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Our Congress at Work? By John Peterson, IECA GRC Chair: October 8, 2008 October 8, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update, Musings.
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Our Congress at Work?

 

By

 

John Peterson, Chair of Government Relations Committee

 

The House Appropriations Committee has passed just 5 of 12 spending bills.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed 9 of the 12 bills.  Only the Military/Veterans Bill has passed the full House by floor vote.  All 12 bills are supposed to be passed by the end of the fiscal year, September 30th.  That will not happen again this year.

 

Since no more bills were sent to the President by October 1st, there will be another Continuing Resolution (CR).  The current CR runs until 3/6/09, and then we will likely see an Omnibus spending Bill.  I also dislike Omnibus Bills.  They are so large no-one really knows what has been included in them, including those voting on them.  The recent bailout money will likely be found by rescissions in discretionary and mandatory programs, not entitlements, which is not good.

 

I do not want to see a CR for the full fiscal year.  This would allow OMB to dictate how the federal funding is spent, rather than Congress.  That should be the role of Congress, NOT OMB.

 

The President’s budget proposed $4,741,000,000 for civil works, $130,000,000 less than last year.  Even though the House had $5.333 billion and the Senate had $5.300 billion, more funding than the President proposed, they are both approximately $300,000,000 less than what was appropriated last fiscal year.  These programs provide many jobs, something needed at this time.

 

A comparison of funding for the NRCS conservation programs is shown below.  I am thankful that both the House and senate have major increases for some programs.  While the Farm Bill programs are important, so are the traditional NRCS programs that provide technical assistance for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.  It seems the Administration is trying to eliminate the most effective delivery system ever developed for getting conservation on the land.  This is the same approach this and many previous Administrations have taken with the Watershed Program.  Sad.

 

 

Natural Resources Conservation Service Funding (NRCS)

FY08 Appropriations ($000)

 

 

Program                                  FY06 Approp.    Pres. Budget    House Markup    Senate Markup

 

Conservation Operations       840,326                   794,773                   None*                866,899

 

Watershed & Flood Prev. Opns.  30,000              190,000                   None                   29,790

 

Watershed Rehabilitation              20,000                65,000                   None                  20,000

 

Watershed Surveys & Planning          0                      0                        None                    0

 

Resource Cons. & Development     51,088                0                        None                  50,730

 

Healthy Forest Reserve Program           2,000            0                       None                   1,986

 

*  The House has not completed a markup as of this time.

New Jersey Department of Transportation Proposes to Readopt Rules on Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards September 23, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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The New Jersey Department of Transportation is proposing to readopt with amendments N.J.A.C. 16:50, the rules governing the Department’s regulations on Soil Erosion and Sediment Standards. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:24-39 et seq., the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act, the rules establish the Department’s soil erosion and sediment control standards. Construction projects are required by the Act to conform to standards established by, and contained in, the rules of the State Soil Conservation Committee.

However, the Department’s construction projects require specific standards more particularly adapted to roadway construction. The Department certifies soil erosion and sediment control plans in conformance with vegetative and engineering standards developed jointly by the State Soil Conservation Committee and the Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Transportation. These standards are contained in a manual entitled “Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards.” A copy of these standards are available for review here. By using these standards as the technical basis for the Department’s certification, the Department ensures that the appropriate standards are included, and used, in each Department of Transportation construction project, and that proper steps are being taken to protect the environment from the effects of soil erosion and sedimentation. The proposed amendments correct erroneous titles and dates, add contact information and update the Standards table.

The proposed rule appears in the August 18, 2008 issue of the New Jersey Register. The public has until October 17, 2008 to comment on the proposal.

Please click here for the full story and details on how to provide your comments: http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/about/press/2008/082108.shtm

Source: State of NJ Dept. of Transportation press release, Aug. 21, 2008

Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) agrees to pay $325,000 for Stormwater Violations July 9, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has agreed to pay $325,000 in stipulated penalties for numerous violations of a Clean Water Act (CWA) Consent Decree, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

The 2006 Consent Decree was the result of CWA violations by ITD and its contractor from 2001 to 2003, committed during the “Mica to Bellgrove” Highway 95 realignment project in northern Idaho. In that case, EPA fined ITD and its contractor a total of $895,000 for numerous storm water management problems and resulting discharges that harmed the Mica Creek watershed and violated the terms of EPA’s national Construction General Permit.

“The provisions spelled-out in the Consent Decree were meant to correct the fundamental, systemic problems that led to our initial case,” said Elin Miller, EPA’s Regional Administrator in Seattle. “The Construction General Permit for storm water is a key tool to preventing water pollution and protecting Idaho’s lakes, rivers and streams from polluted construction site runoff.”

Under the existing Consent Decree, ITD is required to provide storm water training to its personnel, implement new self-inspection protocols, improve communication with its contractors and submit an annual report to EPA detailing its compliance. In its first annual report submitted in 2007, ITD disclosed a large number of violations from 2006.

The additional penalties are largely related to failure by ITD and its contractors to train environmental personnel in a timely way, failure to conduct self-inspections as required, and failure to document compliance with storm water requirements.

ITD claims it has recently taken corrective actions to try to prevent a repeat of the violations.

Source: EPA press release, July 5, 2008

Congress gives $4 billion to conservation and technical assistance May 23, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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On Thursday, May 22nd , Congress passed the Farm Bill overriding a Presidential Veto signed just days before.  Acting quickly, the Senate passed the bill with an 82-13 bi-partisan vote.  In a recent Press Release, the National Association of Conservation District (NACD) President, John Redding, stated the bill includes significant funds for locally based conservation programs and “… also includes important provisions on technical assistance and additional opportunities for technical service providers”

 

Read the full story at NACD Press Release

 

Source:  National Association of Conservation Districts

 

Proposed EPA 2008 Construction General Permit May 19, 2008

Posted by ieca in Call to Action, Legislative Update.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a proposed 2008 Construction General Permit (CGP) for public comment. Because EPA is also in the process of developing a national regulation, called an Effluent Limitations Guideline for the Construction and Development Industry, the Agency is proposing to issue this 2008 CGP for a period of two years using the same terms and conditions as the 2003 CGP (which expires on July 1, 2008). Upon completion of the Effluent Guideline, the Agency will develop and issue a new (and improved) CGP that incorporates the provisions of the Effluent Guideline as soon as possible and not later than July 2010.

EPA is the permitting authority in five states and most territories and Indian Country lands.

This proposed permit is available for public comment for 30 days. To find the proposed permit, information on submitting comments, and more information on the relationship of this permit to the Effluent Guideline, please visit www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/cgp

Source: EPA Media Release

New Wetlands Mitigation Rule April 3, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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Based on recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC), the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have issued new standards regarding wetland mitigation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, the changes will “promote no net loss of wetlands” and the agency has issued several resources to help promote understanding of the rule change.

Read more at the EPA website

Surveying the cost of the Clean Water Act January 25, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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How much does it cost to implement the Clean Water Act?  Approximately $202.5 billion, according to a US Environmental Protection Agency report in 2004.  Cost estimates are updated every four years by the agency as a part of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey Report to Congress (CWNS).  The survey is an assessment of the capital needed to meet the goals of the Clean Water Act. (more…)

EPA fines Hunt Building Co. for Colo. stormwater pollution January 15, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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Release date: 12/27/2007

(Denver, Colo., Dec. 27, 2007) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined and Hunt Building Co. of El Paso, Tex., has paid $39,000 for stormwater violations at the Buckley Housing Project on Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo. (more…)

“EPA fines Pocatello construction site in Idaho” January 11, 2008

Posted by ieca in Legislative Update.
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In a press release dated 1/8/08, the EPA announced that it has fined several construction sites in Idaho for failure to meet federal storm water requirements.  The fines were issued during recent inspections conducted by EPA Region 10, and the penalties ranged from $4,000 to $14,000.  The inspections are a part of a multi-year plan by the EPA to assess compliance with the nationwide storm water Construction General Permit in Idaho.  (more…)

Congress approves water resources funding November 13, 2007

Posted by rachelankerholz in Legislative Update.
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Overriding a veto by President Bush, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 (H.R. 1495) on Nov. 6 and the Senate followed suit on Nov. 8. Votes in both houses significantly exceeded the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override: The House passed it by a 361-to-54 vote; the Senate by 79 to 14.

(more…)

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