(Bloomberg BNA) On August 1, President Obama signed an executive order on chemical security that aims to streamline information sharing, modernize regulations, and establish a federal working group to improve coordination between various governmental entities. The main goals of the order are improving coordination with state and local partners on risk management and emergency planning for chemical emergencies, enhancing information sharing among federal agencies, the modernization of various chemical security regulations, and stakeholder outreach to develop industry best practices.  The order calls for the formation of a working group, co-chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor, that will provide a status update within 270 days of the order.

To read this article in its entirety, visit http://www.bna.com/obama-signs-executive-n17179875652/.

(E&E News) The House’s version of a major water policy bill is slated to be marked up when Congress returns from recess in September, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced recently.  Shuster had originally hoped to mark up his bill before Congress left town but was widely believed to be waiting for guaranteed floor time before moving the measure.  The schedule announced has received the support of House leadership, the committee said in a release.

The chairman has long promised a reform-heavy measure, and to emphasize that he has added the word to the bill’s title, making it the “Water Resources Reform and Development Act” (WRRDA)

To read this article in its entirety, visit http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059985564.

EAST ALTON – The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) while aboard the Motor Vessel MISSISSIPPI August 15. The MOU designates NGRREC as a lead research partner responsible for helping shape policies established by the MRC.

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Major General John Peabody and Lewis and Clark President Dale Chapman discuss the partnership between NGRREC and the Mississippi River Commission on board the Motor Vessel MISSISSIPPI on Aug. 15. Photo by S. Paige Allen, L&C Photographer

The MRC is headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss. and provides water resources engineering direction and policy advice to the White House, Congress and the U.S. Army concerning the Mississippi River drainage basin, which covers 41 percent of the U.S. and parts of two Canadian provinces, by overseeing the planning and reporting on the improvements on the Mississippi River.

Major General John Peabody, president of the Mississippi River Commission and commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Dale Chapman, president of Lewis and Clark Community College and board chair of NGRREC, both hailed the MOU as a significant moment for all parties involved.

“By signing this historic Memorandum of Understanding, we are carrying on the tradition established by an Act of Congress in 1879, whereby the Mississippi River Commission was charged with developing plans to improve the conditions of the Mississippi River, foster navigation, promote commerce and prevent destructive floods,” Chapman said. “We are also establishing the next chapter in academic research and government policy to lead the sustainability management and development of water related resources for the nation’s benefit and the people’s well-being.”

“We have already had an incredibly deep partnership with Dr. Chapman, his board and NGRREC for years and years,” Peabody said. “Signing this Memorandum of Understanding only formalizes the way we have been cooperating. It is my honor to formalize our exemplary collaboration.”

Guests of NGRREC and MRC were transported by motor coach from the Jerry F. Costello Confluence Field Station to Lock and Dam 25 in Winfield, Mo., where they boarded the MV MISSISSIPPI, which is the largest towboat on the Mississippi River. The vessel eventually arrived in Grafton where guests disembarked.

Throughout the cruise, guests witnessed the MOU signing and heard presentations from NGRREC and MRC scientists about the important, mutual efforts taking place along the Mississippi River watershed.

Lead MRC Scientist Barb Kleiss and NGRREC Watershed Scientist John Sloan explained components of ongoing and upcoming projects on which the two organizations will collaborate, including the assessment of existing data and identification of field data collection needs.

Sloan gave an overview of the scientific collaborators from the Field Station and the University of Illinois Faculty Fellows program that comprise NGRREC’s pools of expertise. He also spoke about the educational programs at NGRREC, including the Mississippi River XChange, the Mississippi River Symposium and the RiverWatch stream monitoring program.

NGRREC Aquatic Scientist John Chick presented information on the Great Rivers Ecological Observatory Network (GREON). The network utilizes a real-time water sampling device called PISCES, which monitors water temperature, oxygen levels, conductivity, turbidity and other water quality indicators while floating in Ellis Island Bay on a GREON buoy.

“GREON demonstrates NGRREC’s ability to take advantage of new technologies and new ways of building sensors to measure water quality,” Chick said. “The new technology supplements traditional sampling. I would like to see GREON buoys in all the great rivers of the world.”

Chick said GREON improves the ability to detect trends, evaluate management actions and expand the understanding of the ecological impact water quality has on the Mississippi River. Data collected can also shed light on pressing issues such as climate change.

NGRREC Executive Director Gary Rolfe also highlighted NGRREC’s ability to conduct unique research and data collection.

“We really want to take good science and turn it into good policy,” Rolfe said. “It is our desire to transform data into information for decision makers and policy creators.”

Peabody concluded the presentations by reinforcing the importance of the partnership.

“We really need the assistance of scientists and collaboration of institutes like NGRREC,” Peabody said.

After disembarking the MV MISSISSIPPI, MRC members and guests toured NGRREC’s home, the Jerry F. Costello Confluence Field Station, which is located at One Confluence Way in East Alton.

The Field Station is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free, guided tours are given every Friday at 11:30 a.m.

The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center is a partnership of Lewis and Clark Community College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey.

For more information about NGRREC visit www.ngrrec.org.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Brownfields in California – 2013 Outlook
By: Maureen Gorsen, Partner, Alston & Bird LLP
August 2013

The status of brownfields redevelopment in California in 2013 wavers between dismal and moribund.

With the dissolution by Governor Brown of the redevelopment agencies in early 2012, California lost one of its strongest tools to clean up viable properties, including the liability relief they offered to new owners.

Furthermore, California’s budget crisis of the past five years has dried up any public funding for brownfields cleanup.  The recession and unemployment are lingering longer and deeper in California than the rest of the country, and the recent tax increase voters approved will mostly accrue to schools and education.  With the exception of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, real estate values make most brownfields redevelopment infeasible.

To make matters worse, a recent report, entitled “Golden Wasteland,” charges California Department of Toxic Substances Control, one of the principal State agencies overseeing brownfields clean ups, with a case of extreme inertia, ranging from gross inactivity to deliberate abdication of duties, among its many allegations.  It also contains accusations of excessive coziness with industry, which could put a chill on future clean ups.

There are some positive attributes to report in this bleak picture.  The regulators themselves are more responsive if a brownfields project can get off the ground.  The complex patchwork of regulatory agencies is less daunting because the agencies have settled into and accepted MOU jurisdictional boundary lines negotiated and drawn in 2005 and they are loathe to cross those boundaries.  The lenders are more comfortable with the regulatory agencies, more trusting and accepting of their “no further action” letters with less fear of “reopeners.”  Additionally, the State’s Water Resources Control Board has a new low-threat closure policy for thousands of properties that should free up development on low-risk sites with former underground storage tanks.

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Source: CA DTSC

However, these positive attributes are once again overshadowed by activities such as the State’s recently announced cost recovery effort.  In response to significant media and public scrutiny, DTSC recently identified in a self-report that it has done a very poor job of seeking cost recovery in past clean up actions.  Over $140 million in clean up costs incurred by the State were not billed to the responsible parties and another $45 million in invoiced costs were never collected.  A new financial and accounting team has been established, including a new “czar” appointed to invoice and collect the $184.5 million from private parties who have some liability for the past pollution.

Expect a bill in your local mailbox soon.

Maureen Gorsen is a Partner at Alston & Bird LLP located in Sacramento and within the firm’s Environmental & Land Use Group. Ms. Gorsen was former Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and former General Counsel of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

 

(UNEP News Centre)The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), SustainAbility and Green Light Group released a report on June 15 entitled, >GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector.  The report is based on UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5), the UN’s assessment of the state of the global environment.  The report finds broadly that extreme weather events and pressure on natural resources will result in increasing challenges and risks for business, but the changing climate also represents major opportunities for those businesses that successfully manage risks and innovate to find solutions ahead of their competitors.  The research analyzes ten different industry sectors including construction, chemicals, mining, food, and others, reporting findings specific to each sector.

To read UNEP’s full press release, visit http://bit.ly/UNEPG5Rep.

To download the full report, visit http://www.unep.org/geo/pdfs/geo5/GEO5_for_Business.pdf.

(USACE) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently announced the availability of a new video, "Securing the Nation’s Future Through Water," that emphasizes the importance of the USACE Civil Works program to the Nation, both at home and in the global economy.  In the space of just a few minutes, it highlights many of the key missions that USACE performs on a daily basis that contribute to the Nation’s economy, environment and quality of life through its water resources infrastructure.

“Securing the Nation’s Future Through Water” can be viewed and shared at http://goo.gl/Z8wIc.  A link to download a copy of the product is also available at that location, within the video’s description.

(Bloomberg) Climate change activists and advocates for greener buildings and commerce haven’t had much luck pushing carbon-capping measures on Capitol Hill, so they are turning to the private sector.  And the script is no longer “save the world”; it’s “save your income statement.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a report highlighting massive savings to be wrung out of carbon-reduction measures, from self-dimming lights to factories plastered with solar panels. In it, WWF President Carter Roberts said the target audience for the report is chief financial officers, “The profound frustration we feel is that government is not taking the kind of decisions necessary to address one of the greatest risks of our time, and so all eyes turn to the private sector.”  Corporate projects to reduce carbon provide a higher return on investment than total capital spending for roughly 80 percent of large U.S. companies, according to WWF and McKinsey, a co-author on the report.

To read this article in its entirety, visit http://buswk.co/15b9v0f.

To view the WWF report, visit http://bit.ly/WWF3PctSol.

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The Water Resources Action Project (WRAP) recently completed construction of its inaugural West Bank project.  WRAP, in partnership with Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), constructed a cistern system at the Battir Girls High School located near Bethlehem in the Village of Battir, Palestine.  The school has 120 female students in three grades.  This is WRAP’s third project in the Middle East, following successful rain harvesting installations at two schools in East Jerusalem, which have thus far collected and utilized over 180,000 liters of rainwater for toilet flushing and community gardening.  “Establishing and successfully maintaining this initial project in the West Bank is essential to fulfilling WRAP’s commitment to addressing water security issues within this region in an informed manner,” stressed WRAP’s President, Brendan McGinnis.  “Our hope is that this effort will not only become a model that may be replicated in other areas of the West Bank, but also serve as an integral part of the network of schools with similar programs that WRAP is establishing throughout Israel, Palestine, and eventually, Jordan.”

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The cistern system, an underground cement storage tank, holds rainwater collected and diverted from the roof of the school.  The rainwater is then pumped to the school’s restrooms, where it is utilized for toilet flushing.  Due to the number of children on this centralized site, toilet flushing is responsible for nearly 85% of the school’s total water usage.  The water is critical to ensuring reliable usage of clean restrooms throughout the entire school year.

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Previous WRAP projects have demonstrated that rain harvesting systems can supply upwards of 50-70% of a school’s total water needs during its nine months of operation.  With additional water availability made possible by the cistern, the school will in time also be able to implement a desired summer camp and community garden.  The school will also soon realize a reduced reliance on municipal water and the attendant costs – all critical elements to water security and stability within this increasingly arid region of the world.  The Village of Battir and surrounding area receive on average 653mm (25 inches) of annual rainfall, primarily between the months of October through April.  Thus, rainwater harvesting during this timeframe is crucial.

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The overall effort also includes a supplemental environmental curriculum overseen by FoEME’s Community Coordinator to heighten water awareness and conservation, while empowering local water resources stewardship.  Water conservation, the interconnectedness of the surrounding ecosystem, and hands-on student engagement of monitoring and reporting of rainfall, harvesting, and usage data serve as the foundation for the program.  WRAP and FoEME will also work closely with the school to ensure the system is regularly and properly maintained.  WRAP’s McGinnis added, “Working closely with our grassroots partners, Friends of the Earth Middle East and Battir’s community leadership, on every aspect of this effort will help to ensure that all involved are committed to its long-term success.”

With the installation of the cistern at Battir School and the parallel environmental curriculum, WRAP strives to not only alleviate the struggles associated with water shortages in this region, but also encourage the students and greater community to collaborate on stewarding this precious natural resource.

For additional information on WRAP, visit www.wrapdc.org or e-mail at info@wrapdc.org

In a recent blog post for Growing Blue, G. Tracy Mehan, Principal of the Cadmus Group discusses America’s water crisis.  Mr. Mehan asserts that present day interstate battles will intensify with population growth and increasing water demand.  Relief from this escalation must be sought in the form of demand–side pricing, water markets, and technological innovation.  Properly designed pricing schemes for household water bills and advancements in water filtration technologies, if pursued appropriately, are among the reasons to be optimistic about the country’s water supply in the future.

To read the report in its entirety, visit http://bit.ly/GrowingBluePost.

On May 22, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their latest report entitled, Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Observations on States’ Role, Liabilities at DOD and Hardrock Mining Sites, and Litigation Issues.

The report summarizes past work GAO has conducted on the role of states in cleaning up hazardous waste sites, Department of Defense (DOD) sites on the National Priority List (NPL), federal liability from contaminated hardrock mining sites, and litigation under CERCLA.  GAO reviews past recommendations made to DoD, EPA, and the Department of the Interior regarding these issues, as well as agency response to the recommendations.

To read this article in its entirety, visit http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-633T.