Last week, water experts marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act with a dire warning: After evaluating over 700,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country, they concluded that half of those waters are too polluted to fish or swim in—and agriculture is often to blame.(No paywall)
The president of the largest U.S. farm group called for members to bring the "same energy and devotion when it comes to WOTUS" that they used last year to preserve a tax break on inherited property. President Zippy Duvall said the American Farm Bureau Federation also influenced legislation and USDA programs on climate mitigation to ensure that they "respect farmers."
Potentially toxic algae blooms, which are caused by farm runoff and urban wastewater running into streams and lakes, have cost an estimated $1.1 billion over the past decade in the United States, and that "is almost certainly a significant undercount," said a report Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group.
Decrying what it called regulatory overreach, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that it will limit enforcement of clean water laws to oceans, rivers, core tributaries, and adjacent wetlands. Environmentalists said the move would leave half of U.S. wetlands and millions of miles of streams without protection from pollution.
In a new lawsuit, environmental advocates say a Colorado beef-packing plant owned by JBS has been dumping polluted wastewater into a river for years. The suit comes as the Brazilian company is under fire for taking millions in President Trump's tariff bailout payments. (No paywall)
President Trump announced a plan to roll back Obama-era clean water regulations that aimed to protect rivers and streams from agricultural runoff and other pollutants. It will remove vast wetlands and thousands of miles of waterways from federal protection.
Tyson Poultry will pay a $2-million criminal fine for polluting a stream near its southwest Missouri plant. The pollution killed an estimated 108,000 fish.
More than 200 of Iowa’s community water systems struggle with agricultural runoff, periodically issuing “Do Not Drink” orders because of high levels of nitrates. “The good news is that researchers have a pretty good handle on how to solve Iowa’s water problem,” reports Elizabeth Royte in FERN’s latest story, with National Geographic. (No paywall)
From Vermont’s Lake Champlain to rivers in California, waterways are being overloaded with nutrient pollution running off farms. But Vermont took an approach to cleaning up its waterways that could well serve as a model for other states, especially now that the federal government is in regulatory retreat in the Trump era, writes Paul Greenberg in FERN’s latest story with Eating Well magazine.
California farmer John Duarte, the poster boy for farm groups complaining of federal over-regulation of wetlands, has high-powered supporters in Congress who are appealing for the government to drop its long-running case against him. The Republican chairmen of the House Agriculture and Judiciary committees wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions to argue that the case against Duarte is unfounded.
Art Cullen, co-owner of the Storm Lake Times, published twice a week in northwestern Iowa, won the Pulitzer Prize "for editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa." The editorials criticized county officials for letting agricultural interests dictate their response to a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works over nutrient runoff and held agriculture responsible for polluted waters.
Although President Trump has signed an executive order to roll back the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the Supreme Court decided that it will continue hearing a legal challenge of the 2015 EPA rule. Justices denied a Justice Department request to halt work on the case while the administration decides whether to rewrite or rescind the rule, said E&E News.
A U.S. district judge rejected the legal underpinnings of the Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit that sought to hold drainage districts in northwestern Iowa responsible for nutrient runoff from farms. The judge dismissed the case, ending the chances for a precedent-setting interpretation of clean-water laws. Agricultural runoff generally is exempt from the water pollution laws, but the Des Moines utility argued that the drainage districts were identifiable "point" sources of pollution and should be required to meet clean-water standards.
The Des Moines Water Works won national attention with its lawsuit to force regulation of nutrient runoff from farms. Now, the Republican-controlled Iowa House is considering a bill to dismantle the Water Works board and replace it with a regional utility, says Iowa Public Radio.
As promised by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, the administration immediately began work to replace the Waters of the United States rule that was a target of President Trump's campaign. On the same day that Trump signed an executive order to roll back WOTUS, Pruitt signed a Federal Register notice of "intention to review and rescind or revise" WOTUS.
Pacific Northwest fishing and conservation groups have filed suit against the EPA for not doing more to protect wild sockeye salmon from rising water temperatures due in large part to climate change. The lawsuit is considered to be the first against President Trump's EPA.
The new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who sued the agency 14 times while a state attorney general, told employees they will be "tethered to the statute" when writing regulations or enforcing them, with no allowance for shortcuts or stretches of authority. During a 12-minute speech to staffers during his first day on the job, Pruitt said EPA will avoid "abuses that occur sometimes," such as "using the guidance process to do regulation" and "regulation in litigation."
Completing a two-week legislative sprint by Republicans, President Trump signed a resolution that repeals a stream-protection rule issued by the Obama administration to restrict pollution near streams and require more restoration of riparian land.