What You Missed in Environmental Policy News: Week Ending Feb. 12

resized budget II

The biggest environmental news of the week was, by far, the U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay President Obama’s Clean Power Plan while a lower court considers challenges to the plan.  That decision set off aftershocks through the week as the Obama administration defended its plan and interested parties on all sides weighed in.

Here are some of the other environmental news stories we covered this week:

The Obama administration released its budget requests for fiscal year 2017. For the EPA, the agency that tends to stir the fiercest debates, the request included a boost for loans to help drinking water systems, a sharp cut in loans for wastewater systems, an increase in funds for chemical regulation and research and an increase for motor vehicle and fuel compliance efforts. (Story for subscribers by Bloomberg BNA reporters on Daily Environment Report).

Federal regulators completed two Endangered Species Act rules on how critical habitat is designated and how it is protected from “adverse modification.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Fisheries Service also completed a new policy on how areas can be excluded from critical habitat. (Story by Bloomberg BNA reporter Alan Kovski for subscribers.)

Disagreements between the Agriculture Department and the EPA are prompting legislators and industry leaders to question EPA regulatory decisions on pesticides as the two agencies clash publicly over the risks and benefits of agricultural chemicals. (Story by Bloomberg BNA reporter David Schultz for subscribers.)

The EPA plans to have a new water infrastructure financing program in place by the time Congress appropriates federal funds for fiscal year 2017, the agency told Bloomberg BNA. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act is not yet operational because the EPA has not yet issued rules on how it will work. (Story by Bloomberg BNA reporter Amena Saiyid for subscribers.)

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy brought Republicans and Democrats together on the House Agriculture Committee as they joined in criticizing the EPA’s waters of the U.S. rule, a rule on the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. House members also expressed frustration over farmers being denied access to pesticides, and they touched on the EPA’s handling of the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. (Story by Bloomberg BNA reporter David Schultz for subscribers.)

Southern California Gas Co. temporarily controlled the flow of natural gas leaking from the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility near Los Angeles. The next step is to permanently seal the leaking well, a process that could take several more days, a company spokesman said. (Story by Bloomberg BNA reporter Carolyn Whetzel for subscribers.)

House and Senate negotiators are not moving quickly enough on their efforts to merge their different versions of legislation to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, in the view of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. A more upbeat view of the discussions was expressed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). (Free story by Bloomberg BNA reporters Ari Natter and Anthony Adragna.)

By Alan Kovski, akovski@bna.com