May 2023 Vol. 28 No. 5


Newsline: US Judge temporarily blocks Biden’s Clean Water Rule in 24 states


US Judge Temporarily Blocks Biden’s Clean Water Rule in 24 States 

A federal judge has put a temporary halt to a stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule in 24 states pending the outcome of their lawsuit seeking to block the change, 

Finalized in December, the Clean Water Act rule covering the waters of the United States, known as WOTUS, governs small streams, wetlands and other waterways nationwide. It repeals a Trump administration rule that was thrown out by federal courts. 

Opponents of the regulations, which define which “waters of the United States” are protected by the Clean Water Act, have called the rules an example of federal overreach and argued they would unfairly burden farmers and ranchers. 

U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland in Bismarck, North Dakota, halted the regulations from the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the 24 states. The regulations were finalized in December 2022, repealing a rule implemented during President Donald Trump’s administration but thrown out by federal courts. 

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the key is finding the right balance between powers given to states and the federal government. 

“This rule would harm jobs and economic growth by taking jurisdiction from states and asserting federal authority over nearly any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow only once every 100 years,” Morrisey said. 

Construction-Related Fatigue Crack Caused Keystone Spill  

Calgary-based TC Energy said it is investigating other sites along its Keystone crude oil pipeline after determining that a 14,000-barrel oil spill in late 2022 was primarily due to a progressive fatigue crack that originated during the construction.  

Keystone’s spill into a Kansas creek was discovered in late 2022 and prompted a 21-day shutdown of a portion of the 622,000-bpd pipeline, which ships crude from Alberta to U.S. refineries. TC Energy said it has recovered 98% of the spilled product from the pipeline and cleaned up 90% of the Mill Creek shoreline.  

The company said the RCFA report found the fatigue crack came from a girth weld connecting a manufactured elbow fitting to the section of pipe constructed across Mill Creek. The girth weld was completed at a fabrication factory and met applicable standards.  

During construction, the pipe segment came under “bending stresses” that initiated a crack in the girth weld and also led to a deformation in the elbow fitting and a wrinkle in the adjacent piping, TC Energy said. The design of the weld transition made the pipe in that location more susceptible to bending.  

“This resulted in the initiation of a circumferential crack in the weld, which led to failure through operations after over a decade,” the company said, noting that the RCFA findings are consistent with its own investigation released in February.  

The company said it is now investigating other sites along Keystone with similar characteristics, performing extra inspections on 300 miles (482 km) of the pipeline, and reviewing design guidelines, construction and operations.  

Mountain Valley Pipeline Loses Key Water Permit  

A company building a long-delayed natural gas pipeline has lost a key water permit after a federal appeals court ruled that West Virginia didn’t adequately assess the impact of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline across streams and wetlands. 

Siding with environmental groups, the court said April 3 the state Department of Environmental Protection’s justifications for its 2021 water quality certification were “deficient,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. 

The 303-mile pipeline — which is mostly finished — would transport natural gas drilled from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Legal battles with environmentalists have delayed completion for years. 

“It is infuriating to see the same 4th Circuit Court panel deal yet another setback for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project and once again side with activists who seem hell-bent on killing any fossil energy that will make our country energy independent and secure,” Sen. Joe Manchin said in a statement. 

Among other things, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the West Virginia agency didn’t adequately address the project’s history of water quality violations. It also said the agency used the wrong standards to support the decision that in-stream activities would meet state water quality regulations. The permit is required under the federal Clean Water Act. 

New Orleans to Store 56,000 Gallons of Stormwater in New Park 

New Orleans is turning a rundown property into a four-acre park that will be designed to collect and store 56,000 gallons of stormwater, easing pressure on the city’s decaying system of drains and pumps. 

The landscape design for Bayou St. John Green Infrastructure Project employs berms that channel rainwater into a depressed area surrounded by a 150 ft. retention wall.  Absorbent pavement and soil will soak and filter excess water, and an above-ground drain will handle overflow and help reduce flooding in the area. 

The $270,000 Bayou St. John Green is the tenth and most ambitious project the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board has completed under federal oversight of the New Orleans sewer system. The board plans to invest another $2.5 million in stormwater projects and conduct testing to determine which of its green infrastructure projects are most effective at managing runoff. 

California to Meet 100% of Water Requests for First Time Since 2006 

California will provide 100 percent of the water requested by cities and farms for the first time in years thanks to winter storms that filled reservoirs and runoff from a record snowpack, regulators announced. 

The State Water Project will provide  
full allocations to 29 water agencies supplying about 27 million customers and 750,000 acres of farmland, the Department of Water Resources said. As late as March,  
the agency was only expecting to provide 75% of requested water supplies. The last time the state agency fully met water requests was in 2006. 

Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced it was increasing water allocations for the Central Valley Project to 100% for the first time since 2017. The move was cheered by contractors who supply the federal water to the state’s agricultural heartland.  

Three years of drought had pinched off supplies drastically in California. Nearly the whole state was in drought. 

Iowa’s Water Infrastructure Rated ‘Mediocre’ by Engineering Group 

The Iowa section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2023 Report Card for Iowa’s Infrastructure, with 13 categories of infrastructure receiving an overall grade of “C.” 

The state’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure received grades of “C” and “C-” and its energy and stormwater infrastructure received grades of “C+” and “D+.” Its solid waste management, however, earned a more favorable B-.  

Iowa’s report card highlights the age of Iowa’s infrastructure and investment needed to improve and maintain systems crucial for public health and safety.  It also found that severe weather events are increasing in Iowa, and the systems that protect residents and property are aging and aren’t equipped to handle current and future rainfall trends. 

“Iowa has had the most disaster declarations due to flooding over the past 70 years of any state, and rainfall and flooding has increased by 20% in the last century. This is overwhelming infrastructure systems and decimates agricultural output,” the report said. 

The categories assessed in the report include: Aviation (C-), Bridges (D+), Dams (D), Drinking Water (C), Energy (C+), Inland Waterways (D+), Levees (C), Public Parks (C), Rail (C+), Roads (B-), Solid Waste (B-), Stormwater (D+), and Wastewater (C-). 

US Cities Awarded Nearly $200 Million in Grants for Pipeline Upgrades 

Federal officials announced the first $196 million of grants in a $1 billion program to repair and replace aging and sometimes leaking natural gas pipelines across the country. 

The Transportation Department and its Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, will get $10 million as the first grant recipient. Nineteen other communities will also get grants to help upgrade 270 miles of natural gas pipelines, although the government didn’t identify all the recipients. 

Another nearly $400 million of grants will be announced later this year. 

Several of the pipelines that will be repaired or replaced were installed decades ago, and some of them are leaking. Officials estimate that completing these repairs will help reduce methane emissions by roughly 212 metric tons a year. UI 


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