Friday, November 30, 2012

Congressional Leaders Announce 2013 Legislative Calendars

Congressional leaders announced legislative calendars today for 2013 that (unlike recent years) match each other quite closely.  In fact through the first ten months of 2013, they match each other exactly.

House 2013 Calendar
(click to enlarge)
The first day of the Congressional 2013 session will be Thursday, January 3, as required by the Constitution. Scheduled recesses in both chambers of Congress will fall on the weeks of February 18 (beginning on Presidents Day), March 25, April 5 (including both Passover and Easter), April 29, May 27 (beginning on Memorial Day), July 1 (including Independence Day), and October 14 (starting on Columbus Day).  The summer recesses for both the House and Senate will begin on August 5 and last five weeks until the Monday (September 9) following Labor Day.

The Senate will not recess after that, although the House will recess the weeks of November 4 and 25, and adjourn for the year by December 13.  As is tradition, the Senate has set no target adjournment date.

Here are links to the respective House and Senate calendars.

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Republicans and Democrats Approve Many House Committee Leaders; Five From Mississippi River Basin
Republican and Democratic U.S. House members this week ratified many of their respective committee leaders (chairpersons and ranking members) for the 113th Congress that begins in January.  On the Republican side, the returning chairmen of five committees represent districts within the Mississippi River Basin: Agriculture (Frank D. Lucas (R-OK-3)), Appropriations (Harold Rogers (R-KY-5)), Budget (Paul D. Ryan (R-WI-1)), Education and the Workforce (John Kline (R-MN-2)), and Small Business (Sam Graves (R-MO-6)).  There were six newly appointed chairpersons, while thirteen other members will be returning to the same lead committee position that they currently hold.  The chairs of two committees - Ethics and House Administration -  have yet to be named.   Democrats are part way through their process.  On Thursday, they voted for Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) to keep his ranking member status on the Budget Committee. In addition to Van Hollen, Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) will remain ranking member on the Rules Committee, and Robert Brady (D-PA-1) will return as the ranking member of the House Administration Committee. Votes for the remaining top Democratic ranking member seats are tentatively scheduled for today (Friday). For the most recent list of each House committee, its 113th Congress chairpersons and ranking members, and an accompanying link to each committee's Internet home page, see here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA has recommended new recreational water quality criteria for states to "better protect public health"
  • USEPA updates water quality guidelines for nation's beaches
  • Ohio will see influx of 'Fracking' waste disposal wells
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases monitoring and assessment report for Mississippi River-St. Cloud watershed
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases a "mixed" report on the Mississippi River watershed in the St. Cloud area
  • Rare low-water testing opportunity on the Minnesota River shows positive results in reducing phosphorus
  • National Research Council: Report: Cleanup of some contaminated U.S. groundwater sites unlikely for decades
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Congress prepares for bailout of National Flood Insurance Program amid Sandy claims that will deepen the Program's debt
  • Bloomberg News: Drought-Parched Mississippi River Is Halting Barges
  • Mississippi River’s low water levels are now a political issue (a year after the River's high flood levels were)
  • Army Assistant Secretary: Army Corps will consider cutting amount of Missouri River water held back from Mississippi
  • Army Corps on Friday began planned reduction of Missouri River flow; expected to worsen Mississippi River low-water
  • Army Corps of Engineers'  flow reduction at Missouri River reservoir sets up conflict with Mississippi River users
  • Businesses and Federal agencies focus on keeping Mississippi River open during low water
  • Shippers and lawmakers pressure President to declare a federal emergency along the Mississippi River due to its low water levels and threat to shipping efficiency
  • American Farm Bureau Federation media release urges President to issue declaration of emergency for Mississippi River
  • Amount of water used by Ohio power plants to produce electricity has decreased by 0.5 trillion gallons/year
  • In the midst of a deep drought, residents battle high water in South Dakota town
NOAA November 27 drought monitor map
(Click to enlarge)
  • NOAA: Mostly dry weather prevailed across the already drought-hit areas of the contiguous U.S. over the past week
  • Worst level of drought in the contiguous 48 U.S. states reaches its highest point in a year
  • Drought disrupts Mississippi River barge traffic but the Ohio River is not impacted, yet
  • NY Times: Drought-reduced water flow could hurt Mississippi River transport
  • As U.S. Midwest drought expands, winter wheat growers lose hope for a profitable season
Farm Bill-
  • "Five year farm bill gets new life" following House and Senate farm bill leader meeting with USDA Sec. Vilsack
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack to meet with Hill players Thursday as pressure grows for Farm Bill resolution before end of year
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow: Farm Bill "very much part of the (Fiscal Cliff deal) discussion right now"
  • Senate Ag Chair Stabenow: White House “very open to" including Senate's $23B in Farm Bill savings in fiscal cliff deal
  • DTN's Jerry Hagstrom: House Agriculture Committee Chair preparing a Farm Bill "backup plan" involving an extension
  • Sen. Grassley: House and Senate farm bill differences can be worked out by Ag Committee leaders in fiscal cliff deal
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director: "The Five "Ds" of a Farm Bill Extension"
  • Questioning the logic of a possible Farm Bill extension; it would take more work than passing a new bill
Agriculture -
  • Latest rumors have Tom Vilsack staying on as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
  • Mississippi River Collaborative offers ideas concerning Minnesota's new agricultural pollution "certainty" plan (press release PDF file)
  • Mississippi River Basin Initiative "lets land along Mississippi River return to nature"
  • 2012 US net farm income forecast to decline slightly ($4 billion) from last year's record and
  • Researchers: Climate change increases stress and the need for restoration on grazed U.S. public lands
  • U.S. about to see a boom in nitrogen fertilizer production.
  • Obama debt deal proposal contains some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but is short on detail
In the States -
  • Kentucky's Governor Beshear administration to pay $270,000 to its fired director of mine permits
  • Iowa DNR seeks more environmental inspectors to monitor livestock operations and other water pollution point sources
Forestry -
  • University of Minnesota conducting invasive Emerald Ash Borer  three-year flight and cold tolerance research
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Journal of Wildlife Management: "Annual and seasonal survival of trumpeter swans in the upper Midwest"
  • Army Corps looking to close Indiana wetlands' pathway where invasives can cross between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds
  • Bill to improve wildlife habitat; expand hunting and fishing access to federal lands defeated in U.S. Senate
  • Senate derails popular outdoors bill over fight about how to count a proposed $10 increase in duck stamp prices
  • Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study 90-Day Interim Report Released to Congress
  • Army Corps of Engineers releases eight draft Wisconsin Aquatic Pathway Assessment Reports for comment (invasives)
  • Journal of Functional Ecology new "Invasions and Infections" special feature articles:
  • Environmental Defense Fund's habitat credit exchange aims to keep lesser prairie chicken off endangered species list
  • EPA settles Clean Water Act case for wetlands violations (filling in wetlands) in West Virginia (Ohio River Basin)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf Coast states at odds over potential allocation of civil and criminal penalties from BP oil spill
Resource Extraction -
  • GAO: Coal will remain "key fuel source" but industry's power generation share will decline; especially in Appalachia
Federal Budget -
  • Fiscal cliff deal emerging and "here’s what to expect"
  • House and Senate on track to adopt continuation of internal prohibitions on earmarks this month
  • Washington Post: Everything you wanted to know about the fiscal cliff but were afraid to ask
  • Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) declares the fiscal cliff talks at an "impasse;" derides Obama's "road show"
  • Boehner, House GOP reject debt deal offer from White House
  • Webinar: Watershed Restoration Analysis and Integration with Urban Planning- December 6 (cost: $79)
  • 2013 International Congress for Conservation Biology- July 21-25, 2013; Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; October 6-11, 2013
  • Register to watch December 4, Webcast of EPA Symposium: "Importance of Water to the U.S. Economy"
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
  • Amtrak has begun running trains at 110 miles per hour on part of its Chicago-to-St. Louis route
  • University of Toledo researchers attempt to make process of turning algae into fuel more efficient and profitable
Political Scene -
  • Illinois House approves setting special election to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) for April 9
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia (R-WV-2) announces that she will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014
  • Democrats are threatening to change U.S. Senate filibuster rules in what will likely prompt a GOP revolt
  • Harry Reid's plan would have filibustering senators actually speaking on floor but many resist
  • No women will lead any of the major House committees in the 113th Congress
  • House Republican leaders pick six new committee chairmen, with Lamar Smith (R-TX) chairing the Science Committee
Last Word 
The whole government, and the Democrat party, the Republican party - they’re all dinosaurs.” U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-13), in an interview with The Fold.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your FNB (Friendly Neighborhood Blogger) will be on hiatus until next Tuesday, November 27, so we leave you with this photo of some very large and content turkeys at the USDA's Beltsville, Maryland, Agricultural Research Center.  If you haven't been there, it's definitely worth the visit!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving (for those readers in the U.S.)!
Turkeys seen on visit to USDA's Beltsville, Maryland
Agricultural Research Center
(click to enlarge)

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

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Missouri River Flow Reduction Places Army Corps Under Increased Scrutiny
Mississippi River Navigation
Obstructions near Thebes, IL that the
Army Corps plans to remove
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to reduce the flow of Missouri River water at Lewis and Clark Lake (Gavins Point Dam) in South Dakota toward the end of this week from the current 36,500 cubic feet per second to around 12,000 cubic feet per second over the course of several days.  The flow reduction places at risk the normal movement of barge traffic on the Mississippi River downstream of its confluence with the Missouri River, since  Mississippi River water levels are already low as a result of the persistent drought in the country's mid-section, and the Missouri River currently is adding about 60% of the water flow to the Mississippi where the two rivers meet (The November 19 Mississippi River flow at St. Louis, Missouri was recorded at 79,200 cubic feet per second, while the Missouri River flow near its mouth was 48.500 cubic feet per second.).  Ironically, the Army Corps' plans have placed it under increased scrutiny by the barge industry, the public and elected officials at a time when the Corps' ability to thoroughly evaluate its management of the complex Missouri River system has been restricted.  To read more details of the planned reduction, why it's happening, what else the Army Corps is doing related to the issue, and what Federal policy comes into play when Missouri River system decisions like this are made, see our analysis here.  And you can also read regional news coverage on this topic under the "Water Resource Management" section, below.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • USEPA releases "Coal-Tar Sealcoat, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, and Stormwater Pollution" publication on website
  • EPA announces water quality coordination efforts with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • EPA restores eight water bodies to, removes one from Missouri’s list of impaired waters; 258 impaired waters total
  • Minnesota River's dissolved oxygen levels can support fish and other aquatic life, according to low flow testing
  • Nature: Researchers begin to compile effects that human medications in water seem to be  having on freshwater fish
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps moving forward with its plans to reduce flow on Missouri River
  • 15 senators from 8 Mississippi River states urge Army Corps to take steps to keep Mississippi River barges moving
  • Senators want Corps to abandon plans to slow Missouri River flow
  • Barge industry warns of far-reaching economic losses if Mississippi River water levels continue to drop
  • Persistent upper Midwest drought threatens Mississippi River barge traffic
Click to Enlarge
  • Middle-US drought shows no sign of abating this winter, throwing into doubt 2013 spring planting season
  • Nebraska officials: farmers along Republican River may have to limit water use more next year due to dry conditions
  • Watch a NOAA 12-week animated map of the changing extent of the U.S. drought here:
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 90% chance 2012 will be U.S. warmest on record
  • 138 Iowa college and university scientists call on state to fight climate change before the next drought or flood
  • Drought and Midwest-Great Lakes water scare gets attention of agribusiness giant Archers Daniels Midland
Farm Bill-
  • Farm bill being viewed more and more as partial solution to federal debt and budget crisis
  • Prospects for a Farm Bill passing during the lame duck session remain tenuous, as speculation trumps actual progress
Agriculture -
  • EPA rejects requests by governors of major livestock-producing states to waive federal corn-ethanol mandates
  • New USDA Economic Research Service report: “Potential Farm-Level Effects of Eliminating Direct Payments”
  • Purdue University agricultural economist: U.S. remains world’s corn export leader, although "its empire is shrinking"
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture awards more than $15.7 million in funding to 189 advanced biofuel developers
  • Despite drought, US farmers having their most-profitable year ever because of record- high prices; insurance claims
In the States -
  • Draft Iowa report expected to detail plans on reducing farm pollution and sewage treatment runoff draws criticism
  • Iowa releases Nutrient Reduction Strategy criticized as too ag-friendly; sidestepping question on Farm Bureau role
  • Changes made to Iowa draft plan to control surface water runoff pollution; public has until January 4 to comment
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Mississippi River mouth is migrating north, offering both risks and coastal restoration and navigation opportunities
  • Wall Street Journal quick guide to the details of the BP - U.S. Government Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement
  • Christian Science Monitor: BP fined $4.5B in Gulf oil spill. "Is it enough?" "Is legal saga over?"
  • What Mississippi River and Gulf Coast stakeholders are saying about BP settlement of oil spill criminal charges
  • BP Gulf oil spill settlement a boon to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Gulf Coast town of Dauphin Island, Alabama is a monument to federal government generosity in face of repeated storms
Resource Extraction -
  • Political obstacles to oil and gas fracking start to fade as public and politicians jump on the energy boom bandwagon
Federal Budget -
  • Various scenarios are possible as Congress and White House look for solutions to looming fiscal cliff problem
  • Rough start for fiscal cliff talks, as Democrats balk at GOP’s first offer in closed door negotiations
  • Free EPA Watershed Academy Webinar: “How’s My Waterway? and Other Water Quality Apps" Nov. 28, 1-3pm EST
  • Big River Lives Leadership Forum convened by  America's Wetland Foundation; December 6, 9 AM-5 PM CST, St. Louis, MO
  • EPA Webcast: Sustainability Considerations Incorporation into Water-Wastewater Alternative Analysis; 12/13, 2-3 PM ET
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • The Horinko Group's November "sustainabulletin" is available on line
  • November 20 "Delta Dispatches" issue reports on efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta
  • Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee Fall newsletter (PDF file)
Other news-
  • World Bank issues climate change report: "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C warmer world must be avoided"
  • Industry and environmental groups disagree on strategies to improve EPA's chemical risk assessment program
Political Scene -
  • Democrat Rick Nolan is returning to Congress as US Representative from Minnesota after 32-year Hill absence
  • U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee seat is on the wish-list for North Dakota Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp (D)
  • New state capitol superpower in Great Plains and South, where bulging Republican super majorities were voted in
Last Word
Adam Sandler's Saturday Night Live homage to Thanksgiving, “The Thanksgiving Song”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Missouri River Flow Reduction Places Army Corps Under Increased Scrutiny

Gavins Point Dam - Click to Enlarge
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to significantly reduce the flow of Missouri River water at Lewis and Clark Lake (Gavins Point Dam) in South Dakota toward the end of this week (on or about November 23), as it does annually to maintain enough water in upstream areas of the watershed to ostensibly meet various, sometimes competing, water resource needs in the region. The flow reduction (from the current 36,500 cubic feet per second to around 12,000 cubic feet per second over the course of several days) places at risk the normal flow of barge traffic on the Mississippi River downstream of its confluence with the Missouri River because the water levels in the Mississippi River are already low as a result of the persistent drought in the country's mid-section this year, and the Missouri River currently is adding about 60% of the water flow to the Mississippi River where the two rivers meet (The November 19 Mississippi River flow at St. Louis, Missouri was recorded at 79,200 cubic feet per second, while the Missouri River flow near its mouth was 48.500 cubic feet per second).

Ironically, the Army Corps' plans for managing the Missouri River's flow have placed it under increased scrutiny by the barge industry, the public and elected officials at a time when the Corps' ability to thoroughly evaluate its management of the complex River system has been limited by Congress.

The Drought and Mississippi River Barge Traffic
Rock Pinnacles near Thebes
Click to Enlarge
Barge industry representatives, members of the U.S. Congress, state governors and local officials have called upon the Army Corps to adjust their Missouri River management plans in light of the drought, to ameliorate adverse impacts to the flow of barge traffic.  Major Gen. John Peabody, commander of the Army Corps' Mississippi Valley Division has said that the reductions in Missouri River flows will take place, as planned, in order to adequately accommodate other authorized uses. Peabody has also indicated, however, that the Corps would implement two additional measures to mitigate the impact of lower Missouri River flows and resulting lower Mississippi River water levels: first, additional water will be released from upstream Mississippi River storage areas in Minnesota that should have the effect of adding three to six inches to the depth of the Mississippi River downstream; and second, the Army Corps will demolish (dynamite) rock pinnacles in the Mississippi River that have historically caused navigation restrictions under low water conditions in the vicinity of Thebes, Illinois.  You can click here for the latest Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River navigation channel condition status report.

Missouri River Authorized Purposes and Conflicting Water Resource Uses
Multiple users of Missouri River’s water resources (both human and non-human), and the multiple demands those diverse users place (under law) on the Army Corps' water management strategies often come into conflict, and the drought has served to sharpen those points of conflict this year, placing the Army Corps under added scrutiny over how it manages the Missouri River Basin's water for a variety of often-conflicting purposes (what the Army Corps calls “Authorized Purposes” - authorized by the 1944 Flood Control Act (Pick-Sloan Act)). The authorized purposes are (in alphabetic order): fish and wildlife habitat, flood risk management, irrigation, navigation, power generation, recreation, water quality and water supply. Those authorized purposes all are supposed to have equal priority under the law and under the resulting Army Corps management plans. For example, the Army Corps stores additional water in upriver reservoirs beginning in the autumn, so that River water resources may be available later (i.e., in the spring) for some water users who rely upon the River water for its authorized purposes (such as agriculture irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat, downstream Missouri River navigation, power generation and water supplies).

Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study
The U.S. Congress directed the Army Corps to conduct a Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS), the first review of the eight authorized purposes of the Missouri River since passage of the 1944 Flood Control Act. Under MRAPS, the Army Corps would evaluate whether it should still manage the Missouri River based on concepts prevalent in 1944, and then recommend changes to the 1944 Flood Control Act to Congress, so that the River management strategy can be modernized. However, the 2011 massive Missouri and Mississippi River flooding brought with it accusations of Corps' River mismanagement, and Congress barred the Corps from spending any funds toward MRAPS in fiscal year 2012 (which ran through September 30, 2012). Those restrictions are still in place as a result of the fiscal year 2013 Continuing Resolution passed by Congress in September   Accordingly, the Army Corps has been forced to suspend MRAPS, at least temporarily.  In the meantime, examination of the Corps and its unenviable water resources balancing act continues, along, it seems, with the inevitable criticism that follows.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~
Farm Bill Update
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) indicated earlier in the week that he plans to continue to push a Farm Bill "motion to discharge" effort that he started this summer.  If it gathers enough (218) signatures of supporting House members, the motion would force a  vote on the House floor on the version of the Farm Bill passed earlier this year by the House Agriculture Committee. Beside that piece of “hard” Farm Bill news, absolutely nothing regarding the legislation’s fate is clear. Possibilities abound, and they are summarized here for those who wish to wade into the deep end of Farm Bill policy.  In the meantime, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated that he intends to make a Farm Bill pronouncement by the end of this week. What that announcement will entail is anyone’s guess, but it may shed light on which of the numerous fates awaits the Farm Bill.  Stay tuned.  It should be an exciting ride!

WRDA Update
The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing yesterday on the Water Resources Development Act (or "WRDA" - the massive public works bill that periodically authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource environmental projects and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). The prospects for passage of any bill during the lame duck session before the end of the year are slim to none, but even more slim and much smaller than none for a bill as complicated and costly as WRDA, which faces a lengthy legislative path in the best of times. To read about WRDA's passage prospects, and of EPW Committee Chair Barbara Boxer's and GOP wishes for the bill, you can click here for our overview. The WRDA hearing web page can be found at this link, where an archived webcast of the session can be viewed, along with opening statements and witness testimony.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Draft EPA nonpoint source program grant guidance no longer requires state's $100 M set-aside for watershed-based plans
  • Journal Nature: "Mixed reviews for US Clean Water Act" at 40 years of age - "spurred progress but problems remain"
  • Op-ed: Gulf of Mexico dead zone "serves as reminder to work together" "Impacts are large if we ignore issues"
  • Groups challenge Florida DEP controversial nutrient water-quality standards plan in case with national implications
  • Carnegie Mellon University Researchers: Monongahela River bromide water-quality problem possibly linked to Marcellus Shale gas drilling is going away
  • High bromide concentrations in Monongahela River returned to normal levels in 2011 and 2102; but not in Allegheny River
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases results of  Minnesota River testing that show significant improvements and
  • Twin Cities (MN) could face $1 billion in contaminated storm-water pond sludge cleanup costs
  • Roquette America Inc. to pay $4.1 million penalty to settle Clean Water Act violations in Keokuk, Iowa
  • Iowa corn-processing plant agrees to pay $4.1M for Clean Water Act violations
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency solicits proposals for Surface Water Assessment Monitoring grants (12/14 deadline)
  • USGS releases report: Effects of Urban Development on Stream Ecosystems Across the US ; Fact Sheet and report here:
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Senate EPW Committee hearing focuses on Water Resources Development Act; opening statements and testimony here: (draft  WRDA bill
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) calls for reforms to Army Corps in next Water Resources Development Act
  • Rethinking Waterfronts: In storm's wake, cities and builders say construction codes and planning need tightening
  • Waterways groups call upon Congress; Administration to address planned Mississippi River dam water release reductions
  • Army Corps to reduce flow from an upper Missouri River reservoir as drought-related conservation measure
  • Missouri Governor warns Army Corps of Engineers that its Missouri River plans could be economic disaster
  • Research: more intense rainfalls brought about by climate change may help replenish depleted groundwater supplies
  • Dutch province more than 12 feet below sea level has lessons for US flood-prone lands
Drought-  drought monitor map
Click Map to Enlarge
  • Dakotas' residents and officials urge Army Corps to conserve scarce water in upstream Missouri River reservoirs
  • NOAA: Plains and Midwest precipitation beneficial; still long-term hydrologic drought impacts that need to recover
  • Federal government implored to keep enough water flowing for barges in drought-ridden Missouri and Mississippi rivers
  • Low Mississippi River water level could be costly for Illinois coal miners
  • After drought, US farmers scramble to obtain best corn seed this year to ensure they plant a bumper 2013 crop
  • Dust storm in the U.S. Great Plains resulting from drought observed from space (October 18)
Farm Bill-
  • Kentucky Waterways Alliance op-ed on need to maintain Farm Bill conservation programs for clean water benefits
  • 43 organizations urge House Speaker to complete a full five-year Farm Bill this year to sustain conservation
  • Over 230 agriculture and conservation groups send letters to House leaders urging 2012 farm bill vote
  • Environmental Working Group and Taxpayers for Common Sense argue for Farm Bill extension instead of new bill
  • Environmental Working Group: "Meet the New Dust Bowl, Same as the Old Dust Bowl"
  • Media release from the Mississippi River Network: "Urgency Grows for a New Farm Bill"
  • Op-ed by Kentucky Waterways Alliance: "Kentucky Voices: Farm bill must continue to fund clean-water efforts"
  • Rep. Braley (D-IA) will push motion to discharge to force House Farm Bill vote (motion here:
  • Fate of stalled farm bill could hinge on Congressional leaders’ eagerness for its spending cuts to be in a budget deal
  • Boehner and Cantor both say that the House will address nascent Farm Bill; the question is, "how?"
  • House Agriculture Committee Chair: Farm Bill's promise of $35 B in 10-year savings “has gotten somebody’s attention”
  • Recording of Mississippi River Network's Public Opinion Research: Farmers and the Farm Bill webinar is viewable here:
Agriculture -
  • Project between Green Vision Group (ND), Heartland Renewable Energy (IA) looks to use "energy beets" to produce ethanol
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service  Chief White to retire from USDA on Dec. 3; Jason Weller to be Acting Chief
  • Voters in agriculture-dependent North Dakota become first to add (controversial) right to farm in state constitution
  • Des Moines Register editorial: Farming's conservation efforts fall short
  • Author and farmer Wendell Berry's speech on land husbandry and agriculture: "The 50-Year Farm Bill"
  • Farmland values in the heart of U.S. corn-growing country jumped 13% in the three months through Sept 30 (PDF file)
In the States -
  • Six Citizen Forums in advance of upcoming Minnesota Environmental Congress, first is Nov. 27; 9:30 AM-12 PM (CST)
  • U.S. EPA has informed Iowa that it may take over Department of Natural Resources lax Clean water Act oversight
  • Loosening mining regulations is at top of Wisconsin state lawmakers' agenda in upcoming two-year session
  • Public Comments Sought for Illinois EPA’s Stormwater Runoff Standards; November 30 deadline
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • 3 draft Aquatic Pathway Assessment Reports released for IN as part of Great Lakes-Mississippi River Interbasin Study
  • New Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill restoration projects target bird, turtle nesting sites (PDF file)
  • U.S. Senate floor schedule for the week includes consideration of sweeping  S. 3525, the Sportsmen Act
  • Asian carp invasion reaches Louisville, Kentucky on Ohio River
  • Louisiana: Biologists release thousands of fish into Pearl River in spill recovery effort
  • "Water Woes: How dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts put US wildlife at risk" (PDF file)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP reaches $4.5 billion settlement with the U.S. government for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill
Resource Extraction -
  • Ashley Judd, mountaintop removal coal mining and Kentucky politics-all mentioned in one article!!!
  • Beleaguered Kentucky coal industry political muscle may not be so feeble after all
  • Friction over fracking sand mining develops in Wisconsin
  • 100s of oil and gas industry officials headed to Pittsburgh for 2012 Developing Unconventional Gas Conference
Federal Budget -
  • November 30, Washington DC briefing to focus on new USGS findings on the effects of urbanization on streams
  • Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" premiers on PBS stations Sunday, November 18, and Monday, November 19 8 –10 p.m. ET
  • Call For Papers: Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference; February 28 - March 3, 2013, Lexington, KY
  • EPA, Water Environment Federation, World Resources Institute presenting water quality trading workshop; Nov 28-29
  • DeSoto Wildlife Refuge to host Art of the Wild Show/Sale; Nov. 17 -18; focus on MO River basin & Great Plains wildlife
  • Watershed Academy webinar: “How’s My Waterway? and Other Water Quality Apps” Nov. 28, 1 to 3 pm EST
  • Call for Proposals for SER's 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration closes December 1
  • The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association has posted its November 28-29, St. Paul, MN meeting packets online
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Weekly newsletter from the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • November newsletter for the Mississippi River Network's 1 Mississippi campaign (this month with a Farm Bill focus)
  • November issue of American Farmland Trust's E-news
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's November "Waterfront Bulletin"
Other news-
  • Mississippi River groups invite Grafton, Illinois mayor to speak on behalf of River support at two events
  • Groups continue efforts to restore a section of the Mississippi River bluffs at the Pine Bend Bluffs Natural Area
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Climate change is here, even if election skipped it" How it's impacting Wisconsin:
  • CF Industries will spend $3.8 B on new nitrogen fertilizer capacity at Donaldsonville, LA and Port Neal, IA facilities
  • Two companies very close to beginning large-scale, commercial production of cellulosic biofuels
  • Jerseyville, IL subdivision is site of the country’s first LEED Platinum certified affordable housing community
Political Scene -
  • Actress Ashley Judd (D): a challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2014?
  • US post-election poll suggests coal and oil interests did not achieve election goals
  • Outgoing Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) says he may run for Illinois governor or U.S. Senate in 2014
  • Sen. Thad Cochran (MS) looking to reclaim top GOP Senate Agriculture Committee spot from Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
  • U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) intends to remain the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee
Last Word
Click Photo to Enlarge
The Dutch “way of thinking is completely different from the U.S.”  - Wim Kuijken, the Dutch government’s senior official for overall water control policy, speaking on the issue of flood planning and preparation. Kuijken added, "The U.S. is excellent at disaster management.  Working to avoid disaster is completely different from working after a disaster.

(You can also see the location of the aqueduct shown in the photo to the left on this Google Map).

WRDA - What Are the Prospects for a 2012 Water Resources Development Act?

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislative hearing yesterday (November 15; the hearing web page can be found at this link, where an archived webcast of the session can be viewed, along with opening statements and witness testimony). The prospects for passage of any bill during the lame duck session before the end of the year are slim to none, but even more slim and none for a bill as complicated and costly as WRDA, which faces a lengthy legislative path in the best of times. EPW Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the draft WRDA bill last week (found here as a PDF file) in the hope that it might somehow be incorporated into high-level leadership negotiations to avoid the Federal budget "fiscal cliff," and end up being passed as part of the fiscal cliff avoidance legislation. That is very unlikely to happen; however, the work on WRDA during the lame duck session is still meaningful from the perspective that it can lay the foundation for Congressional action on the bill next year.

WRDA is a massive public works bill that periodically authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource environmental projects and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although it importantly does not appropriate funds for those projects and programs. That job falls to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees each year. WRDA projects and costs authorized under the act have typically far outstripped the revenue from their two major funding sources: the Inland Waterway Trust Fund and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, both of which are vastly oversubscribed and fiscally unsound. This is due in large part to the past WRDA tradition of most every congressional member placing water resources projects in their home districts or states into the WRDA bill (a list of projects that in the past have been solicited before the bill is drafted by the EPW Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee). Such projects for the most part would now meet the congressional definition of an "earmark" ("congressional earmark" - House Rule XXI, Clause 9(a)). And the current House ban on earmarks would largely put a stop to that process, arguably necessitating changes to WRDA that provide some mechanism for identifying and prioritizing funding for needed water resource projects.

On Wednesday, Committee member David Vitter (R-LA), who aspires to become the Committee's ranking Republican in next year's Congress, sent a letter to Boxer, signed by all of the EPW Committee Republicans. The letter cites the need for WRDA to address the problems they associate with past WRDA bills and their implementation. Specifically, the GOP letter calls for:
  1. reforms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "that expedite and improve the Corps’ project delivery process;"
  2. addressing "the policy and funding challenges facing the Inland Waterway Trust Fund and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund;"
  3. Committee "oversight of the Corps’ implementation guidance and internal policies;" and 
  4. "prioritization of water resource projects" funded by WRDA.
In her opening statement at the hearing, Sen. Boxer addressed some of the points raised by the Vitter letter, noting that the bill as drafted "makes essential policy reforms, including increasing flexibility for non-Federal sponsors of Corps projects," and that it "recognizes the need to expand the sources of funding available to water resources projects (since) (f)unding for water infrastructure projects has been insufficient to meet current needs."

WRDA bills are designed to be passed every two years; however, Congress passed the last WRDA in 2007. Previously, WRDA bills were passed in 1974, 1976, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2000.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Farm Bill Update

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) indicated earlier in the week that he plans to continue to push a Farm Bill "motion to discharge" effort that he started this summer.  If it gathers enough (218) signatures of supporting House members, the motion (available here) would force a  vote on the House floor on the version of the Farm Bill passed earlier this year by the House Agriculture Committee. Beside that piece of “hard” Farm Bill news, absolutely nothing regarding the legislation’s fate is clear. Possibilities abound, and they presently include:
  1. Do nothing at all on the Farm Bill. Although this is a remote possibility, and probably the least favored by almost all Farm Bill stakeholders, this option is not out of the realm of possibility. 
  2. Pass a comprehensive Farm Bill during the lame duck session. There simply doesn't seem to be the time available to accomplish this legislative feat between now and when Congress breaks for the holidays, ostensibly in mid-December. House floor action on the House Agriculture Committee-passed Farm Bill would arguably take up three or four days of floor debate before passage (assuming it would pass). And then the Senate and House would have to resolve the differences between their two bills before bringing a conference committee bill back to each chamber to be considered. 
  3. Incorporate a Farm Bill into a fiscal cliff settlement deal, if one is agreed upon among the Administration, and House and Senate leaders during the lame duck. This alternative would involve consideration of and passage by the full House of its Farm Bill, an agreement among Congressional leaders on which provisions in the Senate and House bills would be acceptable (reconciling the differences between the bill versions), subsuming the agreed-upon Farm Bill into the debt bill, and then passing the debt legislation. This is a daunting task, and the prospects for a fiscal cliff debt deal are not at all strong, in any case. That larger fiscal issue could be punted into 2013 if the key players agree on some mini-fiscal cliff deal that defers the big money decisions until the 113th Congress. Such a deferral would make incorporating the Farm Bill into the mix in 2012 a moot issue.
  4. Extend the 2008 Farm Bill, including in the extension some set of provisions to address (i.e., pay for) disaster (drought) relief, fix dairy supports so they don't skyrocket beginning on January 1, and correct a Conservation Stewardship Program funding technical appropriation's error, among other items. House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) seems to be leaning toward the extension option; an alternative that Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) has to date steadfastly opposed.
House Speaker John Boehner has indicated that he intends to make a Farm Bill pronouncement by the end of this week. What that announcement will entail is anyone’s guess, but it may shed light on which of the above fates awaits the Farm Bill.  Stay tuned.  It should be an exciting ride!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Senate Committee Schedules Water Resources Development Act Hearing

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has scheduled a November 15, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislative hearing at 10:00 AM EST, in the EPW Hearing Room - 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building (hearing web page here). Although no witnesses have been scheduled yet, the hearing will likely be focused on issues relevant to the Committee Chair's (Barbara Boxer; D-CA) draft WRDA bill (found here as a PDF file).

Briefing on New Findings on the Effects of Urbanization on Streams

The Northeast Midwest Institute and Water Environment Federation, along with Congressional hosts Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) will present a briefing on new US Geological Survey (USGS) findings about the impacts of urban development on streams and their aquatic life. The briefing will be on Friday, November 30, from 10 to 11:30 AM EST in Room SVC 201-00 of the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

The USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program recently released the results of a study designed to better understand the effects of urban development on streams and aquatic life in different regions of the country. The study findings point to priorities and strategies that can protect and restore urban streams for drinking water, recreation and aesthetic pleasure. At the briefing, USGS will describe the study and results, including differences observed in nine metropolitan areas; the reasons for these differences and the implications for stream protection and restoration. USGS will also describe a new innovative tool that can assist decision makers at all levels of government in evaluating how improvements to one or more stream conditions can increase the likelihood of reaching stream goals. For more information regarding the study and how to RSVP to attend the event, see this briefing announcement (PDF file).

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Now and Then - What Happened Tuesday (And What Won't Happen Next) 
Click to Enlarge
Basking in the afterglow of Tuesday's election, we have time to pause and take stock of a few lessons taught (if not learned) from that event, and how they might be relevant to the ongoing pursuit of environmental and economic sustainability in the Mississippi River Basin.  The U.S. Congressional delegation returns next Tuesday to Washington, DC,  and if lame duck history proves to be an accurate predictor, the week on Capitol Hill will be one devoted almost exclusively to leadership elections and incoming congressional member orientations. In these upcoming weeks, congressional leaders will also start to tag members to fill soon-to-be-vacant top positions on several key environmentally-relevant House and Senate committees. With the ideological divide fracturing Congress ever-widening, most legislative initiatives are for all practical purposes politically "toxic."  There is no mandate. Nobody has substantive political leverage. So no one really knows what will happen between now and the holiday recess during the congressional lame duck period (even less so during the first session of the upcoming 113th Congress).  But looking ahead through a post-electoral lens, it's perhaps best not to expect too much legislatively in the near future. Or, to paraphrase former Democratic House Leader Dick Gephardt, lame duck sessions are called lame for a reason. To read more of what happened, what it means and what may come to pass, read our blog analysis, here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA draft Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program and Grant Guidelines for States and Territories available for public review; comment
  • Sewer and water system breakdowns in cash-strapped U.S. cities lead to rate boosting to fund long-needed fixes
  • Louisiana Governor Op-ed: "Key to the dead zone lies hundreds of miles north"
  • Nebraska public hearing focuses on increasing water nitrate levels and nitrogen needs for crop health
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeking comments on a water quality improvement report for Bluff Creek in Chanhassen
  • MPCA seeks comments on water quality improvement report for 3 lakes in Sauk River (MN) watershed and
  • Tennessee Valley Authority releases proposed 'natural recovery' option for part of 5 million cubic yard coal ash spill cleanup
  • St. Joseph County Water Resources Advisory Board (IN) to track how badly county groundwater is contaminated
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps holding meetings to discuss how to manage Missouri River in 2013 with drought and past floods high on agenda
  • GAO Report: "Energy-Water Nexus: Coordinated Federal Approach Needed to Better Manage Energy and Water Tradeoffs"
Click Figure to Enlarge
  • Drought lingers; Army Corps plans near-term Mississippi River reservoir storage to ease drought; support navigation
  • Worst U.S. drought in decades gets worse in parts of the nation’s midsection
  • Indiana Public Radio: Herbicide residue left after drought could harm winter crops
  • Drought-struck areas of U.S. Plains need a deluge of rain and snow this winter to fully recharge parched farmland
  • U.S. farms need recharged soil moisture after drought
  • Commercial Mississippi River barge traffic south of St. Louis may be restricted; halted next month by drought impacts
Farm Bill-
  • Des Moines Register op-ed: Farm bill needs to link federal crop insurance and conservation compliance
  • House Agriculture Committee Chair Lucas (R-OK):  If Farm Bill pushed into 2013, expect deeper cuts
  • Environmental Working Group and Taxpayers for Common Sense op-ed: "Pass a Fiscally Responsible Farm Bill Extension"
  • Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) ‘job one’ in Washington will be helping to craft farm bill legislation
Agriculture -
  • overview of how membership of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee looks after Tuesday’s election
  • NSAC blog: Election Returns Spell Some Changes for Congressional Agriculture Committee Makeup
  • State says detailed environmental study will not be needed for proposed Gourley Brothers Hog Feedlot (Todd County, MN)
  • Farm Foundation launches new blog "to broaden agriculture and food system conversations"
  • U.S. ethanol production is headed for its first decline in 16 years
  • North Dakota state record for per-acre value of farmland: 80-acre parcel sells for $10,000 per acre
In the States -
  • News article and video review projects being implemented across Minnesota to maintain and improve water quality
Forestry -
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center project explores biofuel potential of switchgrass and cottonwood
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Gulf Coastal Region-
Resource Extraction -
  • Frac sand mining is changing the face of rural Wisconsin's landscape physically, economically, politically, permanently
  • Companies across eastern Missouri in recent years have emerged as suppliers of so-called frac sand
Federal Budget -
  • House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) point in different directions on fiscal cooperation
  • House Speaker expects to bridge over fiscal cliff issues this fall
  • Two workshops on water quality trading; November 28 and 29; Washington, DC (both also a webinar)
  • Farm Foundation Forum: What 2012 election means for agriculture, food and rural policy; Washington, DC and webcast 11/14
  • SWCS-sponsored "Building Science Assessments for State-Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies," Nov. 13, Davenport, IA
  • Registration Open for December 4 USEPA Symposium on the Importance of Water to the U.S. Economy (Washington, DC)
  • Organizations partnering on government and nongovernment disaster response and preparedness webinar; December 13
  • ASFPM 37th Annual National Conference, "Remembering the Past - Insuring the Future" June 9 - 14, 2013, Hartford, CT
  • Wisconsin Wetlands Association 18th Annual Wetlands Conference February 12-14, 2013, Sheboygan, WI
  • River Rally 2013 will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, May 17-20, 2013
  • National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment: Disasters and Environment; Washington, D.C. January 15-17
  • Winter brings best celebrations along Mississippi River in historic Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois communities
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • New blog on conservation from a social science perspective: "Thinking Like a Human"
  • Association of State Flood Plain Managers News and Views - October 2012 issue
  • Army Corps of Engineers' Fall issue of “Our Mississippi” is now available online
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Monthly News Chronicle - "Wetland Breaking News"
Other news-
  • Ken Burns to co-launch new Mississippi river cruise on the American Queen paddlewheel steamboat
  • EPA could be backlogging up to a dozen new major regulations, completed, and ready to roll out after election
  • Long list of unfinished  Congressional legislative business ensures many items will not be completed in this Congress
Political Scene -
  • Likely administration exits soon for Secretaries Vilsack (Agriculture) and Chu (Energy);  EPA Administrator Jackson
  • U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is set to undergo a significant turnover
  • An overview of how membership of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee looks after Tuesday’s election
  • Here is a handy summary of the new 113th Congress Members elected Tuesday, with links to new Members’ bios
  • Here is an overview of the characteristics of largest freshman Congressional class of the past 12 years
  • Mississippi River corridor's U.S. House districts fall decidedly Democratic in north and Republican in south; map -
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) defeats Republican Rep. Todd Akin (R) to retain her once-precarious U.S. Senate seat
  • Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) defeats Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) for Indiana's open U.S. Senate seat
  • Rancher Deb Fischer (R) defeats former Governor Bob Kerrey (D) in Nebraska U.S. Senate race
  • North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg (R) concedes U.S. Senate contest to former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D)
Last Word - "I think environmentalism has failed as a movement." - David Suzuki, Canadian scientist, broadcaster and environmental activist, speaking this week in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Now and Then - This Week and Next Through a Post-Electoral Haze

Basking in the afterglow of Tuesday's election, we have time to pause and take stock of a few lessons taught (if not learned) from those events, and how that might be relevant to the ongoing pursuit of environmental and  economic sustainability in the Mississippi River Basin.  And we also pause to look ahead toward next week's return to Washington, DC of a Congressional contingent that has been recessed for what only seems to be an eternity.

This week . . .
In no particular order whatsoever, here are some random thoughts about the week's general election and what it may mean over the short, and perhaps long, term from the policy and legislative perspectives.
  • In the U.S. House, both parties sorted themselves out even more ideologically and geographically than before - to the left (Democrats) and the right (Republicans) and with Democrats aggregating even more-so in the northeast and coastal west and Republicans in the south and mid-section.
  • One major reason for this ever-widening ideological divide fracturing Congress is the arcane House redistricting process that is, itself. ideologically-driven (with the exception of California).  Redistricting is designed to form districts that contain more registered voters of the party doing the redistricting (the party in power at the state level).  As a result, House Members really rarely need worry about the general election and the other party's opponent.  Rather, contenders have to be concerned about winning their primary election against other members of their own party.  And to do that they have to cater to their party's core voters, who tend to come out in the primaries to vote and who tend to be more ideologically extreme.  So to do that catering, candidates have to stake out ever-more extreme (right or left) positions.  It is those more extremely left or right politicians, therefore, who make their way to Capitol Hill.
  • During the post-election gnashing of teeth that the GOP will undoubtedly collectively be doing these next several months and years, the debate (if not civil war) within the party will be between the "priests" and "mathematicians," as one political pundit put it.  The priests will argue for holding to a hard ideological line and allow for no compromise with Democrats over the next four years, while Republicans try once more to take the White House.  The mathematicians - or the realists - will count the numbers (of voters and electoral votes) and contend that Republicans need to form new alliances and partnerships, and compromise and collaborate in order to gain a constituency that can support a successful Presidential run.  Who "wins" that internal battle may dictate how much Congress and the Administration can accomplish collectively over the next three years (the fourth year being eaten up by the 2016 election).
  • As a result of the maintenance of the status quo in Washington, nobody has leverage and no one has a mandate.  Politically, every bill will have toxic elements to it and every policy initiative will somehow be "bad" to someone or to a lot of someones.  So, no one really knows what is going to happen during the lame duck session starting next week, and even less so during the upcoming legislative session.  But from where I sit, I wouldn't expect much to happen, at least in the near-term.  Or, as former U.S. House Member and Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt said at a Wednesday morning, post-election event, "Lame duck sessions are very aptly named. They're always lame."
And next . . .
The U.S. House and Senate return from their pre-election recess next Tuesday, November 13. Even then, however, work on legislation won't be starting in earnest, as the first week of a lame duck session is historically devoted almost exclusively to leadership elections and orientations. There will be at least twelve incoming Senators and 74 House newcomers who will need orienting to the ways of the Hill (including at least eight who are returning after a time away from Capitol Hill).  
Also in these early lame duck days, congressional leaders will start to fill soon-to-be-vacant top positions on several key environmentally-relevant committees, including the ranking member (Republican) on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chair, House Appropriations Committee ranking member (Democrat), House Science, Space and Technology Committee chair, and chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.