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NFC: Fw: River Policy Update, Week of October 29, 2001

To read the River Policy Update online, visit American Rivers' Online 
Newsroom at http://www.americanrivers.org/policyupdates/update.htm

American Rivers' Policy Update
Week of October 29, 2001


* Energy policy
* Appropriations
* Water resources
* Congressional calendar
* Take action
* Jobs


Energy bill update

It is growing more unlikely that comprehensive energy legislation 
will reach the floor of the Senate this year.  Senate Energy and 
Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), said last 
week that he would "be amazed" if an energy bill comes to the floor 
before the end of the year.  However, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), 
ranking member on Bingaman's committee, continues to push for a 
separate energy bill that he is calling the Homeland Security Act of 
2001.  In addition to its security provisions, which are aimed at 
expanding security for the nation's energy infrastructure, 
Murkowski's bill would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to 
drilling and likely weaken environmental protections in the 
hydropower relicensing process.

The environmental threats posed by the development of ANWR prompted 
American Rivers to list the wildlife refuge's Canning River as the 
nation's second most endangered river in its America's Most 
Endangered Rivers of 2001 report.   


Two appropriations bills with major implications for the environment, 
Energy and Water and VA-HUD-independent agencies, may go to 
conference this week, as Congress attempts to resume work that was 
delayed last week due to the presence of anthrax in congressional 
office buildings.  Staff reports make it unclear which bill will be 
conferenced first. The VA-HUD-independent agencies bill includes 
funding for the EPA. Both the House and Senate VA-HUD bills would 
fund EPA at higher levels than the administration requested, but the 
Senate bill, unlike the House bill, rejects an administration request 
to cut the EPA's enforcement budget.  As discussed in more detail 
below, the Energy and Water bill will help determine the future 
management of the Missouri River and several other important aquatic 

Missouri River rider 

The House version of the energy and water bill (H.R. 2311) includes a 
controversial rider that would prevent the Corps of Engineers from 
improving Missouri River flows to better protect species listed under 
the Endangered Species Act including the piping plover and the pallid 
sturgeon.  The Senate bill, S. 1171, also includes language on 
Missouri River operations that would allow the Corps of Engineers to 
consider flow alternatives other than those recommended by the Fish 
and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.  The 
environmental community opposes inclusion of any Missouri River 
rider, but has urged adoption of the Senate language if the 
conference committee insists on including a provision on this issue.

The importance of reoperating the Missouri for the benefit of fish 
and wildlife prompted American Rivers to list it the number one most 
endangered river in its 2001 America's Most Endangered Rivers report.

Controversial water projects

The environmental community has also written to the conference 
committee opposing funding for several water projects included in 
either the House or Senate version of the Energy and Water bill, 
including the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project and White River 
Navigation Project in Arkansas, the Yazoo Backwater Pumping Plant 
Project and Big Sunflower River Dredging Project in Mississippi, the 
Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock in Louisiana, the Dallas Floodway 
Extension Project in Texas, the Unit 15 Levee on the Missouri River, 
and the Delaware River Deepening Project - all by the Corps of 
Engineers - and the Animas-LaPlata Project by the Bureau of 
Reclamation in Colorado.


MTBE hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight 
and Investigations will attempt to finally hold a much-delayed 
hearing this Thursday on methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).  While 
the use of MTBE as an oxygenate in gasoline can help meet Clean Air 
Act requirements, it is a hazardous chemical that can leak from 
underground storage tanks and contaminate groundwater.  Subcommittee 
Chair James Greenwood (R-PA) has offered a bill (H.R 20) that would 
permit states to waive the Clean Air Act's oxygenate requirement for 
gasoline sold in their states as long as air quality does not 
worsen.  A similar bill, S. 950, is under consideration in the Senate.

Hearing: 1:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1 in 2322 Rayburn 

Water infrastructure

On Wednesday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's 
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water will hold a hearing 
(originally scheduled for Oct. 18) to discuss the need for more 
funding to improve the nation's aging water and sewer systems.  The 
Water Infrastructure Network, a coalition of local elected officials, 
drinking water and wastewater service providers, state environmental 
and health officials, engineers and environmentalists, estimates that 
there is a $23 million gap between infrastructure needs and current 
funding levels.  WIN proposes that the federal government should be 
responsible for half that amount ($11.5 million), with state and 
local governments responsible for the rest.  EPA Administrator 
Christine Todd Whitman says that EPA estimates of the financial need 
are lower, but agrees that more investment is needed.  Democrats on 
the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have proposed 
including $10 billion for water infrastructure improvements in an 
economic stimulus package.

Environmental advocates have urged that spending on water 
infrastructure emphasize projects that will provide wide 
environmental benefits, avoid contributing to urban sprawl, 
prioritize funding for serious environmental threats and poorer 
communities, and include measures to ensure accountability.

Hearing: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 31 in 406 Dirksen

Potomac River dumping

This Tuesday the House Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Parks 
will hold a hearing to examine the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 
practice of dumping sludge into the Potomac River near Washington, 
D.C.  The Corps dumps the sludge, which is generated by a water 
treatment plant, into the river about 18 times per year.  The 
National Wildlife Institute has sued the Corps, arguing that the 
sludge contains toxic sediments and that it jeopardizes the 
endangered shortnose sturgeon and dwarf wedge mussel.  Many western 
Republicans have joined in criticizing the dumping.  Their interest 
in the issue appears to be based at least in part on their desire to 
demonstrate to eastern lawmakers, whose constituencies may have had 
less direct experience with Endangered Species Act compliance, that 
the ESA overburdens property owners and needs to be "reformed."

Hearing: 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30 in 2218 Rayburn

Floor votes

The House is expected to vote on two river-related bills under 
suspension of the rules this Tuesday.  H.R. 2585, introduced by Rep. 
Greg Walden (R-OR), would require the Department of Interior to study 
the feasibility of providing two endangered species of sucker fish 
with adequate passage around Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River near 
Klamath Falls, Oregon.  One alternative the study will explore is dam 
removal.  Walden says that his bill will help the fish to recover 
(the dam currently blocks 95 percent of their spawning habitat) while 
also ensuring that more water will be available to irrigators in 
Klamath Basin.  The other bill reaching the House floor will be H.R. 
1776, which would direct the National Park Service to study the 
possibility of designating the Buffalo Bayou, on the San Jacinto 
River in Houston, as a National Heritage Area.



Hearing on water infrastructure
Environment and Public Works Committee
9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 31 in 406 Dirksen

Hearing on four-pollutant legislation
Environment and Public Works Committee
2:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1 in 406 Dirksen

Hearing on infrastructure security
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
2:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1 in 406 Dirksen


Hearing on Potomac River dumping
Resources Committee
10:00 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30 in 2218 Rayburn

Hearing on MTBE
Energy and Commerce Committee
1:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1 in 2322 Rayburn

Hearing on Forest Service Management
Resources Committee
Thursday, Nov. 1 at a time and location to be announced

Hearing on reducing petroleum dependence
Science Committee
10:00 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 1 in 2318 Rayburn


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American Rivers currently has a number of job openings.  See our 
employment webpage at http://www.amrivers.org/jobs/default.htm for 
the following opportunities:

* Director of Outreach
* Director of Development, Northwest Regional Office


Contact Michael Garrity, Conservation Associate, at 202-347-7550. 

Legislative information is obtained from sources including: 
Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, Congressional Green Sheets, 
and members of the American Rivers conservation staff. 

Thank you robertrice at juno_com for helping to protect and 
restore America's rivers.

To contact American Rivers, send an email to Rebecca 
Sherman at outreach at amrivers_org or call 202-347-7550.

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