Congressional bill might threaten nationwide water quality if passed, EPA says

MU journalism grad student’s Tim Wall’s article reblogged from Discovery News:

The Missouri River could be affected by pollutants in upriver states, if the Environmental Protection Agency is barred from upgrading water quality standards.

Go fishing. Go for a float trip. Drink a big glass of water.

Enjoy America’s water now, because a bi-partisan bill quickly making it’s way through congress will cut big holes in the safety net that protects our water, said the Environmental Protection Agency. But lawmakers said the reduction in restrictions fosters the growth of industry and increases states’ autonomy.

The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018, was introduced in late May by John L. Mica (R-FL) with Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Gibbs (R-OH) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) as key legislators who co-sponsored the bill.

It recently passed the House [note: Blaine Luetkemeyer, who represents Missouri’s 9th Congressional District — including Columbia — voted among the “yeas”] and will be moving on to the Senate. The Act limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce national water quality standards. The bill passed through mark-up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday with only minor addendums.

According to the House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s website:

H.R. 2018 provides common sense protections for states’ EPA-approved water quality standards and permitting authority under the CWA [Clean Water Act]. Without these protections, state regulation, as approved by EPA, can still be usurped by the agency at every turn, creating a climate for regulatory uncertainty and endless delays.

  • State Water Quality Standards: Restricts EPA’s ability to issue a revised or new water quality standard for a pollutant whenever a state has adopted – and EPA has already approved – a standard, unless the state concurs.
  • State Section 401 Water Quality Certification: Prohibits EPA from superseding a water quality certification (that a discharge will comply with applicable water quality requirements) granted by a state under CWA section 401.
  • Approval of State NPDES Permit Program Authority: Prohibits EPA from withdrawing approval of a state water quality permitting program under CWA section 402 (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES), or from limiting federal financial assistance for the state program, on the basis that EPA disagrees with the state regarding a (i) water quality standard that a state has adopted and EPA has approved, or (ii) the implementation of any federal guidance that directs a re-interpretation of the state’s approved water quality standards.
  • EPA Veto Authority over State NPDES Permitting Decisions: Prohibits EPA from objecting to a state’s issuance of an NPDES permit on the basis of (i) EPA’s differing interpretation of an approved state water quality standard, or (ii) the implementation of any federal guidance that directs a re-interpretation of the state’s approved water quality standards.
Bloomberg reports supporters said limits on the EPA would give farmers, coal companies and other businesses that discharge pollutants into waterways greater certainty that standards won’t be changed.

The Natural Resources Defense Council summarized H.R. 2018 using different wording:

  • Limits EPA’s ability to effectively implement or make necessary improvements to state water quality standards to deal with modern pollution challenges.
  • Prevents EPA from improving numeric criteria for pollutants that have led to dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Restricts EPA from upgrading standards for toxic pollutants where narrative standards only provide very limited protection (a common example being state standards that prohibit the “discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts”).
  • Prevents EPA from vetoing state-issued Clean Water Act permits even if EPA concludes those permits are not protective of water quality.
  • Blocks EPA’s ability to withhold federal funding to states even if EPA determines the state’s implementation of water quality standards is not protective of water quality.

Read more on Discovery News…

And more from Bloomberg news.

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Can you recycle bioplastic?

Evidence of some compost degradation from an Earth911 experiment with compostable Sun Chips bags. Does the same hold true for other bioplastic material?

Yes? No? Maybe?

The answer, unfortunately, is complicated. Bioplastic’s central attraction is that it is derived from a renewable resource, not that it’s necessarily any easier to breakdown. So answering whether you can recycle the material all depends on what you mean by “recycle,” or how long you think recycling will take. Earth911.com just ran an ultra-helpful guide to bioplastic recycling. Here’s the gist, and for more background, visit the links at the end of the article.

Can you throw it in with other plastic and recycling and expect it to get recirculated?  Probably not, at least, not in Columbia. Our city recycling facility can only manage #1 (polyethylene terephthalate) and #2 (high density polyethelyne) plastics. Anything else would contaminate it. But wait! Don’t throw that cup out; there are other options.

Can you compost bioplastic? Again, it’s complicated. Since bioplastics are derived from biological matter, technically it will decompose. However, many “compostable” materials will only break down in a commercial facility. Unfortunately, people may interpret the label as “throw this out the window on the highway and it will become soil.” You’ll definitely need to do more than throw packaging on the ground and expect it to disintegrate.

Learn more:

Summer: great for eating and reading about food

Dr. Roth also teaches American folklore and film studies, with an emphasis on food's role in culture.

This list of summer sustainability recommendations comes from Dr. LuAnne Roth, who serves as the education coordinator for Mizzou Advantage, which has sustainability initiatives including one called “Food for the Future.”  She says she has been gathering book recommendations in hopes of someday having a Mizzou Advantage component of Mizzou Reads. Of course, it’s not too early to start in on some of these food and community-centered titles.

Upcoming Event: “The Secret Life of Sturgeon” 6/12

This sturgeon's looking pre-ty pallid . . .

On Tuesday, July 12 at 7:00 p.m. US Geological Survey biologist Emily Pherigo will take a look beneath the muddy water of the Missouri River at the discoveries that have been made about the life cycle, migration and spawning of the pallid sturgeon. The FREE presentation will be held in the lower level of the beautiful Les Bourgeois Bistro in Rocheport, MO, overlooking the Overton Bottom Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.

Called “The Secret Life of Sturgeon”, the presentation is part of the “Big Muddy Speaker Series”, a monthly series of  talks about the Missouri River hosted by a partnership of Missouri River Relief, Friends of Big Muddy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge and Les Bourgeois Vineyards.

Continue reading Upcoming Event: “The Secret Life of Sturgeon” 6/12

To sell or not to sell? The veggie question that vexes CoMo

Residential produce sales not allowed in Columbia despite nationwide trend” from the Columbia Missourian by Kevin Petersen

“It is the convergence of the want for access to fresh, flavorful food, people with the skill set to produce for their neighborhoods, a response to crisis situations, like in Detroit and Cleveland, and the permeated culture of locally grown food,” [Mary] Hendrickson said. “We’re not in a crisis situation, but we have some of the same things in Columbia.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission requested that City Council authorize an amendment that would legalize the sale of produce grown on-site from properties in office zoning.