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Entries in Clean Water Act (21)

Saturday
Apr162016

Troubled Waters Need More Volunteer Monitoring

Based on an analysis, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) says that states are effectively monitoring water quality in just 2 percent of  rivers and streams nationwide.  Even more troubling, it adds, 55 percent of those tested are not deemed safe for designated uses such as swimming, fishing, and drinking water sources, according to state reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“There is an alarming lack of timely information about water quality in this country,” said IWLA Executive Board Chair Jodi Arndt Labs. “Every morning, you can read about that day’s air quality in the local paper or on your smart phone. Yet information about the health of local streams is 5 to 10 years old. That’s a problem.”

IWLA also reports the following:

  • Pollutants in these waters include a laundry list of bacteria, carcinogens, and nutrients.
  • Testing sites are often randomly located and limited in number, and most information about water quality in streams is 5 to 10 years old.
  • More than half of all states (26) received D or F grades for the overall effectiveness of the state’s stream monitoring efforts.

For the full report, go here.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 requires states to monitor the safety of all waterways, report water quality information publicly every two years, and address pollution problems. However, states vary widely in virtually every aspect of water quality monitoring, including standards used to assess water quality; where, when, and which waters are tested; the types of tests performed; and how states provide information to the public.

IWLA found that many states have weak water quality standards that can inflate the number of waters rated clean and healthy and most states don’t monitor water quality often enough to make accurate statewide safety claims.

“The solution to ensuring the public has accurate, timely, and local information about stream health isn’t a mystery,” said Scott Kovarovics, IWLA executive director. “Across the country today, League chapters and networks of citizen monitors are already doing great work. Volunteers could regularly monitor water quality in thousands more streams and provide timely results to their neighbors and state governments. The League is committed to achieving this goal by getting more citizens involved in stream monitoring nationwide.”

IWLA provides free tools, including training videos, data forms, equipment lists, and a new biological monitoring mobile app, to help volunteers get started with water quality monitoring. They're available here.

Monday
Feb222016

EPA Violated Federal Law With Propaganda Campaign for Clean Water Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engaged in "propaganda" and violated federal law by using social media to urge people and influence Congress to support rules to strengthen the federal Clean Water Act, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said that he is not surprised, long suspecting "that EPA will go to extreme lengths and even violate the law to promote its activist environmental agenda."

EPA used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and an innovative new tool, Thunderclap, to counter opposition to the rules that critics argued would be too broad and enable government overreach onto private properties.

Federal agencies are allowed to promote policies, but aren't allowed to engage in propaganda, which is defined as covert activity intended to influence the public. They also are not allow to use federal resources to conduct grassroots lobbying, which is defined as urging the public to contact Congress to take a certain kind of action on proposed legislation.

GAO concluded that EPA did both. "The critical element of covert propaganda is the agency's concealment from the target audience of its role in creating the material," the watchdog agency said in its 26-page ruling.

Environmental groups argue that new rules are needed because court decisions have weakened protections. Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action said the proposed rules are "taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world."

As proposed, they would extend to streams regardless of size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and almost any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

Opponents insist that current provisions are strong enough to protect public waters and the new rules would infringe on private property rights.

"The EPA's draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S.," said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. "This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever."

Implementation of the new rules already had been blocked by a federal court, after they were challenged by 18 states. Additionally, the Republican-led House of Representatives hopes to use Congress to stop them permanently.         

Wednesday
Jan132016

Court Ruling Against EPA Could Impact Anglers

A recent federal court decision possibly will be a good news/bad news proposition for bass anglers and other boat owners.

The U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed in its responsibility under the Clean Water Act to protect the nation's waters from aquatic invasive species introduced by ballast water discharge. The most glaring evidence of that has been the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels into the Great Lakes by ocean-going ships. They've since spread across much of the country, forcing states, cities, and businesses to spend billions of dollars annually for control costs and/or to mitigate damage.

Additionally,  troublesome round gobies and dozens of other species also have hitched a ride to this country in ballast water.

As a consequence of this action, EPA must develop stricter regulations regarding ballast water, although the court did not set a deadline. In responding to the decision, the agency said that won't happen until 2018, adding that it still is "studying the recent decision by the 2nd Circuit to determine the best course of action."

Environmental groups, which sued EPA over its ballast water policy, praised the decision.

“This is a huge win for our environment, economy, fish, wildlife, communities, and businesses,” said Marc Smith, policy director for the National Wildlife Federation.

“The court, in no uncertain terms, has told the federal government that it needs to uphold its responsibility under the Clean Water Act to protect our drinking water, jobs, and way of life. This decision is welcome news for the millions of families, anglers, hunters, paddlers, beach-goers, and business owners who have borne the brunt of damages from aquatic invasive species for far too long."

But Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation, warned that with this good news possibly comes some bad.

"This is a very big deal," he said. "As with most things, EPA possibly will overreach and extend (its restrictions) to all waters. If so, this may be the death knell for recreational boaters moving from one water body to another."

Frazier added that specific consequences might include mandatory inspections and/or certificates for moving boats from one lake to another,  fees to pay for such programs, and possible closing of access areas if costs prove to be prohibitive. 

Monday
Nov032014

Should We Support New CWA Rules? I'm Not So Sure . . . 

Some sportsmen groups support the new rules proposed for the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

For example, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, of which B.A.S.S. is a member, says this: “Sportsmen must speak up for strong, science-based protections for waters upon which America’s hunters and anglers rely. Tell the Army Corps and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) you support their efforts to clarify the Clean Water Act and urge them to finalize a rule that protects wetlands and headwater streams.”

I’m not so sure. For months I’ve argued with myself about this. Yes, I want to protect wetlands and headwater streams, but . . .

The original Clean Water Act was passed by our elected representatives and senators and signed into law by the President. It clearly was implemented with the best interests of the public and our aquatic resources in mind.

These rules were formulated by the EPA for the EPA. Public input was solicited, but no bureaucracy is going to institute rules detrimental to its own best interests. It’s going to create regulations that strengthen it and expand its powers.

And what recourse do citizens have in dealing with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who, more and more, are making the rules that we must live by? Not much.

EPA insists that these new rules simply “clarify” its regulatory role in protecting waters upstream of navigable waters. It needs to do so, it asserts, because of Supreme Court decisions that created uncertainty.

Critics of EPA and Corps overreach counter that those decisions reined in those agencies, which is why they now are proposing new rules.

I could present you with an almost endless list of testimonials from both sides, but I’ll keep it to a couple.

EPA’s Nancy Stoner says this:

“So EPA and the Corps are bringing clarity and consistency to the process, cutting red tape and saving money. The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule does not regulate new types of ditches, does not regulate activities on land, and does not apply to groundwater.”

Mike Freese, an attorney for the Oregon Farm Bureau counters:

“This is also going to affect counties, cities, home builders and land use anywhere near a waterway . . . The Clean Water Act will become a land management tool for federal agencies.”

If my decision to align with one side or the other were based only on the rules themselves, I’d probably side with the sportsmen groups and EPA. But it’s not.

There’s also interpretation and enforcement by the bureaucrats in those agencies, and the track record there is not good. Ask Mike and Chantell Sackett up in Idaho about that. After obtaining necessary local permits and consulting with the Corps, they were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Suddenly, federal officials showed up, demanding that they stop construction because their .63-acre lot is a protected wetland.

Seven years later, they’re still fighting for the right to build their home. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on their behalf, but its judgment said only that the couple has the right to seek judicial review in opposing the EPA.

Also in 2012, a top EPA official, Al Armendariz, resigned after a video surfaced of him making a speech in which is compared the agency’s enforcement strategy to Roman crucifixion.

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them.

“And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

More recently, bureaucrats in another agency have refused to cooperate with Congress on another water-related issue. The Interior Department ignored a subpoena to provide documents regarding this administration’s rewrite of the 2008 “Stream Buffer Zone Rule.”

"The administration's response to the committee's oversight efforts has been downright shameful. Their actions are unjustifiable and show blatant disrespect to the transparency they promised the American people,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Yes, we all want clean water.  And thanks to the original CWA we’ve made tremendous strides in improving water quality and fisheries. The question now is how to balance continued improvements with maintaining a government that is mindful of and respectful to its citizens and their rights.

(This was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Sep052014

Judge Rules BP Grossly Negligent in Gulf Oil Spill

BP could be fined the largest penalty ever levied under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

That’s because U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier recently ruled that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico occurred because of the company’s gross negligence, meaning BP could be liable for as much as $18 billion in pollution fines.

 That amount is far more than the $3.5 billion that the company had set aside and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “would easily exceed the biggest previous fine under the statute.”

That amount was based on BP’s belief that the court would rule the company liable for simple negligence. But a verdict of gross negligence means a fine of as much as $4,300 for each barrel of crude oil spilled in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The judge could decide on lower penalties per barrel, but still the amount is likely to surpass the previous CWA record of $1 billion paid by Transocean Ltd, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

“More than four years after the BP oil disaster, today’s ruling is a vital step towards restoring important waterfowl and fishing habitat for the next generation of sportsmen and women,” said Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of about 800 hunting and fishing organizations advocating for restoration of the Mississippi River Delta and the gulf.

“The oil spill tarnished hundreds of miles of coastline and marshes important to fresh and saltwater fishing and waterfowling. The areas most damaged by the spill cannot wait any longer for restoration to begin. Recreational fishing is a critical component of the Gulf economy generating $8 billion annually.

“In Louisiana alone, some 10 million ducks, geese and other waterfowl winter along the coast and depend on healthy marshes. We must invest penalty monies in real restoration projects that clean up and restore the waters and coastal habitat that are the backbone of the Gulf region’s economy.”