Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Resources Conference for 2017: October 12-13 in Shepherdstown, West Va.; Abstracts for Proposed Presentations Due June 1

On October 12-13, 2017, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) will host the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference.

The conference is a collaborative effort of Delaware Water Resources Center (at the University of Delaware), the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center (at Penn State), the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (at Virginia Tech), and WVWRI (at West Virginia Institute).

Those who wish to propose a presentation may submit an abstract until June 1, 2017.

For questions or more information about the conference, visit http://midatlanticwrc.org/, or contact Andrew Stacy by phone (304) 293-7085 or email at astacy@mail.wvu.edu.

Potomac River and Pawpaw at Nat Cons Tr Ctr Shepherdstown Sep25 2014The Potomac River, viewed September 25, 2014, from the grounds of the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Virginia Water-related Government Meetings for April 27-May 10, 2017

For more information, click on underlined meeting dates. Click here for the Commonwealth Calendar listing of all government meetings open to the public, and here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall listing of all government meetings of a regulatory nature.

For other, non-governmental, events, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Quick Guide to Virginia Water-related Events.


4/27/17, 9 a.m.: Department of Health’s Waterworks Advisory Committee.  At Sydnor Hydro, 2111 Magnolia Street in Richmond.

4/28/17, 3 p.m: Outdoors Foundation/Finance, Audit, and Compliance Committee.  At 39 Garrett Street in Warrenton (Fauquier County).

5/2/17, 11 a.m.: Board of Forestry (special meeting to discuss proposed timber-theft strategies).  At 110 Shenandoah Avenue NE in Roanoke.

5/5/17, 10 a.m.: Board of Conservation and Recreation.  At Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin (Pulaski County).

5/10/17, 10 a.m.: Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects/Land Surveyors Exam Workshop.  At the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond.

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For meetings of legislative committees and commissions, see http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+oth+MTG.  Links to information about General Assembly commissions, councils, and special interim committees coordinated by the Division of Legislative Services are available online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions.html.

None during this period.

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For more information about TMDLs in Virginia, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site; click on “Public Notices” in the menu to the left to access upcoming meetings and public-comment periods.  A search tool to find approved TMDL reports is available at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/TMDLDevelopment/ApprovedTMDLReports.aspx.

5/1/17, 2 p.m., on the TMDL study of aquatic life (benthic) impairment in Cunningham Creek and its tributaries plus bacterial impairment in Middle Ford Cunningham Creek, all located in the James River basin in Fluvanna County.  At the Fluvanna County Public Library, 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra.

5/4/17, 1 p.m.: Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) outreach meeting on Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, published in December 2010.  At King & Queen County Branch Library, 396 Newtown Road in St. Stephens Church.  This is one of a series of outreach meetings on the Bay TMDL Watershed Implementation Plan; this meeting is specifically for elected officials.    According to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for this meeting, information will be provided on the status of on-going efforts to clean up the Bay, improvements in Bay water quality, expectations and roles for the Phase III WIP and timelines.  Other meetings were held 1/30/17 in Woodbridge; 2/16/17 in Harrisonburg; 2/21/17, in Woodbridge, 3/6/17 in Harrisonburg, and 4/17/17 in Glen Allen.

5/9/17, 1:30 p.m., and 5/10/17, 6 p.m., on the TMDL study of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) impairment in the New River (including parts of Claytor Lake) and tributaries Reed Creek, Stony Creek and Walker Creek, located in the Ohio River basin in Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe counties and the City of Radford.  The May 9 event—a meeting of the technical advisory committee—is at the Radford Public Library, 30 West Main Street in Radford.  The May 10 event—a public information meeting to present the draft TMDL report, gather information, and discuss the study with community members—is at Radford University, Heth Hall Rm 22, 801 East Main Street in Radford.

*          *          *

(topics listed alphabetically)

Chesapeake Bay
5/4/17 and 5/5/17: Chesapeake Bay Commission.  At Beacon Hotel, 1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.  According to the Commission’s Web site (http://www.chesbay.us/about.htm), the Commission “is a tri-state legislative commission created in 1980 to advise the members of the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on matters of Bay-wide concern.  The Commission serves as the legislative arm of the multi-jurisdictional Chesapeake Bay Program (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/), and acts in an advisory capacity to [the states’] General Assemblies.”  The Commission has 21 members, including 15 from the legislatures of the three states, the three state natural-resource cabinet secretaries, and three citizen representatives.

5/5/17, 3 p.m.: Virginia Port Authority Finance and Audit Committee.  At 600 World Trade Center, 101 West Main Street in Norfolk.

Resource Management Mapping and Planning
4/27/17, 10 a.m.: Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN) Advisory Board.  At 1751 Meadowville Lane in Chester (Chesterfield County).  VGIN was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1997 to help support the creation, development, and use of geographic information and related technology for state and local government agencies, colleges and universities, and other Commonwealth users of maps and geographic information.  It’s coordinated by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA).  More information is available online at http://www.vita.virginia.gov/isp/default.aspx?id=8482.

5/10/17, 9:30 a.m.: Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Technical Advisory Committee on the general permit for stormwater discharges from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.  At the DEQ Piedmont Regional Office, 4949-A Cox Road in Glen Allen (Henrico County).  This technical advisory committee was established to assist in the development of amendments and the reissuance of the General Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (VPDES) Permit for Discharges of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.  The pertinent part of the Virginia Administrative Code is Section 9 VAC 25-890 (formerly Part XV, Sect. 4 VAC 50-60).  The Notice of Intended Regulatory Action was published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on July 11, 2016.  More information about this regulatory action is available online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewchapter.cfm?chapterid=2870.  The DEQ’s Web site for the Virginia Stormwater Management Program is http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/StormwaterManagement.aspx.

Water Protection Permits
5/2/17, 6:30 p.m.: State Water Control Board/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing on the Virginia Water Protection Permit application and Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program Federal Consistency Response regarding the Legacy of Poquoson Project in Poquoson proposed by Big Woods Development Company, LLC.  At City Council Chambers, 500 City Hall Avenue in Poquoson.  According to the Regulatory Town Hall notice for this meeting, “[t]he permit [would] allow the applicant to fill 7.70 acres of non-tidal forested wetlands, 1.87 acres of isolated forested wetlands, 0.26 acres of non-tidal emergent wetlands, and 0.04 acres of open water.  The proposed activity would affect 9.87 acres of surface waters.  The activity proposed in the permit [would] affect wetlands surrounding Oxford Run in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  To compensate for the affected area, the applicant would purchase 9.9 wetland credits from the Middle Peninsula Environmental Bank in Gloucester County, and 9.5 wetland credits from the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. DEQ’s preliminary decision is to approve the permit.  Regarding the Virginia CZM Program, the project qualifies for an individual permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Therefore, DEQ must review the project to determine if it is consistent with the enforceable policies of the Virginia CZM Program.” The public comment period runs March 22 to May 17, 2017.

New River PCBs are Subject of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study in 2016-17; Draft TMDL Ready for Public Comment in May 2017

This post updates an previous post from April 2016.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the New River in southwestern Virginia are the subject of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process that began in early April 2016.

About 145 miles of the New, from Interstate 77 to the West Virginia line (along with several tributaries), have been under a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) fish-consumption advisory since 2004 (since 2001 for about 75 miles), when PCBs were found in fish-tissue samples.  An April 5, 2016, public meeting was held in Radford by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) to describe the known history of PCB contamination in the river and the TMDL study that aims to identify the current sources and loads of PCBs in the New.  Following a public comment period through May 3, 2016, the BSE Department and a DEQ technical advisory committee developed the New River PCB study.  On May 10, 2017, the draft TMDL study will be presented in a public meeting in Radford, after which a 30-day public comment period will run until June 9.  Information on the May 10 meeting is available at this Virginia Regulatory Town Hall link (link last checked April 26, 2017).

The federal Clean Water Act requires that a TMDL study be done whenever the level of a pollutant in a water body regularly exceeds a state water-quality standard and, consequently, the water body is identified as “impaired.”  A TMDL study identifies sources of an impairment, allocates the contribution of each source to the overall impairment, and identifies reductions needed for the water body to fall within water-quality standards for the particular contaminant.  In Virginia, state law also requires development of TMDL implementation plan following the TMDL study.

According to the DEQ (“New River Watershed Study,” April 2016, available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Water/TMDL/PCB/NRPCBfactsheet.pdf), PCBs “are chemicals that were used in electrical transformers and other equipment until the late 1970s and can remain in the environment for decades. … Sources of PCBs include, but are not limited to, point-source dischargers including municipal stormwater discharges, stormwater runoff from areas of known contamination, atmospheric deposition, and existing contamination in river sediments.”

DEQ information about the New River PCB TMDL is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/PCBTMDLs/NewRiverTMDLPCB.aspx.

Other Sources:
Research could aid fight against PCBs in New River, Roanoke Times, 4/5/16.

Long hunt for source of PCBs in New River is to end this year
, Roanoke Times, 3/27/16.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Resources for PCB TMDLs,” online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/PCBTMDLs.aspx.

Virginia Department of Health, “Fish Consumption Advisories/New River Basin,” online at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/public-health-toxicology/fish-consumption-advisories/; and “Frequently Asked Questions about Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs),” online (as PDF) at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/fact-sheets-for-public-health/frequently-asked-questions-about-polychlorinated-biphenyls-pcbs/.

New River Rt 611 Wilderness Road Pulaski County Jun30 2013 USED Grouper 4-12-16

New River as seen from Route 611 in Pulaski County, Va., June 30, 2013.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending April 24, 2017, Plus an Overview of Flooding on April 25

Below are images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the southeastern United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending April 24, 2017 (information available as of April 25).  Also below is a national flooding overview map and a map of flooding in Virginia, as of April 25.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images. For the current month’s other weekly reports on stream flow and precipitation, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Precipitation.  For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.  For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

GAGE NF ShenR Mt Jackson Jun26 2007

April 2017 Gaging Station of the Month:  North Fork Shenandoah River, at Mt. Jackson (Shenandoah County), June 26, 2007.


The following two color-coded maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation compared to normal for this period of the year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending April 24, 2017.  The maps were accessed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).

Precip Apr24

Another source of precipitation data is the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  The site provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries, and other map layers available include river flood forecasts and current flood/severe weather warnings.  Shown below is the continental U.S. 7-day precipitation map as of 8 a.m. EDT on 4/25/17.  Please note that UTC, the time shown on the maps at the site, is four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time and five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Precip US Apr25

Stream Flow

Seven-day-average Virginia stream flows at gaging stations as of April 16, 2017 are indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia, accessed online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=map.  The map’s color-coded dots compare the previous week’s average stream flows to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS are as shown in the chart following the map.

Streams Apr24

stream codes

Flooding Overview

As of 11:20 a.m. EDT on April 25, 2017, about 15 stream-gaging stations in Virginia were experiencing flooding and several others were near flood stage.  The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center’s map of river levels relative to flood stage (color-coded) is available online at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php; at that site, one can zoom in to show Virginia or any other state of interest.  Shown below are the U.S. map as of 11:20 a.m. EDT and the Virginia region map as of 11:45 a.m. EDT.

Flooding in Smyth County, Virginia, and the town of Chilhowie is described in the following article: In photos and articles: Damage assessment is ongoing in Smyth County, Chilhowie, SWVA Today, 4/25/17.

Flooding US Apr25 - CopyFlooding VA

Reforestation for History, Habitat, and Water Quality at Prince William County, Va., Civil War Battlefield

In Spring 2017, volunteers and the Prince William County, Va., Department of Public Works planted over 160 native tree seedlings in Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park in an effort to help restore the appearance of the area as it was during the Civil War.  The reforestation effort also aims to improve wildlife habitat and water quality in and around a park stream that flows into Broad Run (a Potomac River tributary), which is on Virginia’s impaired-waters list.  A description of the project is available in Seeing the Forest Through the Trees at Bristoe Station Battlefield, Prince William Living, 4/24/17.

Water in the Trump Administration – Collection of News Items Starting September 23, 2016; Latest Item: April 26, 2017, Executive Order on Review of National Monuments

Following are news media items or news releases identifying or discussing water-related policies or actions under the Donald Trump administration.  Collection of these items began in November 2016 (with one mid-September 2016 item added after the collection began); items are listed from oldest to newest.  All title hyperlinks were functional at the time of posting, but there’s no guarantee that they will remain so permanently.

For most items, a brief summary of the item or other explanatory information is provided in brackets [ ].  Quotation marks indicate an excerpt from the original article.

The Virginia Water Resources Research Center and its Water Central News Grouper are dedicated to providing Virginia citizens with non-partisan information, and we will make every effort to do that in this ongoing blog post.  We recognize, though, that some items may contain information or statements that are non-balanced or partisan; in those cases, we either failed to recognize the non-partisan information, or we decided the item was sufficiently informative overall.

If this blog page proves valuable to readers, we hope to continue it indefinitely, including for future administrations.


What Do the Presidential Candidates Know about Science?  Clinton, Trump, [Johnson], and Stein answer 20 top questions about science, engineering, technology, health and environmental issues, Scientific American, 9/23/16.  [“The candidates of the two major parties—Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump—provided answers to 20 questions about the most important science-based issues the U.S. faces in coming years.  Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson answered the questions as well.  The questions were developed and refined by dozens of scientific organizations representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers after a crowd-sourcing effort led and coordinated by ScienceDebate.org.”  The 20 questions address the following 20 general topics (bolding added in this post to topics mostly directly relating to water): 1. innovation; 2. research; 3. climate change; 4. biodiversity; 5. the Internet; 6. mental health; 7. energy; 8. education; 9. public health; 10. water; 11. nuclear power; 12. food; 13. global challenges; 14. regulations; 15. vaccination; 16. space; 17. opioids; 18. ocean health; 19. immigration; 20. scientific integrity.

Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days, NPR (National Public Radio), 11/9/16.  [From the article, following are four water-related items that Mr. Trump pledged, in an October 2016 speech in Gettysburg, Penn., to begin taking on his first day in office: “FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.  SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.  SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure. …I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:..American Energy & Infrastructure Act.  Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years….”]

S&T [Science and Technology] Policy and R&D [Research and Development] Funding: A Post-Election Analysis, American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 11/14/16.  [“After the Election: What Now for Science Funding and Policy?” was a one-hour Webinar held on November 14, 2016, with panelists Celeste Rohlfing of the AAAS; Bart Gordon, a former chair of House of Representatives’ Science and Technology Committee; and David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Viewing the Webinar requires registration at http://view6.workcast.net/register?pak=2704109997656236 (same link at the headline above).]

How Trump could dismantle current environmental policy, PBS NewsHour, 11/17/16.  [“Donald Trump made it clear during his campaign that as president he would make substantial changes in climate policy.  …William Brangham speaks with David Roberts of Vox about possible changes to energy policy under a Trump administration.”]

What A Trump Presidency Means For Water Management, Infrastructure, Water Online, 11/18/16.

Water Industry Eyes Infrastructure Investments In Trump Administration, Inside EPA, 11/18/16 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).  [“Water industry groups are reaching out to President-elect Donald Trump to urge his administration to support robust federal funding for water infrastructure investments and to explain their sector’s top water policy priorities, including preserving tax-exempt municipal bonds, ensuring water systems are resilient to extreme events and addressing lead pipes.”]

Trump promised California farmers more water. Can he deliver?, Sacramento Bee, 11/19/16.  [“Two years after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to limit groundwater pumping, new wells are going in faster and deeper than ever in the San Joaquin Valley farm belt.  Farmers say they have no choice given cuts in surface water deliveries.  But the drilling has exacted a substantial human cost in some of California’s poorest rural communities.”]

Water Rule Rewrite by Trump Would Moot Lawsuits: Attorneys, Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs, 11/29/16.  [“Legal challenges to a major Clean Water Act rule [Clean Water Rule (RIN:2040-AF30), also known as the waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule] could be rendered moot if the incoming Trump administration persuades the courts to send the regulation back for a rewrite, several water attorneys told Bloomberg BNA. …The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reviewing the rule, which it stayed last October.  …During the past several days, environmental attorneys have discussed with Bloomberg BNA what options are available to the Trump administration if it decides not to defend the rule in the nearly a dozen lawsuits filed in federal appeals and district courts.”]

Rhetoric aside, removing climate science from NASA not likely, E&E News Climate Wire, 12/1/16 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).  [This item is regarding comments by former U.S. Rep. Robert Walker of Pennsylvania, an adviser to the president-elect transition team, about moving climate research funding from the NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).]

Dec. 7-8, 2016, items on nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the EPA, has sued the EPA, USA Today, 12/7/16. [“Donald Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, as environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers denounced the selection of a state official who has sued the agency he is now slated to lead.”]
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A., New York Times, 12/7/16.  [“Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign.”]
Donald Trump Taps Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to Lead EPA, Wall Street Journal, 12/7/16.  [“President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a transition official, turning to a climate-change skeptic and sharp critic of the agency to take its helm.  As the chief legal officer of a major oil and natural-gas producing state, Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has led legal fights against some of President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental rules, and one of his major roles as EPA administrator would likely be to try to roll back those regulations.”]
Trump picks Oklahoma AG Pruitt to head EPA, The [Oklahoma City] Oklahoman, 12/7/16.  [“President-elect Donald J. Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a strong signal that the next administration will break from eight years of making new regulations on air and water pollution.”]
How far will Scott Pruitt take EPA regulatory reform?, PBS NewsHour, 12/8/16 (10 min./4 sec. video with transcript).  [“President-elect Donald Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general and a critic of climate-change regulations, to head the EPA. Judy Woodruff sits down with Scott Segal of Bracewell and Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, to discuss whether Pruitt’s background suggests “radicalism” and the incoming administration’s promise of regulatory reform.”]

Dec. 13-14, 2016, items on nomination of U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana at large) to be secretary of the Department of the Interior:
Trump taps Montana congressman Ryan Zinke as interior secretary, Washington Post, 12/13/16.
Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Pick, Ryan Zinke, ABC News, 12/14/16.
Donald Trump Picks Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary, Wall Street Journal, 12/14/16.

Dec. 13-14, 2016, items on nomination of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be secretary of the Department of Energy:
Rick Perry, Ex-Governor of Texas, Is Trump’s Pick as Energy Secretary, New York Times, 12/13/16.
Trump taps former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head Energy Department he once vowed to abolish, Washington Post, 12/14/16.

Supreme Court to hear case concerning Obama water rule, The Hill, 1/13/17.  [“The Supreme Court agreed Friday [1/13/17] to hear a case over a specific issue arising from President Obama’s Clean Water Rule — the fight over the proper federal court venue for challenging the rule.  The case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the 2015 regulation, under which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers asserted jurisdiction over small waterways like ponds and streams. It is also known as the Waters of the United States rule.  The dispute may soon become moot, since President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office in a week, has pledged to repeal the regulation at issue.”]

Jan. 18, 2017, items on testimony by Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: Trump’s EPA nominee [Scott Pruitt] faces climate, environment questions at Senate hearing, CBS NEWS, 1/18/17.  Trump EPA nominee Scott Pruitt says climate change is no hoax, Associated Press, as published by Denver Post, 1/18/17.  EPA nominee Pruitt contradicts Trump claim that climate change is a hoax, USA Today, 1/18/17.

Jan. 19, 2017, items on testimony by Rick Perry, President Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Energy, before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Trump’s Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry says he regrets call to eliminate agency, Chicago Tribune, 1/19/17.  Trump’s Energy Secretary Nominee “Regrets” Proposing Closure of Agency, VOA [Voice of America] News, 1/19/17.

Jan. 24, 2017, items on President Trump’s executive orders on January 24 regarding the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines:
Seeing impediments to jobs, Trump prioritizes pipelines over environmental protections, PBS NewsHour, 1/24/17.  [“The Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline were put on hold during the Obama administration. But new executive orders by President Trump begin putting them back on track, as part of efforts to undo former President Obama’s legacy. How do these moves fit into the broader Trump agenda for energy and the environment? William Brangham talks with Valerie Volcovici of Reuters.”]
Trump Revives Keystone Pipeline Rejected by Obama, New York Times, 1/24/17.  [“President Trump sharply changed the federal government’s approach to the environment on Tuesday as he cleared the way for two major oil pipelines that had been blocked, and set in motion a plan to curb regulations that slow other building projects.  In his latest moves to dismantle the legacy of his predecessor, Mr. Trump resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline that had stirred years of debate, and expedited another pipeline in the Dakotas that had become a major flash point for Native Americans.  He also signed a directive ordering an end to protracted environmental reviews.”]
Trump backs Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, BBC News, 1/24/17.
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, White House Office of the Press Secretary, 1/24/17.
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, White House Office of the Press Secretary, 1/24/17.

EPA: No ‘freeze’ on Flint funding under Trump, Detroit News, 1/26/17.  [“President Donald Trump’s administration conducted a brief review of Environmental Protection Agency grants but never ordered a ‘freeze’ on new awards, a spokesman said Thursday (January 26), downplaying fears that pledged federal aid for the Flint water crisis could be jeopardized.  New grant awards ‘were never stopped, actually,’ said Doug Ericksen of the EPA transition team. ‘Nothing was canceled, nothing was delayed.’  See also Trump administration tells EPA to freeze all grants, contracts, Washington Post, 1/23/17.

Trump Signs Executive Order to Curtail Regulations, NBC News, 1/30/17.  [“President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday (1/30/17) aimed at slashing federal regulations to help businesses, the latest in a string of presidential directives he has unveiled in his first 10 days in office.  The ‘one in, two out’ plan requires federal agencies requesting new regulations to cut two existing regulations.  Trump said the order will reduce regulatory burdens on the private sector, particularly small businesses.”]

Utilities: TVA president on the future of coal, nuclear and carbon policy under the Trump administration, E&E News “OnPoint,” 2/1/17, 6 min./52 sec. video (subscription required; trial subscriptions available).  [“During today’s OnPoint, William Johnson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), explains how coal could play a larger role in TVA’s future generation mix. He also talks about the three open positions on TVA’s board that are set to be filled by Trump nominees.”]

On eve of confirmation vote, judge orders EPA nominee to release thousands of emails, Washington Post, 2/16/17 [regarding an Oklahoma court ruling requiring Scott Pruitt to release e-mail communications between the Oklahoma attorney general and oil/gas companies].

Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt as E.P.A. Head, New York Times, 2/17/17.

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action, Washington Post, 2/20/17 [regarding expected action on the 2015 Clean Power Plan regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants, and the 2015 Waters of the United States regulation on the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act].

Feb. 21-22, 2017, articles on U.S. EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s first speech to EPA employees on February 21:
“We don’t have to choose” between jobs and the environment, Washington Post, 2/21/17.
EPA’s Pruitt urges officials to avoid regulatory “abuses” in first speech to staff, Fox News, 2/21/17.
Scott Pruitt makes first speech as EPA director, PBS NewsHour, 2/21/17.

Auto Makers Ask EPA’s Pruitt to Reverse Fuel-Economy, Emissions Decision, Wall Street Journal, 2/22/17.  This regards February 21, 2017, letters to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting that the agency rescind a January 13, 2017, determination by the Obama administration keeping in place until 2025 mileage and carbon-emission standards for cars and light trucks.  For more on the January 2017 EPA determination, see Carbon Pollution Standards for Cars and Light Trucks to Remain Unchanged Through 2025, U.S. EPA News Release, 1/13/17.

Trump administration freezes Obama rule on water protection, PBS NewsHour, 2/28/17; Trump Signs Executive Order to Begin Water Rule Rollback, NBC News, 3/1/17.  These articles report on an executive order by President Trump for the U.S. Attorney General to ask the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to hold in abeyance the Waters of the United States regulation, known as the “Clean Water Rule,” and for the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw and reconsider the rule.  The executive order is available online at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/28/presidential-executive-order-restoring-rule-law-federalism-and-economic.  On February 28, the EPA issued a Notice of Intention to Review and Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule (available online at https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/notice-intention-review-and-rescind-or-revise-clean-water-rule).  The rule, regarding what waters fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, was issued by the Obama administration in May 2015, but in October 2015 the Appeals Court issued a stay on implementation of the rule, pending the outcome of several federal lawsuits challenging the U.S. EPA over the rule.  For more on the latest developments on this rule, see the U.S. EPA Web site, “Clean Water Rule,” online at https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule.

Senate confirms Ryan Zinke as interior secretary, Washington Post, 3/1/17.  Excerpt: “The Senate on Wednesday [March 1, 2017] confirmed [U.S. Representative from Montana] Ryan Zinke’s nomination to lead the Interior Department by a 68 to 31 vote.  Zinke will head a department that manages a fifth of the land in the United States, about 500 million surface acres, a total that doesn’t include millions more acres and natural resources underground.”

Trump would cut Chesapeake Bay cleanup from $73M a year to $5M, [Newport News] Daily Press, 3/2/17.  This regards the Trump Administration’s budget proposal to reduce funding for the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.

EPA Withdraws Information Request for the Oil and Gas Industry, U.S. EPA News Release, 3/2/17.  Excerpt: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing its request that owners and operators in the oil and natural gas industry provide information on equipment and emissions [particularly of methane] at existing oil and gas operations. The withdrawal is effective immediately, meaning owners and operators – including those who have received an extension to their due dates for providing the information – are no longer required to respond.”  According to EPA Withdraws Methane Disclosure Rule For Oil and Gas Drillers, Triple Pundit, 3/3/17: “The EPA established these standards last year as part of the Barack Obama administration’s goal to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.”

White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency [NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], Washington Post, 3/3/17.  [This regards a memo from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by the newspaper on reducing the budget of NOAA by 17 percent overall, with a possible 26-percent reduction to NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, 22 percent reduction to the agency’s satellite division, and elimination of the Sea Grant program.]

Potential budget cuts to U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Agency (TSA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund a wall at the border with Mexico: To fund border wall, Trump administration weighs cuts to Coast Guard, airport security, Washington Post, 3/7/17.  [According to a draft Office of Management and Budget proposal obtained by The Washington Post, the Coast Guard’s 2017 budget would be cut from $9.1 billion to $7.8 billion (14 percent), and the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each.]

EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming, CNBC, 3/9/17.  EPA chief: Carbon dioxide not “primary contributor” to climate change, CNN, 3/10/17; EPA Head Scott Pruitt Doubts Basic Consensus On Climate Change, NPR, 3/9/17; Trump EPA chief Pruitt rejects link between carbon dioxide and climate change, Wall Street Journal, 3/10/17; EPA Chief Questions Agency’s Right to Regulate Carbon Emissions, Wall Street Journal, 3/9/17 [all regarding comments by U.S. EPA Director Scott Pruitt].

Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns, With Plea to Pruitt to Protect Vulnerable Communities, InsideClimateNews, 3/9/17.  [Mustafa Ali, the head of the environmental justice program at the U.S. EPA, resigned on March 8, 2017, with a letter to Director Scott Pruitt, urging the new agency head him not to implement deep budget cuts.  The letter is available online at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3514958-Final-Resignation-Letter-for-Administrator.html.]

Pruitt: Congress should decide if agency can regulate CO2, E&E News Climate Wire, 3/13/17 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).  [This regards comments by U.S. EPA director Scott Pruitt in an interview with CNBC on March 9, 2017, asserting that Congress should take up the question of whether the EPA has authority under the existing Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide.  The CNBC report is available at http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/09/epa-chief-scott-pruitt.html.]

Water-related Items on President Trump’s proposed budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018, sent to Congress on March 16, 2017; the document is available line (as PDF) at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf.  An item generating much news in the Virginia region was the proposed budget’s elimination of the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program (annual budget of $73 million).  See also March 31, 2017, below.
Big winners and big losers in Trump’s budget, Greenwire, 3/16/17 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).
Trump budget guts climate change programs, Greenwire, 3/16/17 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).
Trump proposes slashing DOE clean energy research, Greenwire, 3/16/17 (subscription required for full article; trial subscriptions available).
Trump Unveils ‘Hard Power’ Budget That Boosts Military Spending, National Public Radio (NPR), 3/16/17.
Trump budget cuts funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program, Associated Press, as published by Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/16/17.
Trump budget would slash funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup from $73M a year to $0, Virginian-Pilot, 3/16/17.
Trump bid to axe Bay restoration funding draws fire; Budget outline would eliminate EPA Bay Program funding, slash other agencies that have contributed, Bay Journal, 3/17/17.
Trump budget axes funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/16/17.
Virginia Politics – Trump wants to end funding of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Here’s who’s fighting back, Washington Post, 3/18/17.
Trump budget would cut funding by 25 percent at institute, Associated Press, as published by WAVY TV-Hampton Roads, 3/20/17 [cuts resulting to research Virginia Institute of Marine Science via proposed cuts to the U.S. EPA and NOAA].
Chesapeake Bay funding, on Trump’s chopping block, pays for projects large and small, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/26/17.
Fate Of Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Unclear Under Trump, WBUR Boston, 3/28/17 (5 min./33 sec. audio segment).
The Federal Funding Cut to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Program will Have Potential Environmental and Economic Impacts, JD Supra Business Advisor, 3/31/17.
Trump’s EPA cuts risk fight with state’ environmental agencies, Washington Examiner, 4/24/17.

March 28, 2017, executive order on climate/energy policies of the Obama Administration:  [also Separate post on 3/28/17] – On March 28, 2017, the Trump Administration issued an executive order affecting several energy and climate policies implemented by the Obama Administration, including most prominently the Clean Power Plan, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August 2015.  The order, “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” is available online at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/28/presidential-executive-order-promoting-energy-independence-and-economi-1.  The order’s actions include the following: reviewing the Clean Power Plan regulation; rescinding an August 2016 guidance on climate change issued by the Council on Environmental Quality; starting a 170-day process for each executive agency and department to identify regulations or policies that inhibit domestic energy production; stopping the use of estimates made during the Obama Administration of the social cost of greenhouse gases; rescinding a moratorium on coal leases on federal lands; ordering a review of regulations issued in November 2016 on methane releases from oil and gas production facilities; and rewriting a regulation issued in 2015 on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands.

Sources and additional news items related to the order:
“Clean Power Plan Hub,” E&E News, online at http://www.eenews.net/interactive/clean_power_plan (subscription required; trial subscriptions available).
Background Briefing on the President’s Energy Independence Executive Order, White House Press Secretary, 3/27/17.
What to Know About Trump’s Order to Dismantle the Clean Power Plan, New York Times, 3/27/17.
States vow to defend rule, E&E News, 3/28/17 (subscription required; trial subscriptions available).
Trump signs executive order rolling back Obama-era energy regs, Fox News, 3/28/17.
Trump launches aggressive campaign to dismantle Obama climate agenda; Barrasso: Trump climate rollback helps U.S. as an energy superpower [with U.S. Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo.]; and “Difficult slog” ahead to undo Obama climate legacy, says former EPA chief [with former U.S. EPA Director Gina McCarthy] – all on PBS NewsHour, 3/28/17.
Trump signs order dismantling Obama-era climate policies, Reuters, 3/28/17.
Trump signs executive order to review Clean Power Plan, Utility Dive, 3/28/17.
Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record, Washington Post, 3/28/17.
The big announcement is over. What happens now?, E&E News/Climate Wire, 3/29/17 (subscription required; trial subscriptions available).
Energy attorney Weissman says Trump order could impact nearly all environmental regulation, E&E OnPoint (9 min./47 sec. video, with transcript), 4/19/17 (subscription required; trial subscriptions available).  (Overview from the source: “Could President Trump’s recent executive action on climate and energy have impacts that are so far-reaching, they could potentially affect almost all environmental regulations with ties to energy?  During today’s ‘OnPoint,’ Andrew Weissman, senior counsel at Pillsbury Law and founder of EBW Analytics, an energy market research and analysis group, explains why he believes the [executive order] is a game changer for regulation, litigation, and the options available for industry.”]

March 31 additional details on proposed EPA budget cuts in FY 2018 proposed budget: New EPA documents reveal even deeper proposed cuts to staff and programs, Washington Post, 3/31/17.  The Washington Post obtained a March 21, 2017, budget document of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with details on how the agency would cut $2.6 billion (31 percent) as called for in President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget, which was sent to Congress on March 16, 2017.  According to the Post report, the following are some of the proposed cuts:
Great Lakes Restoration – $289 million/about 72 employees;
Nonpoint source pollution grants – $165 million/0 employees;
Climate Protection Program – $70 million/about 224 employees;
Chesapeake Bay Program – $67 million/about 40 employees;
Puget Sound – $27 million/6 employees;
Water quality research and support grants – $26 million/4 employees;
Leaking underground storage tank regulation and enforcement – $25 million/0 employees;
National Estuary Program/coastal waterways – $20 million/about 44 employees.
Other programs – $158 million/about 551 employees.

April 2017 U.S. EPA action on 2015 regulation on wastewater from coal-fired power plants: Trump administration halts Obama-era rule aimed at curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants, Washington Post, 4/13/17.  Excerpt: “Beginning in 2018, power plants would have had to begin showing that they were using the most up-to-date technology to remove heavy metals — including lead, arsenic, mercury and other pollutants — from their wastewater.  [EPA Director Scott] Pruitt wrote that the EPA plans to postpone compliance deadlines for the regulation, which is also being challenged in a federal court.”

April 2017 executive order (to be issued during the last week of April) calling for a review of offshore oil and gas exploration locations and regulations: Trump to sign executive orders on drilling, cybersecurity and a rural America task force, Politico, 4/23/17.  Excerpt: “One order…will call for a ‘review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration,’ the White House said.  Former President Barack Obama put large portions of the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic and dozens of underwater canyons off the East Coast permanently off limits for drilling during his final weeks in office.  His administration had previously shelved plans that would have opened up other parts of East Coast and Arctic waters to oil exploration in the coming years.”

April 26, 2017, executive order calling for a review of national monuments designations under the federal Antiquities Act, focusing on sites of 100,000 acres or more on federal lands or in federal waters.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is to submit a report to the White House within 120 days of the order.  Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, White House Office of the Press Secretary, 4/26/17.  Trump orders review of national monuments, vows to ‘end these abuses and return control to the people’, Washington Post, 4/26/17.  Trump orders review of national monuments to allow development, Reuters, 4/26/17.  Trump orders review of national monument sites, The Hill, 4/26/17.


2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill Ecological Damages Valued at $17.2 Billion, According to Research Published on April 20, 2017

In the April 20, 2017, issue of Science, a team of researchers (including Kevin Boyle of Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics) estimated that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began April 20, 2010, resulted in the equivalent of $17.2 billion of damage to natural resources.

The estimate was based on a household survey asking what people would be willing to pay to prevent or reduce a future recurrence of the kinds of damages (to organisms and habitats) seen from the 2010 incident.

The article is “Putting a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill,” in the April 20, 2017, issue of Science (Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pages 253-254), available online at http://science.sciencemag.org/.  (The direct link to article is http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6335/253, but a subscription is required for access.)  A summary of the research is available in BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find in first-ever financial evaluation of spill’s impact, Virginia Tech News, 4/20/17.