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Entries in EPA (50)

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. 

Friday
Sep042015

Sick Susquehanna Bass Fishery Needs Your Help

Smallmouth bass with a malignant tumor was caught by an angler in the Susquehanna River near Duncannon, Dauphin County. Photo by PFBC

Neglect destroyed a world-class bass fishery at Florida's Lake Apopka. Fifty years later, is history about to repeat itself on Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, as well as Chesapeake Bay, which it flows into?

Since 2005, anglers and fisheries biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have noted lesions and sores on smallmouth bass, as well as a declining population because of what is believed to be disease-related delayed mortality in young-of-year fish. In 2013, the Washington Post noted that Susquehanna's smallmouth bass might be the "canary in a coal mine" regarding the river's health. Last June, the U.S. Geological Survey found intersex bass, likely a consequence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, in three Pennsylvania waterways, with the highest incidence in the Susquehanna.

More recently, officials documented the first cancerous tumor. The discovery made media headlines both because of its rarity and the ominous overtones that it conveys regarding the health of this river that provides 50 percent of the fresh water flowing into Chesapeake Bay, site of a recent Elite Series tournament.

"As we continue to study the river, we find young-of-year and now adult bass with sores, lesions, and more recently a cancerous tumor, all of which continue to negatively impact population levels and recreational fishing," said John Arway, PFBC's executive director. "The weight of evidence continues to build a case that we need to take some action on behalf of the fish."

To PFBC's credit, it has been sounding the alarm about the "sick" fishery for years, as well as lobbied the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to categorize the lower portion of the river as "impaired."  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also has petitioned for that designation, as have the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and American Rivers. Until the waterway receives that designation, a comprehensive plan can't be developed to address the problem, which probably is pollution.

But DEP has argued that it makes recommendations based on water quality and not species health.  Thus far, it has refused to recommend that the Susquehanna be included on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) impaired waters list.

 "Although we share the continuing concerns about the health of the smallmouth bass population, we do not have sufficient data at this time to scientifically support listing the main stem of the Susquehanna as impaired," the EPA said in a statement.

In other words, for government bureaucrats, sick fish do not equate to a sick river. Yeah, it probably was something they ate.

Prompted both by the inaction of environmental agencies and concern for the future of this world-class fishery, the PFBC recently launched a "Save Our Susquehanna!" campaign so that the smallmouth fishery doesn't die of neglect. And it's going to need your help.

Until the end of this year, PBFC expects to take in at least $3 million from sales of about 130,000 resident and non-resident fishing licenses. When it reaches that threshold, funds from additional sales will be dedicated to projects aimed at reducing pollution in areas of the river where diseased fish have been found. To kick start the effort, the agency already has pledged $50,000, and, once anglers provide a matching amount, work will begin.

Those who purchase licenses also can show their support by buying "Save Our Susquehanna!" buttons for $10 each. Both are available at PFBC's Online Shop, as well as from licensing agents around the state. Finally, people can contribute by sending checks made out to the campaign to PFBC, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106.

"Protect the waters of the river, and you protect the waters of the bay," said B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "Purchasing a fishing license or making an additional donation is an investment in the future of river smallmouth and Chesapeake Bay largemouth bass fisheries."

Arway added, "The Susquehanna River is sick and someone has to take steps to fix it before it is too late. We need leadership to begin working on fixing problems that we know exist."

Despite spending millions of dollars on rehabilitation projects in recent decades, Florida resource managers have been unable to restore Lake Apopka's bass fishery to what it once was. Sadly, it seems, they waited too long. Let's hope  that the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay fisheries do not suffer similar fates.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Monday
Jul272015

Early Warning System Created for Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake Erie algal boom. Photo by Michigan Sea Grant

Four federal agencies have joined forces to create an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems.

Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use satellites to gather color dates from freshwater bodies during scans of the Earth. They then will share the findings with state and local agencies so they can provide public health advisories when needed.

“In addition, the project will improve the understanding of the environmental causes and health effects of these cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms in the United States,” NOAA said in a press release.

NOAA added that these blooms are a global problem. “Cyanobacteria (blue-green alga)  is of particular concern because it produces toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish, or shellfish,” it said.

HABs have been on the increase since the mid 1990s, according to Michigan Sea Grant College Program. In the Great Lakes, malfunctioning septic systems, products with phosphates (dishwater detergent) and nitrogen (lawn fertilizers), and urban and agricultural runoff likely have contributed.

“Some scientists also link the increase of harmful algal blooms to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and the ability of the mussels to filter feed,” Sea Grant said. “Essentially, they eat the good algae and phytoplankton but release organisms like blue-green algae back into the water intact.”

HABs annually cost the nation about $64 million because of loss of recreational usage, additional treatment for drinking water, and decline in waterfront property values. In August 2014, Toledo, Ohio, an algal bloom in Lake Erie forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to temporarily ban consumption of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.

The new collaborative network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study microscopic algal communities in the ocean, which play a role in climate change, ocean ecology, and the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean.

Wednesday
Jul152015

Want Even More Ethanol in Your Fuel? It Could Happen

As thousands of boat owners can attest, E10 (10 percent) has damaged or destroyed their  marine engines.

So . . . how would you feel about the EPA increasing the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation's fuel supply for 2015 and 2016? This move would require the use of a record amount of ethanol, forcing higher-level blends in more gas stations.

As if E10 (10 percent ethanol) weren't bad enough , the agency permitted E15 in 2010 to reach the total ethanol usage goal required by the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, etc. can't use E15, nor can vehicles made before 2001. Even so, E15 is now found in 24 states at the same pumps as E10.

"Millions of recreational boaters fill their boat's fuel tanks where the higher blend ethanol fuels are often the cheapest fuel at the pump," says BoatU.S. "The only warning you may have is one sticker mixed in with all the other warning labels on the pump. This creates a huge potential for misfueling and puts boaters at risk of using fuel that will damage their engines."

If you want to tell EPA how you feel about its proposal to force even more ethanol  into our fuel, go to this BoatU.S. site.