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July 6, 2010

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Government Relations

‘Extenders’ Effort Pulled from the Senate Floor; Water Provisions Still Pending

Senate Democrats’ months-long effort to pass a package of tax cut extensions, unemployment benefits and job creation renewals collapsed amid partisan recriminations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would pull the bill (H.R. 4213) from the floor after the Senate failed, 57-41, to garner 60 votes for a motion to invoke cloture, or end debate, on the $109 billion version of the legislation released June 23.

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had spent weeks modifying tax provisions, cutting spending and adding offsets to woo enough votes. Ultimately partisanship and concerns over budgetary offsets prevailed, and the measure had to be pulled. How and if the bill will be revived is uncertain at this point.

Each iteration of the Finance Committee’s proposal contained a provision to remove the state volume cap on private activity bonds for water and sewer projects to enable billions of dollars to become available for much-needed water projects that would create tens of thousands of jobs and provide opportunities for small and local businesses.

The water proposal’s low-cost and creative approach to tapping private capital for water infrastructure investment projects continues to be a broadly popular and appealing measure to encourage investment in water projects that would sustain jobs and create small-business opportunities. The bill’s sponsors, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), remain committed to seeing the passage of The Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2010, S. 3262 and H.R. 537.


International Body Works to Develop Standard to Measure Water Use ‘Footprint'

ISO logo

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is considering a proposed global norm that would allow companies to determine their use of freshwater, or water “footprint,” for environmental reporting purposes.

Currently at the stage of a Preliminary Work Item (PWI), ISO 14046, Water footprint – Requirements and guidelines, would complement existing standards on life cycle assessment (LCA) and ongoing work on carbon footprint metrics by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management. It would also take into account the ISO 14064 standards on the accounting and verification of greenhouse gases (GHG).

ISO/PWI 14046 is being studied by the new working group WG 8 set up by ISO/TC 207 subcommittee SC 5, Life cycle assessment.

At its first meeting, WG 8 proposed a scope for the standard as specifying “requirements and guidelines to assess and report water footprints based on LCA.” The standard would:

  • Deliver principles, requirements and guidelines for a water footprint metric of products, processes and organizations, based on the guidance of impact assessment as given in ISO 14044;
  • Define how the different types of water sources (e.g., ground water) and water releases (e.g., grey water) should be considered, and how local environmental (e.g., dry/wet areas) and socio-economic (e.g., developed/developing countries) conditions should be treated;
  • Address the communication issues linked to water footprinting (based on ISO 14020 series on environmental labels and declarations); and
  • Be compatible with the rest of the ISO 14000 family of environmental management standards.

It is not being proposed that the standard should offer a methodology for calculating offsets or compensation, but it would address positive aspects, such as the benefits of decreasing the water footprint.

ISO notes that due to the current lack of international standards in this area, business organizations around the world apply different definitions and criteria to report water use in their environmental reports, or in product packaging or documentation.

Please click here for more information.



Public Meetings Scheduled on Hydraulic Fracturing Research

EPA will host four public information meetings on a proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water. At the meetings, EPA will provide details on the proposed study scope and design, and will solicit public comments on the draft study plan.

The public meetings will be held:

  • July 8 from 6–10 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas
  • July 13 from 6–10 p.m. MDT at the Marriot Tech Center’s Rocky Mountain Events Center in Denver, Colo.
  • July 22 from 6–10 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Pa.
  • August 12 at the Anderson Performing Arts Center at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. for three sessions – 8 a.m.–noon, 1–5p.m., and 6–10 p.m. EDT

To support the initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, EPA sought suggestions and comments from its Science Advisory Board and will use this advice along with stakeholder input to guide the design of the study.

Stakeholders are requested to pre-register for the meetings at least 72 hours before each meeting. Click here for more information.



EPA Proposes Revision to Total Coliform Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to revise a national primary drinking water regulation to achieve greater public health protection against waterborne pathogens in the distribution systems of public water systems. Waterborne pathogens can cause a variety of illnesses with symptoms such as acute abdominal discomfort or, in more extreme cases, kidney failure, hepatitis or chronic concerns.

EPA is proposing to revise the 1989 Total Coliform Rule to incorporate improvements recommended by a federal advisory committee that included representatives from a broad range of stakeholder groups, including public health and public interest groups, environmental groups, state drinking water agencies and drinking water utilities.

EPA stated the revised rule will better protect people from potential exposure to dangerous microbes because it requires water systems to take action when monitoring results indicate that contamination or a pathway to contamination may be present. Water utilities are required to regularly monitor for microbial contamination in the distribution system. Although microbes detected in monitoring are not necessarily pathogens themselves, the detection can indicate that there is a pathway that would allow pathogens to enter the system, such as a water main break or an opening in a storage tank. Under the proposed rule, when monitoring results are positive, systems must find and fix any pathways leading to microbial risk.

The proposal also provides incentives for better system operation by improving the criteria for public water systems to qualify for and stay on reduced monitoring, which provides an opportunity to reduce system burden. In addition, the proposed rule updates conditions that will trigger public notices to better represent the relative health threat identified. It also makes the wording required in these public notices more clear. These changes increase consumer confidence in the safety of their water and understanding of the risks when contamination occurs.

EPA is seeking public comment on this proposed rule for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

Please click here for more information about the proposed rule.