- The EPA proposes elevating PFAS and greenhouse gas emissions as enforcement priorities for the next four years.
- NOAA proposes a National Marine Sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario.
- EPA researchers want a better understanding of the economic benefits of improved water quality.
- A USDA agency will assess the environmental impacts of responding to an avian influenza outbreak.
And lastly, the federal government increases assistance to California’s flood emergency.
“We have to be prepared for this increase in the number of weather events and severe weather events that we’re seeing.” — Deanne Criswell, the administrator of FEMA, speaking with reporters en route to California to view the damage from the series of atmospheric rivers that hit the state this month. The Biden administration increased federal assistance to remove debris, protect public health and safety, and prevent property damage. FEMA will cover 100 percent of these costs for 60 days from the start of the incident, up from 75 percent.
By the Numbers
6th: Warmest year on record, in 2022, according to NOAA scientists. This in a period of record that extends to 1880. Other science agencies ranked last year as the fifth warmest.
The EPA proposes elevating PFAS and greenhouse gas emissions as enforcement priorities over the next four years, beginning in 2024.
Those focus areas would join a priority list that includes waste discharges and drinking water violations.
The agency revises its priority list every four years. The list reflects guiding principles of responding to climate change and pursuing environmental justice.
Studies and Reports
A U.S. Department of Agriculture agency will assess potential environmental impacts from responding to outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States.
There are potential impacts to water quality from killing and disposing of infected birds. Since being detected in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana last February, the virus has been confirmed in 46 states.
Public comments on the scope of the assessment are being accepted through February 17. Submit them via www.reguations.gov using docket number APHIS-2022-0055.
On the Radar
Challenges to the Waters of the United States Rule
The revised rule that determines which water bodies are regulated by the Clean Water Act was published on January 18 in the Federal Register. Texas immediately challenged the rule in court.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee published an outline of its aims as Republicans take control.
The document calls the rule “flawed policy and a substantial regulatory overreach” and says that all options are on the table for blunting its power — including the Congressional Review Act, legislation, and appropriations.
Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary
NOAA is proposing a national marine sanctuary that would cover more than 1,700 square miles of eastern Lake Ontario.
The designation is due to the region’s cultural and historical significance as the resting place for at least 43 shipwrecks.
Assessing the Economic Benefits of Clean Water
EPA researchers are requesting permission to carry out a survey to improve understanding of the economic benefits of water quality improvements. Often these benefits are not part of market transactions, which makes them more difficult to evaluate.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton