Tuesday, March 24, 2015

[WIMS] Environmental HotSheet 3/24/15


National / International News

<> Rural America Weighs In On Murky 'Waters of the U.S.' Rule at Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing - U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a hearing on the impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed 'Waters of the United States' (WOTUS) rule.

<>  EPA Releases Final Risk Assessment for Chemical used for Paint and Coating Removal - U.S. EPA released the final risk assessment for N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP), a chemical commonly used to remove paint and other coatings -- the assessment identified risks to pregnant women and women of childbearing age, who have high exposure to NMP through paint or other coating removal

<> State Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) Support Budget Proposals For Clean Power Plan - The association for 41 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and 116 metropolitan areas is supporting the President's budget proposal for states' implementation and incentives for the Clean Power Plan

<> S.Con.Res. 11 – Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 - The budget resolution passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on a 12-10 vote. 

<> Nation's mayors ask Congress to pass transportation bill - Led by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Vice President Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the nation's mayors pledged Monday to work together to urge Congress to move past partisanship to pass a transportation bill.

<> DOE Needs to Improve Cost Estimates for Transuranic Waste Projects at Los Alamos - GAO-15-182, Nuclear Waste, February 18, 2015. GAO was asked to review cost estimates for the TRU waste projects at LANL.

<> SBIR/STTR FY15 Phase 2 Awards Announced—Includes Hydrogen Production and FCEV Systems - DOE announced the 2015 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase 2 Release 1 Awards, including three Office of Science projects focusing on hydrogen production from electrolysis and hydrogen systems supporting fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)

<> NRC Proposes to Amend Licensing, Inspection, and Annual Fees Regulations - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeks public comments on proposed changes to its regulations for the licensing, inspection, and annual fees it charges applicants and licensees for fiscal year (FY) 2015.

<> Whitfield Unveils Ratepayer Protection Act to Address EPA's Overreaching Power Plant Rule - Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) unveiled a discussion draft of the Ratepayer Protection Act, which would empower states to protect households and businesses from the harmful effects of EPA's proposed rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants -- a hearing will be held on April 14, 2015.

U.S. Appeals Court Environmental Decisions

<> Kent Recycling Services, LLC v. United States Army Corps of Engineers - 3/23/15. In the U.S. Supreme Court, Docket No. 14-493, Appealed from the Fifth Circuit. The petition for hearing was denied in the case involving issues:
     (1) Whether a jurisdictional determination, that is conclusive as to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, and binding on all parties, is subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act; and (2) whether a due process claim against an agency action is subject to the finality requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act.

<> Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - 3/23/15. In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 14-12357. Riverkeeper challenges the 2012 version of Nationwide Permit 21 ("NWP 21"), a general permit that allows surface coal mining operations to discharge dredged or fill materials into navigable waters.
     The district court first determined that Riverkeeper has standing to sue affirming the district court's decision on that point. The district court also held that Riverkeeper's lawsuit was, nonetheless, barred by the equitable doctrine of laches; however, the Appeals Court concluded that the Intervenors had shown neither inexcusable delay on the part of Riverkeeper nor prejudice resulting from Riverkeeper's alleged delay. . . "We, therefore, hold that the district court abused its considerable discretion in barring Riverkeeper's suit."
     On the merits, and based on significant change in the facts, supplemental briefs were filed and the Corps then conceded that the district court's decision must be reversed and the matter remanded to the Corps for further consideration based on a more accurate assessment of the potential impacts of NWP 21, to which the Appeals Court agreed.

Federal Register Highlights 

The following is an alert of Environmental Federal Register announcements that may be of interest.  (Click here to access today's complete Federal Register index with links to complete announcements).

<> AIR QUALITY, TOXICS - Final Rule. U.S. EPA - National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Steam Generating Units; Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) amendments

(click for the complete Energy & EPA announcements)

Great Lakes News

<> COMMENTARY: With epic drought, is it time for a national water policy? - Currently, the Council of the Great Lakes Governors have an agreement that prevents water diversion to any state or locality but its members. Perhaps it's time to have a discussion about a national water policy

<> A strategic plan for Great Lakes bird migration - A number of conservation initiatives seek to secure land to help species make their trek thousands of miles southward; but without a collective vision, these efforts may not be enough to protect birds in the Great Lakes region.

<> COMMENTARY: The need to be proactive on Great Lakes contaminants - For years now, researchers have found trace amounts of various pharmaceutical drugs in the Great Lakes and in our drinking water -- pain medicine, birth control and anti-depressants have been found, as well as a host of others.

<> MI State officials weighing idea of Great Lakes fish farming - Entrepreneurs may seek approval to establish fish farming in Michigan's Great Lakes waters, officials said Monday — an undertaking that hasn't taken place before on the U.S. side of the lakes

Michigan News

<> Four DNR Dam Management Grant Program recipients to share $350,000 - Projects in Allegan, Berrien, Crawford and Ontonagon counties will receive funding to enhance aquatic environments and fishing opportunities, reduce long-term infrastructure costs and improve public safety 

<>  Flint officials seek to reconnect to Detroit water supply - FLINT — The Flint City Council has voted to stop using the Flint River as the city's primary source of water amid concerns surrounding the troubled municipal water system.

<> MPSC Approves Settlement Agreement Authorizing Northern States Power Company to Increase Electric Rates - For the first 12 months, customers using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month will see an increase of $2.90 on their monthly bills. Thereafter, the monthly increase will be an additional 98 cents.

<> MPSC Approves Additional $22 Million in 2015 Michigan Energy Assistance Program Grants - Low-income households struggling to pay utility bills may be able to get assistance through an additional $22 million in Michigan Energy Assistance Program grants to eight of the organizations previously awarded funds for 2015.

<> MPSC Approves Two Settlement Agreements Authorizing 2015 Power Supply Cost Recovery Factors for Midwest Energy Cooperative and Indiana Michigan Power Company

<> Michigan's five birding trails offer wildlife-viewing adventure - Birding trails promote wildlife viewing and conservation education, and provide economic benefit to local communities.

<> Mapping out how Detroit is tackling a mountain of blight - Demolition, auction and nuisance abatement activity is concentrated in neighborhoods considered strong or "tipping points" for falling farther into blight.

Michigan Legislative Tracking 

Newly introduced bills and bills that are moving, if any, are listed below. Click on the bill number for complete status, full text, & analyses. Uppercase is Senate action; lowercase is House action. Otherwise, for a complete list of environmental legislation this session (click here).

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