Bush Administration Seeks Budget Cuts to EPA Nonpoint Source Program; Requests No Funding for Watershed Improvements
(BNA Environment Reporter, February 8, 2008) Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified management of nonpoint water pollution sources and promoting watershed-based approaches to water quality as top priorities, it seeks to cut $16.3 million from its nonpoint source program and is not seeking money to fund watershed improvements in its fiscal year 2009 budget request. EPA has acknowledged nonpoint source water pollution to be a major water pollution source and also has identified a watershed approach to addressing those water quality problems as a high priority. However, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water has now stated that the EPA is now improving the effectiveness of the nonpoint source program through new tools and best management practices.
Leading Banks Develop Guidelines to Protect Against Climate Change Risk
(BNA Environment Reporter, February 8, 2008) Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Morgan Stanley have joined to establish "The Carbon Principles." These guidelines encourage the funding, construction, and modification of power plants in ways that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote investments in renewable energy. The banks also plan to support legislation aimed at reducing emissions and promoting carbon capture and storage. Under the new Carbon Principles, the banks will ask companies looking for power plant funding a specified set of questions to determine the companies' commitment to newer and cleaner power technologies. Answers to these questions will be used to calculate the environmental and financial risk of funding such a plant. The banks’ action is in response to previous criticism for financing coal-fired power plants. Environmental groups have advised the banks on how to improve their management of environmental risks. The banks see this new strategy as good business and a means to ensure that "future investments are not bad investments because they failed to adequately address a coming carbon dioxide regulation."
EPA Moves to Block Army Corps of Engineers Pumping Project
(Environmental News Service, February 4, 2008) EPA has moved to block a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) project, laying the groundwork for the first EPA veto of a Corps project since 1990. EPA notified the Corps that it intends to issue a "public notice of a proposed determination to restrict or prohibit the discharge of dredged or fill material at the Yazoo Backwater Area project site." The $220 million Corps flood-control project in the Mississippi Delta would build the world's largest hydraulic pump to protect a sparsely populated area dominated by soybean fields from Yazoo River flooding. In doing so, it also would drain or degrade about 67,000 acres of wetland. EPA stated that the pump would "impact aquatic ecosystems on a massive scale." EPA has authority to veto the project if it determines the project would violate the federal Clean Water Act.
Bay Area Air Quality Management District Proposes Annual Greenhouse Gas Fee
(San Jose Mercury News, February 9, 2008) The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is proposing an annual fee of 4.2 cents per metric ton of carbon dioxide on businesses. The fee would affect all businesses, including power plants, landfill, factories, and even small businesses like restaurants and bakeries. The Shell Oil Refinery in Martinez, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the Bay Area, would pay an annual fee of approximately $186,475 for its 4.4 million annual metric tons of emissions. Small businesses would pay about $10, but homeowners or motor vehicle owners would not be affected. The fee, if imposed, would be the first time that businesses would face a financial consequence for contributions to global warming. The BAAQMD could take a final vote on the proposed rule by May 2008. BAAQMD clarified that the fee would not be a carbon tax, but rather a cost-recovery fee because the revenue would be used to pay for the district's global warming reduction programs.
Department of Fish and Game Action Could Further Reduce California Water Supply
(Contra Costa Times, February 8, 2008) On February 7, 2008, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) designated the longfin smelt as a candidate for the list of threatened or endangered species, and then enacted emergency measures that gave DFG biologists new authority to cut deliveries from pumps near Tracy if they determine that doing so will prevent the delta longfin from being killed. These new regulations are in addition to the recent federal court decision protecting the endangered delta smelt by limiting water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, which will reduce deliveries to Southern California by up to 30 percent. The delta smelt ruling has already led Southern California water agencies to consider rationing and to slow development out of concerns for inadequate water supplies. Water officials have stated that the effect of DFG's decision will likely be felt in November and December when longfin smelt begin to spawn.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography Study Says Lake Mead Could Be Dry by 2021
(MSNBC, February 12, 2008) Lake Mead is a key source of water for over 22 million people living in the Southwest. However, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography study says that if warming continues and water use is not reduced, there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead could be dry by 2021. Lake Mead is fed by the Colorado River system, which has a nearly one million acre-foot of water per year deficit caused by human demand, evaporation, and human induced-climate change. The study also estimated a 10 percent chance that Lake Mead could be dry by 2014 and a 50 percent chance that reservoir levels will drop too low to allow hydroelectric power generation by 2017. The uncertainty stems from fluctuations of the Colorado River, where flows have been above average in recent months, but were below average for years.
San Diego Farmers Receive Reduced Water Supply
(National Public Radio, February 10, 2008) In response to the recent federal court decision protecting the endangered delta smelt by limiting water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to 18 million mostly urban Southern California customers, has started to cut water supplies to most agriculture customers by 30 percent. Urban customers still have unrestricted access to water. During the last major drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s, farmers received a discount on increased water rates in exchange for their acceptance to take the first cutbacks in an emergency situation.
Toll Road Proponents Appeal California Coastal Commission’s Permit Denial
(Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2008) On February 6, 2008, the California Coastal Commission voted eight to two against a proposed six-lane toll road that would run through San Onofre State Beach. However, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), the toll road's proponent, has indicated that it would not abandon its proposed toll road and has appealed the Commission’s ruling to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commission's decision can be appealed to the Secretary of the Commerce Department because San Onofre State Beach sits on leased federal land within Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. According to commission officials, there have been 13 such appeals to the Secretary of Commerce, about half of which have resulted in the commission's decision being overturned. A final decision from the Secretary of Commerce could take more than a year.
Private Loan to Upgrade San Diego Water System
(San Diego Union Tribune, February 12, 2008) The City of San Diego has secured a $150 million private loan to upgrade San Diego's water system through the end of the fiscal year. San Diego's credit rating was suspended in 2004 after the city failed to disclose the scope of its pension fund deficit and retiree health care obligations to investors. Additionally, San Diego has not yet completed an audit of its 2006 financial statements needed to restore its credit rating. The private loan can be refinanced without penalties, once the city restores its credit rating and is able to borrow at lower interest rates on the public markets. Mayor Jerry Sanders states that he hopes to access public bond markets by late spring 2008. The city has delayed making over $1 billion in upgrades to its infrastructure systems because of the higher costs associated with borrowing through private financing.
Metropolitan Water District Approves Southern California Drought Plan
(Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2008) On February 12, 2008, the Metropolitan Water District approved a contentious drought plan. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego and the Municipal Water District of Orange County voted for the plan, while the City of Long Beach and the Central Basin Municipal Water District voted against the plan and indicated they might challenge the vote in court. Drought plan opponents argue that it will ultimately "provide those who can afford to pay the steep penalties with as much water as they want, and place severe financial hardship on ratepayers who cannot afford the high price of water." If current water shortages continue, the drought plan would determine the amount of imported water that the district would deliver to its 26 member cities and districts that serve approximately 18 million people.
Southern California Wastewater Contains Hormone-Altering Chemicals After Treatment
(Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2008) A study conducted by Southern California toxicology researchers reports that Southern California sewage treatment plants are failing to remove hormones and hormone-altering chemicals from wastewater before it is discharged into the ocean. The study showed that male fish in the ocean are developing female characteristics and that other man-made contaminants such as upholstery and plastic additives also are turning up in the ocean environment. The evidence suggests that diluting pollution in the ocean may not be an effective way to dispose of these contaminants. The study is expected to raise policy debates over upgrading existing sewage treatment plant processes. Sewage treatment plants remove only 50 percent to 70 percent of the estrogen excreted from women who take birth control pills as well as excreted antidepressants, tranquilizers, and other drugs. The primary treatment method used in San Diego takes out less estrogen than the secondary treatment used in Los Angeles, but tertiary wastewater treatment could remove virtually all estrogen. Besides elevated hormone levels in the male fish, test results also found altered thyroid hormone levels and depressed cortisoid levels, indicating that the fish are vulnerable to disease.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s Budget for California’s Environment
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget includes $1.8 billion for the California Environmental Protection Agency and $13.1 billion for the California Resources Agency. Proposed funding supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean alternative fuels, improve water quality, reduce pesticide and hazardous materials risks, and encourage reuse of recyclable materials and brownfield sites.
Registration Available for the 2008 Non-Point Source Conference
The Fourth Biennial Non-Point Source (NPS) Conference will be held May 5 – 7, 2008 to showcase successful watershed-based approaches to address NPS pollution. The theme for the conference is “Integrated Watershed Management: Reducing NPS Pollution.” The conference will be aimed at showcasing how sustainability and an integrated holistic watershed perspective can be incorporated into nonpoint source problem-solving steps through local, regional, and global efforts. Examples of such planning, techniques, and implementation will be taken from state and federally funded Clean Water Act-Section 319, Proposition 13, 40, and 50 projects. The event is being coordinated by the California State Water Resources Control Board, the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the California Coastal Commission, and EPA, Region 9.
Upper Chiquita River Reservoir Draft EIR Available for Public Review
The Upper Chiquita Reservoir is a new emergency water storage facility proposed by the Santa Margarita Water District in partnership with Moulton Niguel Water District, South Coast Water District, and the cities of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Upon completion, the reservoir would provide South County water agencies with up to 266 million gallons of emergency drinking water. The Santa Margarita Water District has released a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) for this project for public review. Copies of the Draft EIR are available at the district headquarters, 26111 Antonio Parkway, and the public libraries in Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo. Interested parties may submit comments on the Draft EIR until Friday, March 28, 2008. Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
White Paper Regarding Greenhouse Gas Emissions Consideration Under CEQA Published
The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) has prepared a white paper on evaluating and addressing greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The paper was prepared in response to the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). The paper serves as a resource for local policy and decision makers to enable them to make the best decisions possible in the face of incomplete information during this period of change. The white paper as well as other links related to CEQA Guidelines and Greenhouse Gases are available online at http://www.opr.ca.gov/index.php?a=ceqa/index.html.