Friday, July 17, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next in Washington
With an upcoming five-week August recess two weeks away and a House leadership freeze in place on all spending bills until a Confederate flag amendment squabble is settled, the annual Congressional appropriations process is all but dead.  It is very likely that Congress will look to pass some sort of short-term continuing resolution before midnight on September 30 to fund the federal government into the next fiscal year.

Senate appropriators are ignoring the House freeze and continue to grind out individual fiscal year 2016 spending bills; however, the White House's chilly responses to those bills along with a threatened Senate Democratic filibuster effectively render the Senate Appropriation Committee activity moot, at least in the short term. Continuing resolutions (CRs) typically fund programs at their current spending rate, though occasionally spending changes and policy amendments (or riders) are included. The more that funding levels are altered and the more riders that are attached, the lower the chances that a CR will easily move through both chambers and be signed into law.  A short-term CR will give Congress time to package individual spending bills into an omnibus package, which could incorporate at least some of the provisions from the individual bills worked on by the House and Senate appropriators.

Other, non-spending, pieces of legislation are still making their way through Congress, however: some with Mississippi River Basin water implications. The House next week will likely move a Rep. David McKinley-sponsored (R-WV-1) coal ash bill, possibly as early as Wednesday. The McKinley bill seeks to amend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new final rule for the "Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities."

To view the currently-planned Congressional activities for the week ahead that are relevant to the Mississippi River Basin's water resources, follow this link.

On the regulatory front, on Thursday, the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining released a new coal mining, stream protection rule that updates decades-old regulations. The new rule is designed to protect streams around the country from the impacts of surface and underground coal mining. Opponents of the rule by and large responded to its release by calling the rule the latest volley in a relentless Obama administration "war on coal." West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney has introduced a bill, H.R. 1644, which would block finalization of the new rule pending review of existing standards. The bill has sixteen Republican co-sponsors.  There are links to several stories on the new rule, below, under "Water Quality" and "In the States."

Note from the editor: There will be no Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News issue next week.  The Weekly News update will return the last week of July.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States Rule
  • Business groups file suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to overturn Waters of the U.S. rule (link to lawsuit
  • Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) files Congressional Review Act challenge to vacate the EPA's clean water rule; H.J.Res.59: (Details on how Congressional Review Act challenges work and Congress' options for the rule are found in this Congressional Research Service July 29 report:
  • DTN: EPA Administrator McCarthy Pressed on WOTUS; Use of Social Media Questioned
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans call on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to provide a legal explanation of the Waters of the U.S. rule
  • A majority of states in the U.S. have now weighed in on lawsuits that seek to halt recent federal clean water rule
Stream Protection Rule
  • Interior Department Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement releases stream
    Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
    protection proposed rule  (news story: (see related links, below)
  • New clash with Big Coal set as Obama proposes curbs on water pollution
  • House Natural Resources Chair wants GAO to investigate whether Office of Surface Mining has complied with NEPA in writing stream buffer rule
  • Mining industry reacts strongly to Interior Department's new rule to protect waterways from coal mining impacts
  • Draft Environmental Impact Statement for proposed Interior Department stream protection rule available for public review, comment
Other Water Quality News
  • Trucking company faces $950,000 in fines in illegal North Dakota oil production water dumping case
  • 4,200 gallons of crude oil spill from pipeline pump station in Illinois, some reaches nearby creek (related story below)
  • Resident sues pipeline company in federal court, less than a week after 4,200-gallon oil spill in Illinois
  • Airborne particles from cattle feed yards can carry steroids miles into aquatic habitats; steroids dissociate from particles in water bodies
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources releases draft Fiscal Year 2016 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan priorities
  • South Dakota DENR requests water quality data to complete 2016 biennial assessment of state lakes and streams
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House Appropriations Committee rejects Democratic attempts to boost FEMA flood mitigation
    Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    and mapping funding in DHS fiscal year 2016 spending bill (also see related link under "Federal Budget," below)
  • Army Corps will seek comments on its Mississippi River Headwaters Reservoirs Master Plan during upcoming Rock Island District open house
  • Labadie Environmental Organization settles lawsuits against Ameren Missouri over proposed coal ash landfill in Missouri River floodplain
  • Ameren and Army Corps of Engineers reopen floodgates for Osage River's Bagnell and Truman dams
  • In a second draft Water Plan Colorado officials have yet to pick a solution to 2050 projected 163 billion gallon water shortfall; interbasin transfer option remains on the table
  • Washington Post op-ed: We don’t trust drinking fountains anymore, and that’s bad for our health
  • Two-months of flooding greatly reduces barge traffic along 455-mile McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System
  • Arkansas, federal officials to seek permanent solution to Arkansas, White and Mississippi rivers navigation problems
  • Global Water Forum: Global water demand is projected to rise by 55 percent between 2000 and 2050
Agriculture -
  • USDA publishes Conservation Reserve Program interim rule, implementing changes made in 2014 farm bill; will accept comment through September 14
  • Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies: Water security and food security go hand-in-hand
  • American Soybean Association lists July 2015 "top legislative and regulatory priorities" including abolishing WOTUS rule; assuring accurate wetland determinations; improving pollinator habitat, increased funding for Inland Waterways Trust Fund and Harbor
    Photo: Dylan Brown
    Maintenance Trust Fund and funding for Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) on Upper Mississippi River
  • USDA: Record number of farmers and ranchers certified under 2014 Farm Bill Conservation Compliance (see related article, below)
  • AgriPulse: "USDA: 'overwhelming response' on conservation compliance, but some still missing"
  • USDA announces September 1 signup for conservation assistance on working grass, range and pasture lands
  • Wall Street Journal: Feedlots play a huge but an environmentally-controversial role in the raising of beef cattle in the U.S.
  • National Corn Growers Association holds a rally on Capitol Hill in support of the renewable fuel standard
  • POLITICO's Morning Agriculture: Food giants test farm conservation waters
  • USDA announces three new Centers of Excellence with a consortium of 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA: International report confirms: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record
    U.S. Crop Insurance Since 1996; an overview
  • "Climate Disruption Index" - 25 U.S. cities poised to be most-affected by climate change (New Orleans #1, Minneapolis #2, Kansas City, Missouri #5) (See related articles under "In the Cities" below)
  • This winter's El NiƱo could be one of the strongest in the past 50 years
  • DEP lifts drought watch for all counties across Pennsylvania
  • US drought update: portions of the Midwest experienced near record wettest from April-June with the following rankings: Illinois (118/121), Indiana (117/121), and Ohio (116/121)
Tiger Beetle
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Researchers hope Kansas bee hotel will educate, start conversation about native bees
  • From doom to boom: Illinois peregrine falcons no longer threatened
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider new protections for endangered  Salt Creek Tiger Beetle subspecies currently limited to Lancaster County, Nebraska
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
In the Cities -
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: "St. Louis is slow to adapt to climate threats. Surprise"
  • Minneapolis, St. Paul will be among worst metropolitan areas hit by climate change
  • Wichita exploring manufacturing uses for treated sewer water the city would otherwise dump into the Arkansas River
In the States-
  • Indiana and Montana no longer want to be considered cooperating agencies for
    States in the news this week
    the forthcoming federal rule on mountaintop removal mining 
  • Gov. Scott Walker signs Wisconsin’s two-year budget, making 104 line item veto changes, including cutting $1 million in grants for nonprofit conservation organizations and
  • Wisconsin Secretary of State sues Governor, arguing that budget he signed violates the state constitution
  • Illinois at risk of shutdown as lawmakers fail to override Governor's state budget vetoes and
  • Pennsylvania is one of five states that have failed to compromise on a spending plan by July 1, as required
  • Pennsylvania state budget stalemate enters a third week with no end in sight
  • Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program seeks more funds, fewer restrictions
  • South Dakota state government closes 2015 budget year on June 30 with a surplus
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Opinion: BP settlement: Tens of millions for lawyers, not nearly enough for the coast
    Photo: Matthew Hinton /
    The Times-Picayune
  • BP could get billions in tax breaks on Gulf oil spill settlement; damage payments can be treated as business expenses
  • New Orleans accepts $45 million BP oil spill settlement offer; town of Jean Lafitte, its levee board reject offer
  • Plaquemines Parish rejects BP Deepwater Horizon settlement offer as too small
  • $2 million BP offer accepted by West Bank levee authority to resolve claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil disaster
  • Louisiana's congressional delegation has intervened on behalf of New Orleans company that has failed to stop decade-old Gulf of Mexico oil leak
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority asks fed approval of four projects funded with BP spill fines
Forestry -
  • Central Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest adds 8,000 acres (Smith River watershed)
Resource Development -
  • Groups submit over 2,600 statements in opposition to oil pipeline across Iowa
  • Mountaintop-removal coal mining opponents tout over 200,000 petitions in support of legislation to enact a moratorium (link to bill:
  • Enbridge won't appeal county's proposal to require additional pipeline insurance after its Wisconsin legislature win
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Press release (and links to bill): House Appropriations Committee Passes Fiscal Year 2016 Homeland Security Bill (includes FEMA funding)
  • White House says House Dept. of Homeland Security funding bill doesn't adequately fund FEMA flood risk management programs
  • Drape a Confederate flag over the "regular order" Congressional federal budget process - it's dead
  • A complete House hold on spending bills at this point in July could mean that the appropriations season is officially over
  • Confederate flag dispute probably kills House Interior and EPA spending bill at least until the fall
  • Senate Appropriations Committee votes 28-2 to approve a $20.51 billion fiscal 2016 USDA-FDA spending bill (news article:
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here each week can be viewed in the on-line calendar, located above and to the right (and here as a stand-alone calendar
  • National Wildlife Federation-sponsored webinar: The Economics of Cover Crops; July 20, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm CDT
  • NGRREC to Host ‘The Mississippi River in Song: A Musical History Tour’ at Old Bakery Beer Company, Alton, Illinois, July 23, 7:00 PM CDT
  • Army Corps of Engineers, Inland Waterways Users Board meeting; 9 AM-1 PM, August 12, Nashville, TN (open to public)
  • 76th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, January 24 - 27, 2016, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's July 9 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • River Network's July 2015 "River Voices" magazine focus is on "turning our cities blue"
Other news-
  • House will likely take up bill next week to amend USEPA's new coal burning residual disposal rule (link to bill:
  • Utility Solid Waste Activities Group files petition for review of EPA rule governing coal combustion waste disposal with U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • New online tool shows that Land and Water Conservation Fund established, enhanced, protected 840,000 acres over last four years
  • EPA and six other federal agencies launch new effort to digitize, publicize records they distribute under Freedom of Information Act requests
Politics and People-
  • Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9) will run for for the U.S. Senate in Indiana in 2016
  • American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman announces that he will not seek re-election in January
  • Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), performed with the Congressional Rock and Roll Caucus Tuesday night
  • Threatened and endangered: Democratic Governors and Republican Mayors
Your Moment of Zen -
NASA Photo: New Horizons spacecratf's camera, "Ralph"

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