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Water Policy Report - 03/20/2017

  • Environmentalists Eye Law, Science To Fight Trump's CWA Rule Revisions

    Environmentalists plan to use Supreme Court precedent and extensive scientific data to fight the Trump administration's expected revisions to weaken EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule, saying an executive order (EO) forcing the changes conflicts with high court rulings and the existing rule's scientific justification.

    1423 words

  • DOJ Asks Supreme Court To Stay Suit On Venue For CWA Rule Challenges

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking the Supreme Court to stay a suit on which courts should hear challenges to the Obama EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule while the agency weighs revising or scrapping the rule, signaling the case could end without a decision and leave uncertainty on the venue for suits over a future rule.

    840 words

  • Supreme Court Urged To Hear CWA Rule Suit Despite Trump EPA Review

    Environmentalists are urging the Supreme Court to reject the Trump administration's request to indefinitely stay a suit over the correct venue for challenging the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule while EPA weighs revising or scrapping it, arguing a stay would effectively repeal the existing rule with no way to contest that decision.

    853 words

  • Environmentalists, States Seek To Mobilize Public Resistance To EPA Cuts

    Environmentalists and state officials are framing the Trump administration's newly released “skinny” budget, which proposes massive cuts to EPA programs, as the start of a months-long battle in which they hope to mobilize a public revolt to shore up congressional resistance to spending reductions that they say pose a dire threat to public health.

    1399 words

  • Trump Seeks To Slash $2.4 Billion From EPA's Budget, End 50 Programs

    President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget outline proposes a massive $2.4 billion cut to EPA's existing $8.1 billion budget, a level that would bring the agency's funding down to $5.7 billion and end more than 50 programs including popular measures like the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program while still claiming “robust” funding for water infrastructure.

    780 words

  • ECOS Mounts Defense Of EPA's State Funding Assistance From FY18 Cuts

    The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) is mounting a strong defense of EPA grants and other programs that support state activities from the Trump administration's suggested massive cuts to agency funding in fiscal year 2018, warning the cuts could threaten states' ability to meet a wide range of environmental protection goals.

    1399 words

  • EPA Defends Staff's Changes To Water Office's 'Science' Mission Statement

    EPA is defending a controversial change to its water office's Office of Science and Technology's (OST) mission statement, saying the removal of a commitment to develop “science-based” water standards grew out of a staff effort to clarify what the office does rather than being driven by the Trump administration, though environmentalists and former EPA officials remain concerned.

    1019 words

  • Settlement Would Avoid Precedent-Setting CWA Permits For 'Coal Trains'

    Environmentalists are floating a settlement with a major railway firm that would avoid setting a precedent creating Clean Water Act (CWA) permit requirements for train cars that release solid coal into protected waters during transit, but would leave in place a novel district court ruling saying such permits are within regulators' CWA authority.

    825 words

  • Environmentalists Petition EPA To Review CAFO Discharge Regulations

    Environmentalists are petitioning EPA to review and eventually strengthen years-old rules governing discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Water Act (CWA), noting in a petition that the agency has excluded CAFOs from recent legally-mandated reviews in prior years.

    576 words

  • Infrastructure Struggles Prompt Fresh Calls For EPA Funding Increases

    Four waste and water infrastructure sectors with EPA oversight are struggling to meet existing demands and to prepare for the future, prompting fresh calls to boost federal water infrastructure funding while preserving local governments' access to capital, and finding stable funding for mining site cleanups, among other policy suggestions.

    1189 words

  • GOP Builds Case For Limiting Environment Reviews In Infrastructure Push

    House Republicans are beginning a fresh push to limit environmental reviews of infrastructure projects, seeking to build a case that current environmental statutes and their implementation are blocking needed projects as the Trump administration is drafting a plan to make infrastructure a priority.

    910 words

  • Mayors Seek To Create New Resiliency SRF As Part Of Infrastructure Bill

    Mayors from cities along the Mississippi River are calling on Congress and the Trump administration to create a new resiliency revolving loan fund modeled after EPA's water funds to protect infrastructure from increased risks of flooding and other storm damage as part of the infrastructure bill the administration and lawmakers are developing.

    809 words

  • IG Touts 'Return On Investment' In Call For FY18 Funding, Staffing Boost

    As the Trump administration mulls plans to slash EPA's budget, the agency's Inspector General (IG) Arthur Elkins, Jr. and other top IG officials are touting the division's "return on investment" to justify calls for increasing the IG's budget and staffing levels in fiscal year 2018.

    2089 words

  • IG Official Touts EPA Scientific Integrity Chief's Power To Protect Research

    A top official in EPA's inspector general's (IG) office is touting the power of the agency's scientific integrity official to protect against any threats to the quality of the data, after several House Democrats wrote to EPA and other agencies' IGs urging them to ensure they meet “high standards” of scientific integrity and independence.

    1093 words

  • Top White House Officials Said To Hold 'Vigorous' Debate Over EPA Deputy

    Debate over who should serve as deputy EPA administrator -- and what role any nominee should play -- has reached nearly the highest level in the White House, a Trump administration source says, explaining why Administrator Scott Pruitt has yet to have any supporting political staff nominated to serve with him.

    1246 words

  • Top EPA Transition Adviser Resigns, Citing Frustration Over Pruitt, Infighting

    David Schnare, who had been serving as a senior transition adviser at EPA and had been expected to stay at the agency permanently, resigned abruptly from the agency March 15 over concerns about infighting among administration appointees and Administrator Scott Pruitt's alleged lack of engagement.

    1229 words

  • Pruitt Withdrew Decision-Making Powers From Senior Officials, Email Shows

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has since March 2 rescinded delegated authority for acting assistant administrators and regional administrators to take "significant" actions on his behalf, according to an internal email obtained by Inside EPA, centralizing decision-making for many high-profile issues despite Pruitt's lack of agency experience and minimal staff.

    614 words

  • Pruitt Said To Be Seriously Weighing Shuttering EPA's Enforcement Office

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and top White House officials are said to be seriously considering a major reorganization of EPA's Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA), which could result in moving much of the office's personnel to the agency's program offices.

    1587 words

  • Utility ELG Data Suit Spurs Competing Claims On Adverse FOIA Precedent

    A federal appeals court is weighing final briefs in environmentalists' suit testing whether data for EPA's power plant effluent rule is “confidential” under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), spurring competing claims between EPA and environmentalists over the adverse FOIA precedent the case could set.

    1090 words

  • Appeals Court Asks Trump DOJ To Weigh In On Fracking Rule Defense

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is asking the Trump administration whether it plans to continue defending the Obama administration's rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, teeing up the issue ahead of previously scheduled March 22 oral arguments that could be delayed due to any change in position.

    721 words

  • District Court Weighs Claims Over EPA's Liability For Gold King Mine Spill

    New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are urging a federal district court to hold EPA liable for its role in the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill, arguing that the Superfund law does not shield a government agency from penalties for its negligence and that the court should allow their lawsuits to proceed.

    846 words

  • Sen. McCain Seeks IG Information On EPA Mine Spill Criminal Investigation

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is asking EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to release new information from its investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing by officials involved in an agency cleanup team's accidental release of millions of gallons of wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado in 2015.

    682 words

  • Fluoride Critics Eye Court Challenge To EPA's Denial Of TSCA Ban Petition

    Groups opposed to fluoridating drinking water are planning to sue EPA over its denial of their petition asking it to use Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authority to prohibit fluoridation, which will pose a test of the agency's novel rationale for rejecting the request as falling short of what is required under the recently revised TSCA.

    1369 words

  • NMA Wins Rule Rollbacks But Fears 'Competition' For Administration Focus

    The National Mining Association (NMA) is making significant advances in its push to roll back a host of Obama-era rules at EPA and other agencies, but the group fears it is facing increased “competition” with other industry groups for the attention of the Trump administration and its new deregulatory agenda.

    1221 words

  • Industry Urges OMB To Prioritize EO's Cost Savings Over '2-1' Rule Repeal

    Major industry groups -- including oil and gas, paper, construction and others -- are urging the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prioritize provisions in President Donald Trump's deregulatory orders that require agencies to offset new regulatory costs over its requirements that agencies "identify" two rules for repeal for every new regulation they propose.

    1078 words

  • Pruitt May Have To Embrace 'Sue-And-Settle' Tactic He Pledged To End

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has promised to end “sue-and-settle” suits that environmentalists bring to enforce missed statutory deadlines, but many observers say he may have to embrace the tactic or face the risk of courts imposing much shorter deadlines than what he would otherwise be able to negotiate.

    1804 words

  • Industry Petition Tees Up Issues For Revised EPA RMP Rule, Litigation

    The industry petition that prompted the Trump administration to agree to reconsider the Obama-era overhaul of EPA's risk management plan (RMP) facility accident prevention program tees up numerous issues on which the agency may seek public input, including the threshold question of whether the finding that arson caused the fire that drove the rulemaking undermines the need for the final rule.

    1464 words

  • States, Groups Clash Over EPA's Great Lakes Sewer Overflow Proposal

    Great Lakes states, wastewater utilities and environmental groups are raising competing concerns about EPA's proposed rule outlining public notification requirements for when combined sewer overflows (CSOs) occur in the Great Lakes region, with some commenters seeking more flexibility in the rule and others calling for additional mandates.

    1571 words

  • DOJ Seeks D.C. Circuit Review Of New Hampshire MS4 General Permit

    The Justice Department is seeking to transfer litigation brought by a New England environmental group over an EPA-issued general permit for municipal stormwater in New Hampshire from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit to the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing it would more efficient to move the case to the court hearing other similar challenges.

    417 words