Lawmakers introduce bill to block Trump rule limiting scope of federal water protections

May 14, 2020

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure chair Rep. Peter DeFazio, of Oregon, and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Rep. Grace Napolitano, of California, submitted a bill to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule finalized in April.

The 1972 Clean Water Act made it illegal to discharge any pollutant into “waters of the United States,” unless a permit was obtained.

The exact definition of “waters of the United States” was contested in courts for decades.

The Obama administration attempted to clarify the rule by expanding the definition to include more water bodies that flow directly or indirectly, to navigable waters.

The Trump rule eliminated the 2015 rule and narrowed the definition to four types, leaving other waters under often more lenient state jurisdiction.

The bill’s authors said the Trump administration wrote the rule to benefit polluters at the expense of the health of people who depend on those waters.

“By removing critical protections at the behest of industry, Trump’s Dirty Water Rule will make streams and waterways more vulnerable to pollution, which is devastating for the 117 million Americans who rely on these waterways for drinking water,” said DeFazio.

More than a dozen leading environmental organizations have backed the bill, including Earthjustice, the League of Conservation Voters, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Sierra Club.

Source: https://www.indianaenvironmentalreporter.org/posts/lawmakers-introduce-bill-to-block-trump-rule-limiting-scope-of-federal-water-protections

OREGON LAWMAKERS DIVIDED OVER EPA ROLLBACK OF WATER PROTECTIONS

Posted: Jan 23, 2020
KDRV.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two U.S. Congressmen representing parts of southern Oregon were quick to sound off Thursday following an announcement from the Trump administration that it would move ahead with rollbacks on Obama-era clean water protections.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the change on Thursday. During the Obama administration, the agency expanded protections of the “waters of the United States” (commonly referred to as WOTUS) to include smaller waterways within the purview of the Clean Water Act — broadening regulations to cover streams, wetlands, small lakes and rivers across the U.S.

The Trump administration said that this interpretation bred “confusion.” According to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), it enabled the EPA to potentially regulate waterways as trivial as drain ditches — causing uncertainty for ranchers and farmers.

“For years, farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns to me about the heavy-handed Obama-era definition of WOTUS,” said Walden. “They stressed that their intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to the burden of overreaching federal regulation.”

Walden’s office said that he was an early critic of the 2015 Obama-era ruling.

In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) strongly disagreed, claiming that the rule change would gut the Clean Water Act and end protections for waterways that millions of people rely on for clean drinking water.

“This is an extraordinarily dark day for the waters of the United States of America, for our environment, for those 117 million Americans who depend upon it for their drinking water, an infinite amount of wildlife impacted, from migratory species to fisheries and others,” said DeFazio. “I am going to do everything I can, within the jurisdiction of my committee and the Clean Water Act, to stop this heinous action.”

The EPA says that the new interpretation, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” delivers on President Trump’s promise to protect the nation’s navigable waters from pollution while promoting economic growth across the country with a clear, “common-sense” approach.

“The EPA’s new definition of WOTUS will both protect our environment and our rural communities,” Walden said. “Today’s announcement is welcome news for rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to the concerns of America’s farmers and ranchers and delivering on the promise to revise WOTUS.”

According to the EPA, the new rule only enforces environmental regulations on four main categories of water: territorial seas and navigable waters, tributaries, certain lakes or ponds, and wetlands near other jurisdictional waters. It rules out regulations on any water formed by rainfall or groundwater, as well as ditches, prior croplands, watering ponds, and waste treatment systems.

“This is a tragedy and it’s going to leave tens of millions of Americans unable to trust their taps,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This rule would provide the lowest level of clean water protection since the Clean Water Act was passed in the 70s. It’s absolutely staggering to think that at this time, when we still have millions of Americans that are suffering from dirty water that they can’t drink, that is unsafe, that we would repeal this level of basic protection for all Americans.”

In a draft commentary published in October, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board came out in opposition to the proposed rule change, saying that it was “in conflict with established science  . . . and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”

Source: https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/Oregon-lawmakers-divided-over-EPA-rollback-of-water-protections-567243451.html

This World Water Day, a Recovery Plan Is More Important Than Ever

Twenty-two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 to be World Water Day. In a world is facing a severe and growing water crisis without a roadmap, this day is more important than ever.

Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age” — a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said.

The water crisis is also our greatest security threat. This is according to 900 global experts asked to assess the world’s biggest global risks in advance of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Another global study warns that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. Lack of access to clean water is already by far the greatest killer of children.

So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.

While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.

Massive water diversion for flood irrigation and the over-exploitation of groundwater has left large areas of the world without water. The destruction of the Aral Sea and Lake Chad — once the fourth and sixth largest lakes in the world respectively — was not caused by climate change. It was a result of relentless extraction for commodity exports.

The drought crisis in California is not climate change per se, but the massive engineering of the state’s water supplies to provide for a handful of powerful farmers. A huge amount of the state’s water is exported as “virtual water” embedded in export commodities. The Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted by climate change, but from unremitting extraction, mostly for corn ethanol.

Removing water from water-retentive landscapes leaves behind parched lands and desertification, another cause of the water crisis. Removing vegetation from water-retentive landscapes changes the water patterns forever. The current crisis in Brazil — once a water rich country — is largely due to the destruction of the rainforest. Take down the forests and the hydrologic cycle is negatively affected.

Because the water crisis is misdiagnosed, we do not have the right solutions to solve the crisis. World leaders, elected officials and international institutions wrap the water crisis in with their research and deliberations on climate change. If water is mentioned at all, it is as one more victim of climate change, almost always solely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The fact that destroying water-retentive landscapes is in and of itself a major cause of climate change is not part of the analysis or discussion in climate change circles.

As a consequence, flawed as it is, there is a very serious process to deal with climate change, including an annual climate summit every December and multiple preparatory meetings in between. But there is no corresponding process to deal with the global water crisis.

The UN General Assembly has not specifically included water in its agenda. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit targeted water, climate change, biodiversity and desertification for action; all but water have since been addressed with a convention and a plan. There is no coordinated response to the world’s growing water crisis, even as it threatens life on earth, either inside the United Nations or among nations. Any attempt at answers is local, sporadic and underfunded.

Water must be addressed as an issue in and of itself. There is an urgent need to create a global water recovery plan for water.

Key components would include:

o watershed protection
o conservation and restoration
o national and community programs to replenish water-retentive landscapes
o watershed sharing and governance
o models of food and energy production that do not harm water
o the prevention of eutrophication
o consideration of the impact on water of trade agreements
o strong local, national and international commitment to put water protection at the heart of all laws and policies.

The notion that water can become a negotiating tool for cooperation and peace rather than the cause of conflict and war must be explored and the path to water justice must be a central tenet of this plan.

Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution. It recognized water and sanitation as fundamental human rights. It is urgent that the United Nations and world leaders now take the next step toward a water-secure future. They need to commit to creating a global water recovery plan for water that has its own convention, plan of action and the resources needed to meet the greatest threat of our time.

Maude Barlow is a Canadian who has been a leader in the fight for the human right to water. She served as Senior Advisor on Water to the UN General Assembly. Her latest book is Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpostca/maude-barlow/world-water-day_b_6911660.html

Meet the 13-Year-Old Taking On Bottled Water

AlterNet/By Maude Barlow, published Sept. 6, 2012

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her.
In the last year, municipalities across Ontario and the rest of the country have begun taking a much-needed stand to protect local water sources. Since  World Water Day  in 2011, nine municipalities across Canada have become Blue Communities with many well on their way.

Blue Communities  are municipalities that adopt a water commons framework by: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services.

The success of the Blue Communities project in Ontario can be mainly attributed to Robyn Hamlyn who has met with 18 mayors and councillors. She talks about the environmental impacts of bottled water, the preposterous amount of profit bottled water companies make off communities’ lakes and streams and the stricter standards with which tap water is regulated. People who hear Hamlyn speak are captivated by her charm, passion and foresight to think long term about our water sources. And the incredible part of this success story is that Hamlyn is only  13 years old .

Her success has not only caught the attention of mayors, city councillors, environmentalists and media but it has also caught the attention of industry and organizations that believe water should be sold for profit. Hamlyn’s determination and effectiveness has provoked responses from Nestlé and Enviroment Probe, an organization that promotes the sale of water as a commodity.

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé, has written letters to local newspapers saying there are other initiatives that the 13-year-old and others “can and should focus on to help preserve, protect and strengthen our water systems that are more effective than targeting bottled water.” More recently, Essie Solomon, an intern for  Environment Probe , wrote an article in the  Financial Post , chiding municipalities for taking “their advice from a 13-year-old.” It was shocking to read Environment Probe’s attack on Hamlyn who has been volunteering her free time to meet with municipal councils across Ontario to talk about the impact of bottled water on current water sources, climate change and social justice.

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her. Solomon, whose article is condescendingly titled ” Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom ,” would do well to pay attention to Hamlyn’s work rather than toe the line of an organization that promotes the sale of water for profit.

It’s also insulting to mayors and councillors to imply they do not examine critically the information presented to them. Not only is Hamlyn dispelling important myths about bottled water but she is also raising important issues that Canada is facing.

We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and more sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense.

Municipalities are at a crossroads and face pressing infrastructure needs in the wake of budget cuts and conditional funding from the Harper government. The Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. PPP Canada explicitly promotes privatization of public services by only allocating the $1.2 billion under the P3 Canada Fund to municipalities that let corporations deliver water and wastewater, transportation and communications services on a for-profit basis.

The Harper government has shut down public debate on many critical water issues and amended environmental legislation that will reverberate for generations to come. So we are heartened to see municipalities take on critical water issues and provide forums for much needed debate and it is in them that we place our hope.

The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This project builds on a decade of Water Watch work in coalition with many other groups to protect public water services and challenge the bottled water industry.  Click here  to learn more about the Blue Communities Project.

USA Springs Bailout Delayed Again

USA Springs bailout delayed again

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 

Money to bail out USA Springs still has not arrived, forcing creditors to consider alternatives, including liquidation and foreclosure.

Malom Group AG — the bankrupt company’s Swiss financier – was supposed to deposit $7 million on Dec. 9 into the account of USA Springs, which is trying to build a controversial bottling plant near the border of Nottingham and Barrington.

The payment was supposed to be the first installment of a $19.3 million bridge loan as part of a $60 million financing deal.

But USA Springs told the court on Dec. 15 that the money hadn’t arrived, making it Malom’s fourth missed deadline since Oct. 3.

Attorneys for USA Springs asked for a new deadline of Jan. 6, and the judge agreed to the extension, which is the fifth since the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2008.

A hearing on other issues — such as attorneys’ compensation — was set for Jan. 26.

An unnamed insider investor, with the bankruptcy court’s protection, has paid Malom a $1.2 million loan fee, a fee that was supposed to be paid back at closing, along with a potential $600,000 success fee.

If Malom doesn’t come through with the initial financing, the bankruptcy court – in its order – said it would seek the full $60 million from the firm.

Jan. 26 will also be set aside for consideration of a motion filed by Save Our Groundwater, an organization that opposes the USA Springs proposal and is seeking more documents on the redacted agreement between Malom.

USA Springs has spent $17 million over the past decade trying to get a permit to withdraw 300,000 gallons a day from the groundwater in the face of tenacious opposition from SOG and other opponents.

But shortly after the state granted the major permits, the company ran out of money, and the half-finished project has languished ever since. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

link to article: http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/943904-257/usa-springs-bailout-delayed-again.html

USA Springs Loan Deal Remains Elusive

from New Hampshire Business Review: December 7, 2011

For the third time in as many months, the bankrupt USA Springs has been unable to close on a $60 million loan because initial funding from its Swiss underwriter, Malom Group AG, still has not arrived.

The deal, which would enable the company to resume construction on its controversial partially completed bottling plant on the border of Nottingham and Barrington, was originally supposed to close on Oct. 3, with the arrival of $19.3 million bridge loan in the bank account controlled by USA Springs’ attorney.

But that deadline was extended twice until Dec. 2 because of financial turmoil in Europe, according to Malom. In November, Malom said it would rely on the sale of Brazilian securities to raise that initial bridge loan.

At Monday’s bankruptcy court hearing in Manchester, attorneys for USA Springs said Malom missed that deadline as well because it found “a better offer” elsewhere, and instead $7 million would arrive at the close of business Friday. The rest of the bridge loan would arrive by the end of the year, the company said.

“We want to make sure that Malom is true to its word,” said the company’s attorney, Alan L. Braunstein.

Malom received a $1.2 million loan fee in advance from an unnamed USA insider. That fee would be paid back at closing along with a potential $600,000 success fee

Braunstein said that Malom would pay extra interest and attorney’s fees for the delay, but the main creditor, Roswell Commercial Mortgage LLC, wanted to see any changes in writing and subpoenaed a Malom executive for a deposition.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge J. Michael Deasy granted another extension of the deal.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the parties to decide what they want to do, but at some point this thing has to go or not to go. I don’t know what time that is,” said Deasy.

But the judge added that Roswell and other creditors were understandably skeptical and that the whole bankruptcy rescue plan was in danger of “blowing up.”

The future of the USA Springs plant has never been certain. USA Springs has spent $17 million to build the plant since 1997, but it took nearly a decade to overcome the opposition of residents and environmental groups before the company finally obtained state and federal permits.

State regulators eventually sided with USA Springs, but the permit fight drained its resources and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The project has languished in bankruptcy ever since, after several other financial arrangements fell apart. Malom has been the most promising deal thus far.

Meanwhile, opponents have raised question with potential investors about to whether the permits were still valid — a claim that USA Springs cited as a reason to keep the names of the investors secret.

But the organization Save Our Groundwater filed a motion to find out the names of foreign investors, arguing that they might use international trade agreements to trump state environmental laws.

USA Springs maintains that SOG doesn’t have the standing to make its motion because it has no financial interest in the deal and is instead trying to sabotage it.

The court – at the request of both parties – put that matter off until after Friday, when it will be clearer whether the Malom deal will close after all.

Another hearing has been tentatively scheduled for December 15. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

link to article: http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/942294-257/usa-springs-loan-deal-remains-elusive.html

Opposition strong in Barrington, Nottingham as USA Springs seeks new funds

By SCOTT E. KINNEY
skinney@fosters.com

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NOTTINGHAM — For years commuters along Route 4 between Barrington and Nottingham have driven by a rather innocuous and incomplete building along the roadside.

The building is the physical property of USA Springs, a water bottling company nearly 10 years, and counting, in the making. The structure was just beginning to take shape on the 100-acre parcel, which straddles the Barrington/Nottingham border, when the business declared bankruptcy…

…Before the filing the company had invested the better part of a decade and millions of dollars in securing the necessary permits to draw water from the local aquifer, which it planned to bottle, shipping most of it overseas…

…New investors now could mean new life for the flagging company…

…But several neighborhood groups opposed to the project essentially from its inception say the plant would have a negative effect on the water supply for Barrington, Nottingham and beyond.

They add that even if the funding is there, the completion of the plant, and its ability to bottle water, is far from assured…

Read the full article: http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011707109883