Posts Tagged ‘clean water land and legacy amendment’

EPA slows down air pollution rules

December 13, 2010

Obama administration delays air regulations
The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.

The move to delay the rules, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.

 Now, the agency says, it needs until July 2011 to further analyze scientific and health studies of the smog rules and until April 2012 on the boiler regulation. Mr. Obama, having just cut a painful deal with Republicans intended to stimulate the economy, can ill afford to be seen as simultaneously throttling the fragile recovery by imposing a sheaf of expensive new environmental regulations that critics say will cost jobs.

 The delays represent a marked departure from the first two years of the Obama presidency, when the E.P.A. moved quickly to reverse one Bush environmental policy after another. Administration officials now face the question of whether in their zeal to undo the Bush agenda they reached too far and provoked an unmanageable political backlash.
–The New York Times

Invasive Oriental bittersweet strangles trees
A new invasive plant called Oriental bittersweet has made its way into Minnesota this year. Infestations have been found in the Twin Cities metro area, as well as in southeastern Minnesota, near Winona.

 The Oriental bittersweet looks much like its cousin, the American bittersweet. Both plants have a bright red fruit that prompts people to collect it this time of year for use in wreaths and other holiday decorations.

But the Oriental bittersweet is bad news for forest areas.

Monika Chandler, an invasive species coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says what makes the Oriental bittersweet such a threat is its vines. They can wrap around trees and strangle them. They also dominate the forest canopy.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Florida challenges new EPA rules
Florida sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking to block new clean water regulations opposed by business and agriculture interests as well as some municipal utilities.

 The federal lawsuit alleges the rules, which apply only to Florida, are unfair, arbitrary and lack scientific support. Florida is the first state where EPA has imposed such regulations although 13 others have adopted similar rules of their own.

 “They’re picking on Florida,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “I’ve heard nobody in EPA say ‘We’re going to go after Georgia next.’ … We’re happy we’re the focus of some attention, but this is a little bit more than we think we’re justified to have – in fact, a whole lot more.” 

McCollum said he expects similar lawsuits will be filed by local government agencies and private entities.

The regulations are required by EPA’s settlement of an earlier federal lawsuit that five environmental groups filed in Tallahassee.
–The Associated Press 

Save the date: Heritage fund stakeholders forum set Jan. 6
Are you a Minnesota conservationist interested in how the state is spending new revenue from the sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008?

 If you are, you may want to attend a Jan. 6 meeting of a Dedicated Fund Working Group made up of members and representatives from a number of conservation groups. Dave Zentner of the Izaak Walton League chairs the working group. 

The meeting will be held at the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Park on the afternoon of Jan. 6, one day before the Department of Natural Resources holds its annual Roundtable at the same site.  

The agenda for the stakeholders forum has not yet been completed, and registration for the forum is not yet open. Watch this web site for the agenda and registration information as it becomes available.

 About $250 million a year is being generated by the tax increase. One-third of that is designated to protect, enhance and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. One-third is designated to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife. 

Road salt pollutes Ohio wells
The road salt that cities and businesses stockpile to melt ice along sidewalks and treat Ohio’s roads and highways is increasingly polluting drinking water, according to state environmental regulators.

 Since 2009, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has found rainwater runoff from road-salt piles fouling public and private wells in five Ohio communities. Though not considered a health threat, the salty taste of drinking water grew so bad that the village of Camden in Preble County had to abandon its wells.

“After you get to a certain level, you can certainly tell there is a change in the taste,” said Melissa Williams, the Preble County health commissioner. “It will corrode your plumbing fixtures, also.”

The issue has Ohio EPA officials dealing with a new type of pollution that’s not specifically covered by environmental law.
–The Columbus Dispatch

 Bugs, beetles, borers threaten U.S. forests
Call them America’s most wanted critters: the emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle, the Asian gypsy moth. After arriving via wooden shipping pallets or crates, this insatiable trio has munched its way through millions of trees over the past 20 years, costing state, local and federal agencies tens of billions of dollars for eradication, quarantine, and tree removal and replacement.

 Emerald ash borers – named for their habit of drilling through bark – have crawled into 15 states and two Canadian provinces since surfacing near Detroit in 2002, arriving in Tennessee this summer. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state natural resources departments have rolled out campaigns urging the public to look out for the bug and to use only local sources of firewood. 

These high-profile offenders are among friends. From 1860 to 2006, at least 455 tree-loving insect species arrived on American shores, as did 16 damaging tree diseases, say the authors of a report in the December issue of the journal BioScience. Despite regulations designed to stymie the six-legged hoard, two to three new invasive insect species set up shop in the United States each year.
–The Washington Post

 DNR completes Leech Lake management plan
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has finalized a five-year management plan that aims to sustain Leech Lake as one of Minnesota’s top fishing destinations.

The plan outlines fisheries management objectives for 2011 through 2015. Minnesota’s third-largest lake, Leech Lake’s 112,000 acres offer year-round angling opportunities for walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch and largemouth bass. 

“This document was developed by combining fisheries science with extensive public input,” said Dirk Peterson, fisheries management section chief for the DNR. “From habitat protection to stocking to continued support for cormorant control, Leech Lake’s management plan clearly details our approach to sport fish species and habitat during the next five years.”
–Minnesota DNR

N.Y. gov imposes ‘fracking’ moratorium
On the surface, it looked as if Gov. David A. Paterson threaded the needle when he addressed one of the most far-reaching environmental and economic issues facing New York: the future of natural gas drilling upstate.

 Mr. Paterson vetoed legislation that would have placed a moratorium on drilling that uses a technique called hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting millions of gallons of chemically treated water underground to crush shale and release the gas inside. Instead, he issued an executive order instituting a longer moratorium that extended until July 1, 2011, but that more narrowly defined the types of drilling to be restricted.

In apparent contradiction of the laws of physics, both the gas industry and the environmentalists seemed pleased.
–The New York Times

Edina approve trail by creek
The Edina City Council has unanimously approved a creek-based route for a Three Rivers Park District walking and biking trail that eventually will run from Hopkins to the Minnesota River in Bloomington.

 The vote followed more than three hours of public testimony and council discussion on the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail, which has been one of the most contentious issues the city has dealt with in recent years.

 Opposition from residents whose backyards would be adjacent to the trail led to petition drives and anti-trail web pages; 243 residences next to the creek would be affected. The trail would be an average of 175 feet from those homes.

 But the roughly 8-mile Edina portion of the trail would be built almost exclusively on public right-of-way already owned by the city.
–The Star Tribune

 Gas driller accused of polluting wells
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that oil and natural-gas producer Range Resources Corp. has contaminated a pair of drinking wells in North Texas’s Barnett Shale, one of the richest natural-gas reservoirs in the U.S.

Two families living near natural-gas-producing wells owned by Range outside Fort Worth complained to federal regulators about “flammable and bubbling drinking water coming out of their tap”

beginning in late August. EPA testing has identified “extremely high levels” of natural gas in the water, the agency said. The water wells are located in the Trinity Aquifer, which underlies 20 Texas counties, the agency said in a court filing.

 Regulators said the concentration of natural gas “posed an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.” The government also identified other contaminants, including the carcinogen benzene, in the water and has asked a nearby rural water-system operator to test its supplies.
–The Wall Street Journal

Melting glaciers imperil Mount Rainier road
The greatest threat to the busiest road in Mount Rainier National Park is the mountain itself.

Receding glaciers, loose rocks and boulders, glacial outbursts and debris flows could combine to cut off Nisqually-Paradise Road. Half the 1.2 million people who typically visit the park each year travel that roadway.

 Yet the threat is not limited to the 18-mile road.

 Nearly every major roadway in the park – including Westside Road, Stevens Canyon Road, state Route 123, state Route 410 and Carbon River Road – is threatened.

 Portions of the Carbon River and Westside roads have been closed because of flooding. Stevens Canyon and state Route 123 are susceptible to landslides. State Route 410 could be flooded should the White River jump its banks.

 “It’s almost historically unprecedented the conditions Mount Rainier (National Park) has to manage in terms of access,” said Paul Kennard, the park’s geomorphologist.
–The Tacoma News Tribune

Merriam calls for ‘cultural shift’ on water

January 25, 2010

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Merriam calls for ‘cultural shift’ on water 
Most Minnesotans no longer think it is OK to smoke in the office or in other places where their secondhand smoke will affect non-smokers. And most Minnesotans now accept the minor inconvenience of buckling up their seatbelts as a small price to pay for the safety the belts provide.

In a commentary published by Minnpost.com, an on-line news source, Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam reflects on the “cultural shift” he says has occurred in recent decades in the way people view smoking and seatbelt use.

Merriam says he and the Freshwater Society are working to bring about a similar cultural shift in attitudes toward water protection and conservation.

 He concludes that – as with smoking restrictions and requirements for seatbelt use – we eventually will need more government regulation to enforce that protection and conservation of water resources. 

MPCA won’t renew controversial dairy’s permit
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says it won’t re-issue a permit for the Excel Dairy farm in northwestern Minnesota, in effect shutting it down, but that doesn’t mean the foul-smelling and overflowing manure pits will be cleaned up anytime soon.

 The state has been unable to get the farm, near Thief River Falls, to obey state law, for three years. Excel Dairy has been in violation of state law almost from the moment it opened in 2005.

The operators had more cows in the barn than they should have, they built a feed pad without permission, and they tried methods of treating manure that weren’t approved. They also ignored orders to repair and empty manure ponds and failed to cover manure ponds that can hold 33 million gallons of manure.

Neighbors for more than a mile around have been enduring extremely high levels of hydrogen sulfide. That’s the rotten egg smell no one likes to encounter.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Wisconsin approves dairy expansion
A Wisconsin dairy farm has been given permission to double its herd despite environmentalists’ concerns that manure might poison groundwater supplies.

The Department of Natural Resources approved a permit by Fon du Lac County’s Rosendale Dairy to expand its herd from 4,000 to 8,000 cows, making it Wisconsin’s largest dairy operation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Rosendale told the newspaper the expansion represents an investment of more than $70 million.

But an attorney for the environmental group Clean Wisconsin sees the approval of Rosendale’s expansion as a step toward more large dairy farms, the Journal Sentinel said.
–United Press International

 Amendment money not raided for deficit, group says
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature kept faith with voters last year when they approved the first round of conservation funding under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, a review by a key conservation group says.

 In a report, Conservation Minnesota said Pawlenty and legislators followed a constitutional requirement that amendment funds raised by a sales-tax increase not be used as a substitute for general-fund spending.

 The amendment approved by voters in 2008 said, in part, that “money under this section must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute.”

 Still, with the governor and lawmakers looking to solve a projected $4.6 billion budget deficit last session, environmental and outdoors interests feared they might disproportionately cut spending for such places as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the state Department of Natural Resources. 

The report, however, said cuts to general-fund spending at the MPCA and the DNR were “roughly proportionate to those of the overall state budget.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Ramsey looks to soil to save water
Quality dirt has become a consuming issue in Ramsey in recent years. It’s drawn the attention of city commissions, staff and elected leaders, who have mulled over what kind of topsoil to require in new developments. The goal?  To save water by reducing the need for lawn and garden irrigation on lots where new homes or buildings go up.

 Black dirt containing organic material holds water so that it doesn’t drain as quickly through Ramsey’s sandy soil, which is part of the underlying Anoka Sand Plain. The city erected a new water tower last year and doesn’t want to build another anytime soon.
— The Star Tribune

Last decade sets warmth record, NASA says
The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show.

The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.

James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles. “When we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that variability,” said Dr. Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, “we find global warming is continuing unabated.”
–The New York Times

U.N. climate change panel admits error
For many Indians, the most powerful and urgent reason to battle global warming arose from a report warning that the Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035.

But that prediction was an error, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which authored the report, said.

Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time ,Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning panel, said the mistake occurred because rigorous procedures for scientific review were not followed. He promised a more robust research system in the future. 

But he said the blunder should not detract from a sense of urgency over the need for action on a crisis that threatens the entire planet. “I hope that people around the world are not going to be distracted by this error. Climate change is not only limited to what will happen to the Himalayan glaciers,” he said.
–The Washington Post 

Signs of life in the Minnesota River
The Minnesota River contains less phosphorus, a whole lot more fish, less sediment and is seeing a rebound in the otter population.

But nitrate levels haven’t improved much, if at all, mussel populations are just holding steady, and the amount of prairie land continues to dwindle.

Those are some of the conclusions in a first-ever trends report recently completed by the Water Resources Center, Minnesota State University and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Scott Kudelka of the Water Resources Center said they pulled various data and research together to get a big picture of what’s happening in the 335-mile-long river. To read the full report, click here.

–The Mankato Free Press 

Asian carp DNA found in Lake Michigan
Genetic material from the Asian carp, a voracious invasive species long feared to be nearing the Great Lakes,  has been identified for the first time at a harbor within Lake Michigan, near the Illinois-Indiana border, ecologists and federal officials said. 

A second DNA match was found in a river in Illinois within a half-mile of the lake, according to scientists at the University of Notre Dame who tested water samples and provided the results to officials. 

Experts said the most recent findings, from Calumet Harbor and the Calumet River, could mean that the carp has found its way beyond an elaborate barrier system built at the cost of millions of dollars to prevent the fish’s access to the Great Lakes and its delicate ecosystem, where it has no natural competitors and would threaten the life of native fish populations.
–The New York Times

Silverfin (a.k.a. Asian carp) coming to a store near you
Building off a state-developed marketing plan, a group of Louisiana-based companies has started a joint venture that will put Asian carp on retail shelves within weeks.

The fish are being marketed as silverfin, the name it was given in a marketing plan developed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The agency is promoting recreational and commercial applications of an invasive fish that has caused huge problems for boaters in northern states.

Rather than poisoning the fish to get rid of them like northern states have done, wildlife officials are opting to make them an appetizing meal.
–National Public Radio

Volunteers worth $8.8 million to Minnesota DNR
More than 32,000 citizens donated services valued at $8.8 million during 2009 to assist the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with a variety of projects and programs. That’s the equivalent of an extra 209 full-time staff. 

DNR managers, professionals and technicians work alongside volunteers to help manage the state’s diverse natural resources. 

“We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated Minnesotans who are willing to donate their time and talents for conservation projects,” said Renée Vail, DNR volunteer programs administrator. “We’re extremely grateful for their efforts. Many of our projects would not be possible without their help.” 

Volunteer positions can range from specialist jobs requiring extensive skill and experience to work requiring little or no previous experience.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Florida cold snap saps groundwater
An uneasy truce could be struck in the impending groundwater rift between agitated Plant City area residents whose wells have run dry and the strawberry farmers who sucked the water out of the ground to keep their crops from freezing during this month’s unusually long cold spell.

 Over the past week, about 400 small, private wells around the strawberry fields of Plant City have dried up. 

Some residents have been forced to move from their homes; others have resorted to running hoses to neighbors’ homes for drinking water. Families are showing up at fire stations for water rations. One woman has had to carry water for her horses.

 Anger is growing among some of the residents, even though strawberry farmers must pay for new wells or well repairs under their water-use permit with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

 Still, the inconvenience of living without running water is irking people, who have accused big growers of ignoring their neighbors to make a profit. Growers have said they also stand to lose money after the unusually long freeze and had no other choice but to run sprinklers all night to save their crops.
–The Tampa Tribune 

Maryland chicken farm resists testing
A month after environmental groups alleged that an Eastern Shore chicken farm was polluting a Chesapeake Bay tributary, state regulators have yet to test the fouled waterway or the pile of sewage sludge said to be contaminating it, officials have acknowledged.

Robert M. Summers, deputy secretary of the environment, said the owner of the farm near Berlin has refused to allow inspectors to take samples of the pile or of the water in a drainage ditch running through his property. Summers said the department had mailed the farmer a letter Friday and warned that the state would seek a search warrant if he did not permit sampling.

The disclosure that no testing has been done on the farm comes after a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment told reporters more than two weeks ago that inspectors had collected samples and that most of the sludge pile had been removed to a local landfill. Dawn Stoltzfus, the spokeswoman, confirmed last week that both statements were in error after the environmental groups alleged the department had given out inaccurate information.
–The Baltimore Sun

Radioactive water found at Vermont nuke plant
A day after contaminated water was found in a test well at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, company officials announced finding wastewater containing high levels of radioactivity, news outlets are reporting.

The water, reportedly about 100 gallons, was contaminated with radioactive tritium at a concentration of about 2 million picocuries per liter, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the Brattleboro Reformer. That’s about 100 times the allowable federal level for drinking water and 70 times the standard for groundwater.
–USA Today