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Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy
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Current Developments Archive     

  • Water and Energy 
    • On Monday, January 30, 2012, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota introduced new legislation that would approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  The legislation would also require the U.S. State Department to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the state of Nebraska within 30 days to assist with rerouting a portion of the proposed pipeline around the environmentally sensitive Ogallala Aquifer in the Nebraska Sand Hills.  Sen. Hoeven hopes passage of the legislation would allow the pipeline to move forward while also providing Nebraska time to finalize a new route around the Ogallala Aquifer.  More details on the legislation can be found in The Bismark Tribune's article Sen. Kent Conrad undecided on pipeline legislation. 

     
    • On November 8, 2012, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salaazar announced the proposed U.S. Outer Continental Shelf drilling program for 2012 to 2017.  The program will include sales throughout the Gulf of Mexico and also in the Arctic.  For an overview of the proposed program, see the fact sheet released by BOEMRE here or review the entire proposal here.  
     
    • The Associated Press obtained documents on November 8, 2011 which outline the protocol BP will follow as the company ends its cleanup along the Gulf Coast.  Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Suzanne Kerver says 10 percent of the Gulf Coast fouled by the BP spill remains to be cleaned.  For more on the next phase of BP's work in the Gulf please read the Associated Press's article, Coast Guard OKs wind down of BP spill cleanupand The Guardian's article, BP to end cleanup operations in Gulf oil spill 
     
    • On March 22, 2011, the Department of the Interior issued the fourth drilling permit of the month for activities included in the deepwater moratorium to Exxon Mobil Corp.  The company will begin drilling a well about 240 miles off the coast of Louisiana.  Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Michael Bromwich explained this month's approvals have come "since the industry confirmed its capability to contain deepwater loss of well control and a blowout."  For more on Exxon's permit and industry applications to BOEMRE, see here.
     
  • The Department of Interior and the U.S. Coast Guard released a report explaining the technical details that prevented the emergency equipment in BP's Macondo oil well from closing.  The report, which was written by Det Norske Veritas, a company that specializes in assessing project risks, indicates a portion of drill pipe buckled preventing the final line of defense in the blowout preventer from sealing fully.  See E&E reporter Katie Howell's article for more information on the report  or read the full report here  
 
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Commerce have announced a notice of intent to begin restoration scoping and prepare a Gulf Spill Restoration Planning Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).  The PEIS will evaluate various types of programmatic and procedural restoration types which could be used to compensate the public for environmental and human harm caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  The agencies compiling the PEIS seek public involvement in the scoping process and comments on what should be considered in the PEIS.  For more information on this process as well as information detailing how and where you may submit your comment, please visit pages 9327-28 of  The Federal Register Volume 76, Number 33 from February 17, 2011. 
 
  • The Gulf Coast Incident Management Team released a report from its interagency Operational Science Advisory Team 2 on February 11, 2011.  The report discusses the environmental and human health risks three types of oil that remains on or near sandy beaches along the Gulf Coast pose and is intended to help oil spill responders transition to monitoring and maintenance operations.  For more information, please see the official press release on the report from RestoreTheGulf.gov
 
 
  • Regional Water News    
    • After two months of increases in water levels at monitoring wells in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Caddo Parish, decreases were seen on Friday, October 28, 2011.  For more about Caddo Parish's water worries and the public's chance to weigh in on ground water resources management see Vickie Welborn's article,"Water worries continue as state mulls new plan"  in The Shreveport Times. 
    • On October 10, 2011,  The Houston Chronicle reported A long-awaited report on Galveston Bay is being delayed after Professor John Anderson of Rice University accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of deleting references to climate change, people's impact on the environment, and sea-level rise from his scientific article.  For more on Anderson's refusal to accept changes to his article and the impact on publication of the report, The State of the Bay, please read Harvey Rice's article, Professor says state agency censored article. 
    • More than one million acres of Louisiana land have been leased for drilling in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, an oil shale beneath East and West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes.  Wells to extract minerals from the shale could begin operating within twelve months.  Read more about mineral leasing and hydraulic fracturing in Faimon A. Roberts' article, Florida Parishes see rise in leases  
    • Despite eleventh hour calls from the Louisiana governor's office asking commissioners to hold their votes, the Sabine Parish River Authority approved a large-scale water sale contract with a private company, Toledo Bend Partners LP, on August 26, 2011.  The contract allows the company to pipe water from the Toledo Bend Reservoir into Texas. Read more about the negotiations, the contract, and Governor Jindal's role in approving out of state water sales in Vickie Welborn's article SRA approves Texas water sales contract   
    • As demand for water in North Texas grows, the Texas government has turned to dams and reservoirs to keep up.  The 2011 North Texas water plan contains four new major reservoirs.  Read more about the demand for dams and water in Texas and the creation of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge in Wendee Holtcamp's article, Texas' Thirst for Dams Bucks National Trend 
    • The Louisiana Office of Conservation is reaching out again for comments on the proposed amendment to LAC 56:Part I.  The Office of Conservation began the amendment process in September 2010.  After receipt of public comments on Title 56, the Office of Conservation drafted proposed rules, on the wording of which they now seek public comment.  Comments must be delivered to the Office of Conservation by 4:30pm, May 20, 2011.  The proposed rule amendments can be found here.  The Potpourri Notice from April 2011 can be found on page 1313 here.   
    • Though the 11th Circuit has yet to issue a ruling on the appeal of the In re Tri-State Litigation (see post below), efforts to secure municipal supply for counties in Northern Georgia from Lake Lanier continue.  Last week the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners passed a non-binding resolution to plead with Congress to raise Lake Lanier's full pool level two feet and ensure it remains a water supply for 173,511 local residents.  For more on the Forsyth County resolution, please read Aldo Nahed's article: Commissioners ask to raise Lanier level
  • The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a study on the hydrology of the Biscayne aquifer in Southeastern Florida.  The study, which was deemed necessary to prevent urban flooding as Everglades restoration goes forward, can be found here. For a map of the Biscayne aquifer, click here.   
 
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2011 the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources/Office of Conservation announced: "The Louisiana Office of Conservation has completed the amendment process on the limited issue of making the numerous typographical changes to LAC 56:I. Chapeters 1-7 which were necessary due to the implementation of Act 437 of the 2009 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature in which responsibilities relating to water well drillers were consolidated in the Department of Natural Resources.  Additionally, this amendment amends the provision of LAC 56:I. Sections 117 and 119 to re-define the phrase, "as accurately as possible," to include providing specific latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates in addition to a general hand drawn location on the water well registration forms.  This provision of the rule amendment is effective June 1, 2011.  Beginning June 1, 2011, any registration form not containing the required coordinates will be deemed incomplete.  Registration forms will be updated and made available for use by drillers to comply with the regulatory amendment."  The specific rule amendments are listed in the Rules section of the Louisiana Register, March 2011 edition, beginning on page 906.  You can read comments received during the amendment process here.  The LDNR/Office of Conservation also clarified this amendment does not address the nineteen issues submitted for public comment as a potpourri item and that those issues are being converted into suggested amendments.  They will be submitted for public comment as a potpourri item in the April or May editions of the Louisiana Register. 
 
  • Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has assembled a task force to find new water sources for the state.  The task force, which has $300 million in state bonds to invest in new water developments, began its six-month challenge of planning prioritization of and funding assistance for water supply projects in Georgia on March 21, 2011.  New reservoir development, water reused and even desalination projects are all under consideration, said the task force Chairman Kevin Clark.  For more information on the task force, read Chris Joyner's article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
 
  • Witnesses near Grand Isle, Louisiana began reporting sightings of a 100-mile oil slick on the water there Saturday, March 19, 2011 as well as instances of oil washing up on the beaches of Elmer's Island and Fourchon Beach.  In their initial response to reports, the U.S. Coast Guard indicated the pollution was not coming from the Deepwater Horizon spill sight and could be the result of "a tremendous amount of sediment being carried down the Mississippi River due to high water, possibly further agitated by dredging operations."  By Sunday, March 20, 2011 local officials said a well south of Grand Isle had emitted oil for four to six hours before it had been plugged.  Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners, based in Houston, took responsibility for the spill from this well and its clean up in Grand Isle and Fourchon Tuesday, March 22, 2011, said The Times-Picayune, but a section of the Gulf 100-miles long by six miles wide separate from the oil lingers.  Scientists speculate this area may not be oil at all, but a huge bloom of phytoplankton.
 
  • On March 9, 2011 a three-judge panel for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals indicated it would overturn Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson's July 2009 ruling that it was illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to meet drinking water needs in Northern Georgia.  Judge Magnuson's ruling gave Georgia, Alabama and Florida until July 2012 to discover a solution for their over twenty year dispute over the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin.  Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, a member of the 11th Circuit panel, said this deadline may constitute an injunction and Magnuson failed to weigh the potential harm that would result from his order.  Under the previous decision, should the Tri-States fail to reach an agreement, Atlanta would return its withdrawal amounts from Lake Lanier to those drawn in the mid-1970s at a time when the city had about 1.5 million people.  For more information on the 11th Circuit's future decision, see Bill Rankin's article, Court appears ready to overturn water ruling in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  
 
  • The Louisiana Office of Conservation has announced a proposal to amend LAC 43:VI:Subpart 1. Section 701.  The proposed amendment would allow well drillers to file a well registration form on behalf of owners of  domestic wells or drilling rig supply wells.  The proposed amendment is available in full in the Notice of Intent beginning on page 711.  The Office of Conservation will accept comments on the proposed amendments until 4:30pm, Monday, April 4, 2011.  
 
  • The Louisiana Ground Water Resources Commission will hold its next meeting Monday, March 14, 2011 at 11:00am at the LaBelle Room on the first floor of the LaSalle Building in Baton Rouge.  Please contact Charlotte G. Hardison of the Office of Conseration/Environmental Division at (225) 342-8244 with questions regarding the meeting.  More information on the meeting's location can be found here.  
 
 
  • National Water News
    • The Great Lakes Commission and a group representing the mayors of dozens of Great Lakes cities recently released a new study finding that the natural divide between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes can be rebuilt.  To read more about the study and the three options being offered to fill the divide see The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's article, Report says Great Lakes divide can be rebuilt 

     
    • Levi Strauss, fearing climate change will eventually lead to cotton prices so high it will put the company out of business, has recently taken a proactive stance by taking various steps to conserve water.  The company "has helped underwrite and champion a nonprofit program that teaches farmers in India, Pakistan, Brazil, and West and Central Africa the latest irrigation and rainwater-capture techniques.  It has introduced a brand featuring stone-washed denim smoothed with rocks but no water.  It is sewing tags into all of its jeans urging customers to wash less and use only cold water."  For more on steps the company is taking, read Leslie Kaufman's article in The New York Times, Stone-Washed Blues (Minus the Washed)  
     
    • An article published in The Wall Street Journal on March 31, 2011 highlights the water scarcity issues facing Arizona, California, and Nevada, who rely on Lake Mead for municipal supply.  The article explains this year's wet winter did little to raise the lake's water level, an effect that could indicate a future of extreme shortage for the 20 million people in the region that rely on the lake for their water supply.  Please read the full article here for a look at Lake Mead's past, present, and future.
     
     
    • On March 22, 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation announced an updated 2011 water supply allocation for California's Central Value Project that increased the amounts initially allocated to users in the project's service area.  California Governor Jerry Brown has also announced plans to lift the three-year official drought as a result of late winter storms that increased the volume of water stored in the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpacks.  For more information on California's recent water-related decisions, see Peter Henderson's article in Reuters: Drenched California bids adieu to drought, for now. 
     
     
    • The U.S. Geological Survey released data on the distribution patterns of pharmaceuticals, including endocrine active chemicals, in wastewater-treatment plant effluent discharged to Minnesota streams.  The study also includes data for surface water, bed sediment, and biological characteristics of the selected streams and can be found here.  The U.S. Geological Survey also assessed the potential hydrological effects of pumping groundwater from the Snake and Spring Valleys.  These regions in Nevada and Utah are those which the Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to use to supply water to Las Vegas and its surrounding area.  The report on these effects can be read here. For more details on the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plans, please read their conceptual plan of development for the Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine counties groundwater, which was released in April 2010, here. 
     
     
    • Senators in North Dakota continue to debate H.B. 1206, a proposal for a Western Area Water Supply pipeline project that would pump water from the Missouri River to Western North Dakota.  The pipeline project would be overseen by a newly created western area water supply authority, which would also have the power to enter into water supply contracts with "member, cities, water districts, and private users, such as oil and gas producers, for the sale of water for use within or outside the authority boundaries or the state."   The project, which is estimated to cost $200 to $300 million, would be financed by state guaranteed bond issuance and paid back over thirteen years using revenues from water sales to industrial producers.  For more information on the project and the issues being raised in the North Dakota legislature, see Kate Bommarito's articles in the PlainsDaily.com: Western Area Water Supply Pipeline Proposal and Debate Continues over Western Area Water Supply Pipeline. 
     
     
    • On March 22, 2011 the America's Great Waters Coalition added nine new bodies of water to its list of Great Waters.  In a letter to Congress, the Coalition underscored the importance of water resources to our nation's economic prosperity with information from recent reports that every dollar invested in Everglades restoration creates four dollars in revenue and every dollar invested in Great Lakes restoration generates at least  two dollars for the eight-states around the lakes.  For more information on the America's Great Waters Coalition and the water bodies themselves, visit the Coalition's website.  
     
     
 
  • Federal Water News    
    •  The Water Environment Federation and the Northeast Midwest Institute are hosting a briefing on new US Geological Survey findings to help direct action on excessive sediments in rivers and estuaries.  The briefing will be held on Friday, October 28 from 10:00 to 11:30am in Room 2167 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. For more information on the event, see the public invitation here.  
         
    • The continuing resolution passed April 14 to fund the government until October notably included $1.6 billion cut from the EPA and a $1.1 billion cut from the Energy Department.  Click here for more on the $38 billion cut by the continuing resolution.
         
    • The Army Corps' plan to draw a mere $758 million in 2012 from the $6 billion balance of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to dredge and maintain ports has been met with skepticism from both sides of the aisle in Congress.  To read more about the debate and the plans the Obama Administration has for the rest of those funds click here.
     

    • Chairman of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), has questioned new EPA guidance documents that clarify the definition of waters under the 1972 Clean Water Act definition so that certain wetlands and seasonal streems are subject to pollution regulation.  More on Subcommittee Chairman Gibbs' letter can be found here.
    • The Stop Asian Carp Act, introduced in the House by Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), would require the Army Corps of Engineers to investigate separating the watersheds of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.  In the early 20th century a canal was built that joined the two water systems and reversed the flow of the Chicago River.  Legislators are advocating for the bill as a means to keep out invasive species, Asian Carp among them.  Read the full House Bill 892 here, or the companion bill introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D.-Mich.) here.  For more information on the efforts to keep Asian Carp from infesting the $7 billion fishery in the Great Lakes, see Andrew Stern's article in Reuters: Great Lakes barrier may be too weak to stop carp. 
     
 
 
  • Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, indicated she would expedite a bill introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter through committee on March 16, 2011.  The bill, which has also received support from President Obama, would give 80 percent of the fines levied from BP for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill directly to the Gulf Coast States.  For more details on the bill and the opinions expressed by The National Oil Spill Commission Chairmen, see Bruce Alpert's article in The Times-Picayune. 
 
 
 
  •  President Obama's budget request for fiscal 2012 would cut EPA funding 12.6 percent to $9 billion, down from the $10.3 billion the agency received for fiscal 2010 and the first five months of fiscal 2011.  For more information on how the President's budget would allocate funding for each of the EPA's many programs and responsibilities see Gabriel Nelson and Jean Chemnick's article EPA Budget Proposal Focuses on Air and Climate Rules, Cuts Water Grants on the New York Times website.  The full text of President Obama's 2012 budget request is available on the White House's website.  The White House has also provided a visual representation of where tax dollars will go under the President's budget in their interactive budget graphic. 
 

 

 



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