News Briefs: Proposed Clean Water Act Changes Could Fast-Track Gas Pipelines

States have used the Clean Water Act's Section 401 to delay and block natural gas pipeline projects in an effort to protect drinking water sources

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed regulatory changes aimed at streamlining the approval process under the Clean Water Act’s Section 401, which some states have used to delay or block unwanted natural gas pipelines.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement at the Council of Manufacturing Associations Summer Leadership Conference. “Under President Trump, the United States has become the number one oil and gas energy producer in the world, while at the same time continuing to improve our air quality,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Meanwhile, environmental advocates argue the proposed change would weaken the ability of states and tribes to protect water sources. “This proposed rule change would hobble the most important tool that states have to protect significant waters, from prized trout streams to essential drinking water sources,” Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, tells Inside Climate News.

Maryland Pumping Station Failure Causes 5 Million-Gallon Wastewater Spill

Crews from Maryland’s Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) worked Aug. 9 to combat an SSO at a pumping station in southern Prince George’s County. During the 12 hours the overflow was active, it’s estimated 5.2 million gallons of untreated wastewater spilled into Broad Creek.

Since then, utility workers have been cleaning the area and posting signs to warn residents to avoid nearby waters.

Officials are saying the likely cause of the SSO was a failed pipe around 30 feet below the station.

USDA to Invest $135 Million Into Rural Water Infrastructure

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe recently announced that the department is investing $135 million in 49 projects to improve rural water infrastructure in 24 states.

“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to partner with rural communities to address their current and long-term water needs,” Rupe says. “Modernizing water infrastructure will yield key health benefits and help spur economic growth, making rural places even more attractive to live and work.”

The USDA is making the investments through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Rural cities and towns, water districts, and other eligible entities can use the funds for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Federal Officials Announce Long-Term Drought Resilience Plan

Senior federal officials recently participated in the Second National Drought Forum where they announced Priority Actions Supporting Long-Term Drought Resilience — a document outlining key ways in which federal agencies support state, tribal and local efforts to protect the security of the food supply, the integrity of critical infrastructure, the resilience of the economy, and the health and safety of people and ecosystems.

The document was developed by the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a federal collaborative formed to promote long-term drought resilience nationwide. While authority lies with the states to manage water resources, federal agencies play a key role in supporting states, tribes, communities, agriculture, industry and the private sector owners and operators of critical national infrastructure to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from drought.



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