, Interior Department spending bill (PDF)
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Latest edition of "Delta Dispatches" with news on Coastal Louisiana restoration and conservation:
Other news-
Political Scene - 
  • Democratic polling shows former senator Kerrey (D) down double digits to state Sen. Fischer (R) in NE US Senate race
  • IL Democrats select Bill Enyart for ballot vacancy in southern IL US House district held by retiring Rep. Costello
  • Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2) on medical leave for exhaustion
  • US Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK-1) loses reelection bid in a surprise GOP primary loss to a political newcomer
  • New Democratic poll shows Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) could face a competitive race to retain her seat in November
Last Word 
"I think the people have gotten dumber." - Soon-to-be-retired Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), expressing frustration with the highly charged, partisan Congressional atmosphere he will be leaving behind, and with the public whom he claims is contributing to that condition by their ignorance.

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