The following include May 2017 highlights of local/state news-worthy environmental concerns, as well as national headlines to watch:
New Jersey Water Supply Plan Update: After a 20 year wait, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection released a 2017-2022 Water Supply Master Plan Update. Specific to the Lower Raritan Watershed and our “Central Drought Region” are proposed Capital Improvement Projects including a North/South Branch Confluence pumping station, the Kingston Quarry Reservoir, water transfers from central to coastal North Drought Regions and the Six Mile Run Reservoir (pages 74-77).
New Jersey Freshwater Wetland Protection Act (FWPA) Rules Amendments: The NJDEP is proposing comprehensive amendments to NJ’s FWPA. These amendments propose significant revisions particularly to mitigation rules, and also to transition area (freshwater wetland buffer) impacts. Of note is that the proposed revisions increase the degree to which transition areas can be impacted by development. Written comments will be accepted until June 30th.
Rollbacks on Obama-era climate rules: Last week the Federal Highway Administration announced that it will delay the effective date of Green House Gas emissions analysis and air quality studies on US Interstate roadways.
Rollbacks on Pesticides: The Hill reports that House passed legislation last week to loosen federal regulations on pesticides. The “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017” would reverse a 2009 court decision that requires that anyone applying pesticides secure a general permit under the Clean Water Act, opening the door to increased pesticide impacts on our waters.
Trump to pull out of Paris Climate Accord: Reuters reports that the United states will no longer be part of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement designed to reduce impacts of global warming.
The following are the headlines on our watch list:
National Monuments Under Threat: On April 26 President Trump signed an Executive Order to roll back the Antiquities Act, which could change National Monument designation (and the protections that that designation affords) for our National Monuments.
Offshore Drilling EO: On April 28 President Trump signed an Executive Order to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling. The Order instructs the Interior to review ways to take down barriers to drilling, including in the Atlantic.
Marches for Science and Climate: Throughout April tens of thousands of people took to the streets in over 600 communities to celebrate science and its critical role in both society and policy, and to bring attention to the science that underscores our understanding of climate change.
The following are headlines to watch as the administration begins to cut protections to the environment:
Rollbacks on Obama-era environmental Protections: A sweeping new Executive Order passed on Tuesday March 28 includes rollbacks on emissions rules for power plants, limits on methane leaks, a moratorium on federal coal leasing, and the use of the social cost of carbon to guide government actions.
EPA Budget Cuts: The Hill reports that the new administration seeks to cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by up to 31%.
Undoing the Clean Water Rule: On February 28, President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing the EPA to reconsider the Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule, currently blocked by an appeals court, protects smaller creeks and wetlands under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Here’s more on the Clean Water Rule EO from The Hill.
Rollbacks on Bans of Known Neurotoxins: National Public Radio reported that the new administration decided not to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos (see here for coverage by NYTimes), despite EPA’s own documentation of significant risks. The Pesticide Action Network reports that chlorpyrifos is moderately persistent in soil and can take weeks to years to break down. The insecticide can also reach rivers, lakes and streams, where it concentrates in the fatty tissue of fish. According to the National Water Quality Assessment Program, chlorpyrifos contaminated surface water in urban and agricultural streams at levels potentially harmful to aquatic life.