Freshwater Weekly — April 20th, 2018

Posted on April 20, 2018 by

This week: Senate Rejects Weaker Invasive Species Standard + Lake Erie “Impaired” + Ontario Teams Up With California on Climate + Farm Bill

U.S. Senate Rejects Bill Stripping Protections Against Invasive Species  

If you participated in our letter campaign earlier this week, you have reason to celebrate! Despite pressure from the shipping industry, a bill weakening invasive species protections failed a procedural vote on Wednesday. An otherwise routine Coast Guard reauthorization bill was stymied by Great Lakes senators who refused to allow the bill to even be considered.

A rider attached to the bill would have kept states from regulating the ballast water ships carry to keep balanced—and that often provides invasive species a free ride to new homes—while limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate as well. It is estimated that between 55 to 70 percent of invasive species in the Great Lakes have arrived through ballast water. Thank you to all who contacted their Senators; you made your voices heard!

Lake Erie Impairment Designation is Good, but Lawmaker Action Still Needed to Fix the Problem

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently declared the open waters of western Lake Erie “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, marking a stark reversal by the Kasich administration after years of resistance. The impairment listing is just the beginning of a long and slow process, with success hardly guaranteed without action from state lawmakers. Ohio policy expert Adam Rissien explains what this all means in a special guest blog.

U.S. House Unveils 2018 Farm Bill, Some Cuts to Conservation Programs

The House Agriculture Committee last Thursday released the text of this year’s Farm Bill—legislation authorizing major agriculture, conservation, and food safety programs. This version of the bill overhauls the conservation title by incorporating the Conservation Stewardship Program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The former gives long-term incentives for farmers for improving conservation practices, while the latter provides financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices. The House text also increases from 24 million acres to 29 million acres the amount of land available to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program, whereby the federal government pays farmers to remove sensitive land from agricultural production to improve soil quality. While the expansion is good, this bill lowers the total payments for land rentals under the program. Of particular concern to Freshwater Future is a lack of Clean Water Act safeguards in this bill preventing pesticide application in or near water bodies without oversight.

If you’re up for the challenge, the full 641 pages of text are available here and a section by section summary prepared by the committee can be found here. As the process moves forward, we’ll be analyzing changes and updating you as the bill contents solidify.

The Lead and Copper Rule is Not a Health Based Rule  

Elin Betanzo—a water quality engineer and Lead and Copper Rule expert—took issue with a Detroit News editorial that she says repeats common misunderstandings. In a guest blog, she tells us why any blanket statement that Flint “families can drink their water without fear” is misleading without mentioning the ongoing risk of lead exposure and the need for lead-removing filters or bottled water.

Ontario and California Vow to Lead the Way on Climate Change

Premier Kathleen Wynne and California Governor Jerry Brown held a bilateral meeting in Toronto on Monday to discuss next steps in the movement to stop climate change.

Ontario and California — the two largest economies in Canada and the United States, respectively — have joined forces with Québec to lead North America in the fight to halt climate change by creating the second-largest carbon market in the world. In its first five auctions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances, Ontario raised $2.4 billion by putting a price on pollution. By law, all of these proceeds are reinvested in programs, rebates, and incentives that are helping people afford low-carbon choices. Future funds will go towards lowering transit fares; expanding high-speed rail; renovating schools, universities, colleges, and hospitals; and subsidizing home-energy renovations.

Ways to Make a Difference

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.