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

Bottled Water Banished at University of Vermont

Vending machines to feature ‘healthy choices’

By Lauren Drasler, Assistant New Editor | The Vermont Cynic | Thursday, February 2, 2012

The sale of bottled water on campus will end Jan. 1, 2013, makingUVM one of the first institutions nationwide to pass this type of sustainable beverage policy, according to University Communications.

UVM will remove bottled water from its 57 vending machines and in retail outlets as well asmandate that one-third of the drinks in vending machines be healthy choices,University Communications stated.

Though the administration made this decision, Director for the Office of Sustainability Gioia Thompson said that student groups such as Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP) really led the way.

“In 2010 and 2011, Mikayla McDonald and Marlee Baron each served as both VSTEP president and SGA senator,” Thompson said.  “They were key in connecting with SGA committees and leaders, who responded with resolutions.”

Thompson said that UVM’s campus has 200 water fountains that can easily be retrofitted with water bottle filling stations like the ones in the Davis Center for about $300 each.

“Other fountains will need to be replaced, costing in the thousands,” she said. “There may be some new fountain locations requiring new plumbing, as is the case in the Waterman building’s recent fountain upgrade.”

Vice President of Finance and Administration Richard Cate estimates that the cost of updating and replacing water fountains throughout campus will be about $100,000.

“This action is not likely to save the University any money, but hopefully students will save

money by having better access to chilled drinking water for which they do not have to pay,” he

said.

The Coca-Cola contract, which gives the company exclusive pouring rights at the University and is set to expire in June, generates $482,000 in revenue for UVM, Cate said.  Of that revenue, some is used to directly benefit students.

“$157,000 of the $482,000 from the current contract goes to student financial aid,” he said.

Cate confirmed that revenue from the new contracts will also be directed toward student aid.

President of VSTEP Greg Francese said that his club has worked directly with the Office of Sustainability and student organizations in order to educate the community about environmental issues such as the impact of bottled water.

Francese said that VSTEP’s main goal for the past five years has been to ban the sale of bottled water, with campaigns such as Bring Your Own Bottle days, in which students are encouraged to not buy bottled water for one day.

“We wanted people to think about why they’re purchasing bottled water,” he said. “The way we’ve done that is basically just by educating people about why you can get virtually the same product for free out of a water fountain.”

Though the decision to end sales of bottled water on campus is finally official, Francese said the news has not sunk in yet.

“It feels surreal, I guess it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said. “There’s been a lot of congratulatory emails, and I got interviewed by one of the local news stations, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s happening.

“When it happens it will be great,” he said.

Former VSTEP president Mikayla McDonald said that she is very supportive of UVM’s decision to let the Coke contract expire and to remove the sale of bottled water from campus.

“UVM has shown great leadership with this action and will undoubtedly motivate students in other American colleges and universities to take similar initiatives,” she said.

McDonald said she has a variety of issues with the bottled water industry.

“Single-serving, plastic-packaged bottled water is one of those products which has a 100 percent manufactured demand,” she said. “That means that there was essentially no need or want for it until bottled water companies started spending billions of dollars on advertising.”

These advertising campaigns have successfully convinced many Americans that municipal tap water is dirty and dangerous while bottled water is cleaner and healthier, McDonald said. In fact, the opposite is true.

Many students said they agree with the University’s decision to stop selling bottled water.

“I think it’s awesome,” senior Audrey Stout said.  “We don’t need any more plastic, so I’m all for this idea.”

Other students agreed that bottled water is a waste.

“There is plenty of opportunity to get free water from the fountains, and reusable water bottles are always being given away here,” sophomore Isaiah Cory said.

Though most students said they supported the administration’s decision, others said they didn’t like the idea of completely banning water bottle sales.

“Anytime there is a ban it’s an infringement,” senior Ben Zabriskie said.  “If the University put a $1 tariff on bottled water, then that money could be used to support conservation instead of completely banning bottled water sales.”