Archive for July, 2010

Too hot to work in the yard:

Federal legislation is dead, climate action returns to EPA and the states — CPR Blog

Penny-a-gallon water: Alaska town sells H2O for sale to India — Circle of Blue

NASA lasers measure the height of forest canopies — NASA

BP economic impact extends to charitable giving — Nonprofit Quarterly

Regulation of business, or regulation of the worst of business? (And, today’s word-of-the-day: “kakistocracy”) — Concurring Opinions

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 The City of Post Falls and the Hayden Area Sewer Board followed through on their promise to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legitimacy of the 12-year effort to establish a cleanup plan for the Spokane River. The City of Coeur d’Alene just decided it will be joining in as well.

 The Idaho polluters’ lawsuit is drawing high-powered opposition. The U.S. EPA and Washington’s Department of Ecology will certainly defend the cleanup plan, but  Spokane County has also lawyered up and can be expected to vigorously defend their interests. Other big guns like Avista and Inland Paper are likely to send lawyers as well.

 In a previously-scheduled, get-to-know-you meeting with environmental groups in Spokane yesterday, relatively new Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant and regional Ecology director Grant Pfeiffer reiterated their support for the TMDL plan, and said that they would be defending it in court. Pfeiffer indicated that after 12 years of study and negotiation, the foundation for the TMDL has largely solidified, and that he was confident that it would hold up under legal scrutiny.

 KEA has obtained a copy of the 53-page Post Falls complaint and we are currently reviewing our own legal options. But the Idaho dischargers have picked a legal battle that will be very expensive to fight and very difficult to win. And, as we’ve said before, no matter the outcome of this legal tussle, the Idaho polluters have very expensive upgrades to make to their pollution control equipment. Our prediction is that, win or lose, all the spending on lawyers now will not make a dime’s difference later.

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Our outstanding intern Jordin Jacobs informs us of legislation pending in Congress regarding electric vehicles. Both Senators Crapo and Risch are on key Senate committees that will consider S. 3442, The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, written to jump start the operation of electric vehicles and development of the necessary infrastructure:

Our current transportation system accounts for 70% of our oil dependency. According to proponents, if the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act is passed, the U.S. would be on a path to having 75% of our car miles electric by 2040, thus reducing oil use by at least 6 million gallons per day.

This legislation would establish a select number of areas as electrification “deployment communities” in which incentives in support of electric vehicle purchases would be employed and development of charging infrastructure promoted, allowing all aspects of an electrified transportation system to be deployed at once.

To support the legislation, the Electrification Coalition has formed as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group of business leaders committed to promoting policies and actions that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale in order to combat the economic, environmental, and national security dangers caused by our nation’s dependence on petroleum.  The Coalition calls for interested Idahoans to send an e-mail to their U.S. Senators urging for a reduction in oil dependency through support of the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act.  They have an easy link to do so here.

UPDATE 7/21: The vote this morning in the Senate Natural Resources Committee was a strong bipartisan vote in favor, 19-4.  It is exceedingly rare to get such a strong bipartisan vote these days, especially on a proposal with a significant price tag. Although the four negative votes were from Senate Republicans, Idaho Senator Jim Risch voted in favor.

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The Rathdrum Prairie CAMP — short for Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan — is currently being drafted by the Idaho Water Resources Board for the long-term management of our important local aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for more than a half million people. Jeff Briggs from our summer legal team files this report from the Rathdrum Prairie CAMP meeting being held in Coeur d’Alene today:

This morning I attended Dr. Venkataramana Sridhar’s talk on climate change related impacts expected to occur on the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.  Interesting was the fact that five different models are used to predict the range of water flow in the context of differing CO2 emission scenarios.  Depending upon the amount of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere, the climate could be expected to warm as little as .18 degrees Fahrenheit in a decade to as much as 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit.  The models generally predict a 4-5% increase in precipitation, although some predict a decrease.  Notably though, all five models in Dr. Sridhar’s study predict that peak flows will shift from May to April due to earlier snowmelt.

This study, to provide projections for the CAMP, has a long road ahead.  Although the present study is focused on natural flow variations related to climate change, additional studies will be needed to integrate how human land use patterns can have an effect on natural flow.  However, even without an increased intensity of land use, the projected natural flow variations provide an impetus to increase water storage and conservation efforts into the CAMP in order to ensure adequate water supply for times of groundwater recharge scarcity.

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Just back from vacation in the pine-beetle-ravaged Colorado mountains, I was pleased to see the letter (reproduced below) from Idaho Panhandle National Forest Supervisor Ranotta McNair regarding KEA’s request for long-overdue monitoring reports. The annual reports, required under several provisions of federal law, have not been produced since 2007.

 McNair explains that Recovery Act projects have taken USFS staff away from the reporting requirements, but that the reports are on track to be complete by the end of August.

 We certainly hope so. These reports are critical in understanding the state of our local forests, and understanding whether efforts to manage the forests are actually achieving their purposes or not. Moreover, as “collaboration” becomes the new paradigm for localized forest decision-making, availability of good science and good monitoring data becomes increasingly important to those doing the collaboration.

 We’re pleased with the IPNF’s prompt response to our letter, but we remain anxious to see the actual reports.

 The letter in its entirety:

 Dear Mr. Harris,

 With regard to your recent letter expressing concern about the current state of monitoring efforts on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, I want to assure you that we are working hard to issue the monitoring reports as expeditiously as possible.

 Forest monitoring has been completed for each year since 2007, but due to staffing shortages we have been unable to complete all of the written reports. In addition, national priorities have diverted personnel from completing the reports. Our highest priority this past year has been creation of jobs for citizens in the Northern Rockies through Recovery Act projects. Our staffing shortages have been solved, and the majority of the $18 million in Idaho Panhandle National Forests ARRA projects have been contracted. Therefore, we expect to release the overdue monitoring reports no later than August 31, 2010. In addition to the 2007 and 2008 reports we will also be releasing the 2009 monitoring report at the same time, which will bring our forest up to date on monitoring and reporting requirements.

 In closing, I want to assure you that our forest takes these reports seriously and our staffs are working diligently to complete our monitoring reports as soon as possible.


Ranotta K. McNair

Forest Supervisor

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Vacationing with the pine beetles in Colorado this week, I’m still checking emails and here’s a semi-important one from EPA:

The public comment period opens today on EPA’s Proposed Cleanup Plan for the Upper Coeur d’Alene Basin.  Documents are available for review on the web at http://go.usa.gov/igD.  You can also view the documents on CD-ROM at North Idaho College’s Molstead Library, Wallace Public Library, Spokane Public Library, St. Maries Library, Kellogg Public Library, and EPA’s Coeur d’Alene Office.  Key documents include the Proposed Plan, its transmittal letter, the Proposed Plan Fact Sheet, and the Executive Summary of the Draft Final Focused Feasibility Study.

Comments are due August 25, 2010.  Send them by email to cdabasin@epa.gov or by mail to Coeur d’Alene Basin Team, EPA, 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, ECL-113, Seattle, WA 98101.  We encourage you to comment.  Although there will be more opportunities to be involved, this is your best time to influence the overall Upper Basin cleanup plan.

Come to the Open House and Public Meeting on August 4, 2010. Shoshone Medical Center, Health & Education Center, 858 Commerce Drive, Smelterville, ID 83868 5-6:30 p.m. Open House:  View displays, ask questions, visit with project managers, submit written comments. 7-8:30 p.m. Public Meeting:  Hear a presentation, submit written comments, present oral comments for the record.

Blogging will (hopefully) be light, if at all, this week.  (There are a LOT of pine beetles to see here.) But there are a scant 45 days to get comments to EPA on a cleanup plan covering the the next 50 to 90 years.  We figured you’d want to get started.

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 Our long county nightmare is (almost) over. Last night, the County Commissioners finished their yearlong line-by-line editing of a new Kootenai County Comprehensive Plan. The long, slow failure of a process came to an anti-climactic end at precisely 7:10 pm when Chairman Currie ordered that the edited document be re-printed for a final public hearing.

 Now, the bazillion of mostly-pointless edits to the plan will be consolidated by staff into a revised document to be released in a month or so. According to the Commissioners, another public hearing will be scheduled some 30 days after that. The Commissioners will then deliberate yet again.

 In theory, the re-hearing will give a final opportunity for the Commissioners to remedy a fundamental flaw in their version of the plan. Recall that the Commissioners removed guidance for development densities at a deliberation meeting in May, essentially stripping the plan of much of its meaning. Revision of the horribly out-of-date zoning code and development regulations will be made all that much more difficult by this failure. We still believe that this is a critical mistake, and we will certainly urge the Commissioners to revisit the density decision before finalizing the document.

 So, we’re keeping our September calendars clear. There’s only one more comp plan hearing to go.

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