Introduced Bill Requires Perchlorate Disclosures

Senator Barbara Boxer, Calif., has introduced legislation in the Senate guaranteeing a community’s right to know about the use of perchlorate by companies.

The Perchlorate Community Right to Know Act would require anyone who has stored or transported more than 375 pounds of perchlorate since Jan. 1, 1950, to report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no later than June 1, 2005. It also would require anyone who discharged perchlorate into the water to report volumes, method and remedial actions to the EPA by the same date.

All fees and fines for failure to comply will be deposited into a fund for public water suppliers and private well owners to use to purchase clean water if their supply is shut down because of perchlorate contamination.

Hours-of-service Rule Revised

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the first substantial change to the hours-of-service rules since 1939.

The rules govern vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more and vehicles transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring vehicle placards.

Vehicles for well-drilling operations, oil-field operations, utility service and transporting construction materials and equipment will retain the 24-hour restart provision provided by the National Highway System Designation Act.

The 24-hour provision “permits any period of eight consecutive days to end with the beginning of an off duty period 24 or more consecutive hours, for the purpose of determining maximum driving and on-duty time.”

The new rules that were passed for vehicles with a weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more or transporting hazardous materials allow drivers to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Also, drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on-duty, following 10 hours off.

Similar to existing rules, drivers may not drive after being on-duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This cycle can be restarted when a driver takes off at least 34 consecutive hours.

Interior Department Sets Water Restrictions

Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently announced the Department of Interior has reduced the amount of water that the state of California is allowed to draw from the Colorado River.

The amount of water the state can draw has been reduced by 600,000 feet, cutting the amount of water flowing to metropolitan Los Angeles, San Diego and desert communities near Palm Springs. Farmers in the Imperial Valley, who use most of the state’s supply of the Colorado River, got their full allotment restored.

The redistribution comes after California failed to reach a deal by a December 31, 2002, deadline to wean the state from its reliance on the Colorado River.

State Bans Herbicide

The Michigan Department of Agriculture rejected a request to allow use of the herbicide Balance Pro on the state’s 2.2 million acres of corn this year.

A staff recommendation warned of the product’s potential risks. They included contamination of surface and ground water, its classification as a probable human carcinogen and the state’s inability to monitor the product’s active chemical, isoxaflutole.

Balance Pro Co. has said there is no danger to ground water and minimal concern over the chemical’s accumulation in the environment.

Balance Pro is used in 17 states and has been detected in streams in several of them, according to the U.S. EPA.

Michigan could approve the use of Balance Pro next year if the company and state are able to create a program to teach farmers how to use the product without damaging the environment. Officials also would want to see additional test results and would need to upgrade their ability to analyze the product’s environmental impact.

Water Well Drilling Enforcement Loophole

Utah House Bill 91, titled “Enforcement Procedure Amendments of Water Well Drillers,” recently passed through the State Legislature. The bill modifies the Administrative Procedures Act to exempt state agency actions, or judicial review of those actions, relating to water well driller licenses, permits, registration and construction standards from the Act.

The state engineer is charged with the general administrative responsibilities over the waters of Utah. His legislatively mandated duties include regulating well drillers’ licenses. The Utah Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) governs the state engineer’s enforcement actions against well drillers for non-compliance with Rule R655-4-4. In the rare case of a flagrant violation of the rules, the state engineer can issue an order to cease work or a “red tag” against a well driller.

The state engineer’s office recently discovered that the red tag process does not conform to the UAPA process. In many instances, red tag-related issues might be resolved more effectively if the state engineer is allowed to bypass UAPA, and this bill gives the state engineer the option of bypassing UAPA.

Budget Excludes Water Infrastructure

The final fiscal year 2004 budget resolution approved by Congress did not include a provision adopted by the Senate that would have increased funding for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The Senate’s original version of the budget resolution passed in March included an amendment that would have added an additional $3 billion to the $2.2 billion currently available. The House and Senate approved the conference report for the budget resolution, which did not include additional infrastructure funding.

New Federal Water Commission Created

The House Resources Water and Power Subcommittee passed legislation to create a federal water planning commission; the bill passed by voice vote with no amendments.

The 21st Century Water Policy Commission Establishment Act would establish a panel of seven water policy experts to study water availability issues in the United States and craft a report identifying ways to ensure a dependable water supply for the next 50 years. The report would be due three years after the formation of the commission, which would dissolve a month after the report is issued.