Find out what's been happening across the U.S. that affects the water industry.

Senate Approves Bill Emphasizing U.S.T. Compliances

The U.S. Senate has approved the Underground Storage Tank Compliance Act to prevent ground water contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks.

Bill S.195 in-cludes funding for clean up of contaminated sites. The legislation would require the inspection of all tanks every two years, while in-creasing federal emphasis on training of tank operators.

The bill emphasizes compliance of tanks owned by federal, state and local governments and provides $125 million per year for cleanup of sites contaminated by MTBE. The bill also provides increased funding to administer the federal underground storage tank program, which the U.S. General Accounting Office has stated is a critical piece of the solution.

Arizona Drilling Fees Increased

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano recently signed into law House Bill 2088, which increases the fees for drilling a well. HB2088 creates a Well Administration and Enforcement Fund to be administered by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The fund consists of monies collected in fees established by this bill and introduces the fee to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) to drill a well or to apply for a permit to drill a well.

The bill raises the previous $10 fee to $150 for a NOI to drill a well inside one of Arizona’s five active management areas (AMA) or three irrigation non-expansion areas (INA). The fee to file an application for a permit to drill a non-exempt well inside an AMA is raised from $50 to $150.

Outside of AMAs and INAs, the fee for a NOI to drill a well is raised from $10 to $150, except that the fee to drill a domestic well, with a pumping capacity of up to 35 gallons per minute, will rise according to a graduated scale.

The fees will be used to administer and enforce Arizona’s well-drilling laws.

Congresswoman Introduces New Perchlorate Legislation

U.S. Congresswoman Lois Capps, Calif., introduced the Preventing Perchlorate Pollution Act, the House version of an U.S. Senate bill recently introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer. The act would accelerate the establishment of a U.S. EPA standard for perchlorate and require the enhanced access to community right-to-know information about perchlorate contamination.

The bill would require the EPA to set a maximum contaminant level for perchlorate in drinking water by July 1, 2004. It also would require the EPA to annually publish a list of perchlorate storage facilities beginning on or before June 1, 2005. In addition, it would take money from related fines and fees and have it deposited into a loan fund for public water suppliers and private well owners to pay for clean water when their water is shut down because of perchlorate contamination problems.

Colorado River Study Planned

Colorado Governor Bill Owens recently signed a measure that gives money to study a project to divert surplus Colorado River water to the Front Range.

Senate Bill 110 includes spending $500,000 to do a feasibility study of the Colorado River Return Project, also known as the Big Straw. The study, which is to be completed by November, will look at ways to capture unused river water and return it to storage facilities in the Western Slope and along the Front Range. The bill also includes spending $3 million to study all future water needs statewide.

Water Softener Legislation Passed

According to the Pacific Water Quality Association, Bill 334 (AB 334) was passed by the full California Assembly and now will be considered by the California Senate’s Environment Committee. The bill could allow for water softener bans in some communities.

Industry legal experts reviewed the proposed amendments and concluded that while the industry would lose certain protections and triggers for the enactment of water conditioning bans, the industry would not be exposed to wholesale and outright bans, as was the case with the original version of the bill, SB 1006. AB 334 restores most of SB 1006; however, it calls for the removal of the requirement that a community be in violation of its chloride discharge limit before it could enact a ban against self-regenerating water softeners (SRWS). The revised bill still calls for an unbiased study of all salinity sources and must identify SRWS as the main contributor of salinity to the water sewage plant.

Federal Security Legislation Introduced

Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, recently introduced the Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act of 2003, legislation that would enhance and strengthen security at wastewater treatment facilities.

According to the National Rural Water Association, the Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act would empower the U.S. EPA to provide $200 million in grants to states, municipalities, inter-municipal or interstate agencies to conduct a vulnerability assessment of publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities and to implement security enhancements to reduce vulnerabilities to terrorist attack.

The legislation also will provide technical guidance and assistance to small, publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities that serve fewer than 20,000 individuals.

EPA Administrator Resigns

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has resigned her post in the Bush administration, effective June 27, citing family as the reason for her departure. Whitman had joined the administration after seven years as governor of New Jersey; she submitted her resignation to President Bush on May 20.

When Whitman leaves, EPA Deputy Administrator Linda Fischer is likely to serve as acting director should the Senate not act in time to confirm a replacement. A White House spokesman stated that no decision has been made on a replacement and no timeline has been set.

Louisiana Water Office Approved

Under legislation given final approval by the Senate, the conservation and management of Louisiana’s underground water supply would be handled by an office in the natural resources department.

The commissioner of conservation, who now oversees oil and gas regulation, would pick up the duties of ground water management, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that the commissioner would work with a ground water management commission to develop an emergency water use and contingency plan for large wells used by farms, municipalities and businesses and any wells that tap into aquifers deemed to be critical ground water areas.

Neighbors Reach Water Agreement

The governors of Georgia and Alabama recently reached a water agreement that outlines how much water Georgia can draw from the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, which flow through northwest Georgia into Alabama.

The proposed 30-year agreement sets storage requirements for Lake Allatoona and Carters Lake in northeast Georgia and minimum flow rates from those lakes and the Coosa River near Rome, Ga. It also limits the amount of water that can be transferred to other river basins. State teams based the agreement on sophisticated computer models that stimulate historical rainfall, droughts and stream flows.

Coal-mining Operations Addressed

The Office of Water and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly issued a memorandum to their field offices in the coal-producing states of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio in order to help ensure coal-mining operations are meeting their obligations under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The memorandum included a fact sheet for further distribution to coal operators in Appalachia explaining how the CWA applies to coal-mining activities that occur in the nation’s streams and wetlands and discussing when a CWA permit is required. The intent is to ensure coalmine operators are aware of their responsibilities under the CWA and that mining-related activities proposed in waters of the U.S. are appropriately reviewed and permitted.

Illinois Water Funding Approved

The Illinois Senate recently approved funding for Du Page County, whose water supply is controlled by the independent Du Page Water Commission.

Under the plan, the water commission would turn $15 million over to the county yearly for five years. The money would be used for homeland security, public health and safety issues, reported the Daily Herald. In addition, towns would be required to provide unincorporated homeowners with Lake Michigan water without annexation if their wells are tainted. Property in unincorporated parts of the county cannot be annexed without the consent of the current owners. Also, the rates the water commission charges local governments would be frozen for five years under the plan, the Daily Herald stated.

Coal-bed Methane Water

In Billings, Mont., a federal appeals court has agreed to stay its ruling that water released during coal-bed methane drilling is a pollutant and subject to permitting requirements, we learn from U.S. Water News Online ( The decision will allow Fidelity Exploration & Production Co. time to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a review of the ruling.

The decision surprised the Northern Plains Resource Council, which said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Fidelity’s request for a stay before the conservation group had a chance to oppose it.

“The day of the ruling was the day we were going to file’’ a motion to oppose, attorney Mike Reisner says, noting that Northern Plains has since asked the appeals court to reconsider the stay.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 2000 by Northern Plains, alleging that Fidelity had illegally discharged water from its coal-bed methane operations in southeast Montana into the Tongue River. Fidelity, the only commercial producer of coal-bed methane in the state, has maintained that it sought and received the proper permits to discharge water – even after the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said none were needed because of an exemption. But DEQ also made clear the federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t agree with the permit exception.

Last summer, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana dismissed Northern Plains’ case, ruling the water isn’t a pollutant under the federal Clean Water Act and that discharging coal-bed methane water doesn’t require a permit under Montana law. But the appeals court overturned that decision.

The stay it granted is for 90 days, pending the filing before the Supreme Court. That, Reisner says, means the district court ruling is in effect and “that creates a lot of uncertainty right now.”

Mike Caskey, Fidelity’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, says a stay was logical. “You don’t want to implement something and then undo what you implemented,” he says.

Caskey notes that, while Fidelity’s operations are properly permitted, the company is “still very concerned about the ability of Montana to rightfully take advantage of its natural resource potential. A lot of these obstructionist, forever-delaying tactics NPRC takes is very detrimental to Montana.”