10-13-09

 

10-13-09
Modesto Bee
Modesto landowners fund growth campaign...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-print/story/891216.html
All of Measure E's campaign donations came from landowners hoping their rural properties eventually would be annexed to Modesto and developed, according to finance disclosure forms.
Measure E is the only one among five Modesto growth measures whose supporters are actively campaigning to persuade voters that the city should extend sewer services for eventual building. They had raised $16,563 and spent $10,069 as of Sept. 19, according to the report.
Also known as the Hetch-Hetchy area, the 830-acre tract is east of North McHenry Avenue's car dealerships and bounded on its other sides by Pelandale Avenue, Claribel Road and Oakdale Road. Hetch-Hetchy would produce the most houses as opposed to jobs, compared to Measures A, B, C and D.
Measure E also was the only measure that did not receive unanimous City Council backing, advancing to the Nov. 3 ballot on a 4-2 vote after failing to gain support from a council growth committee. And it's the only measure that didn't win an endorsement from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.
Measure E's largest donations came from Anthony Rodin of Rodin Ranch ($4,550, 113 acres in Hetch-Hetchy), Ronald Ursini ($3,206, 80 acres) and Alex Liakos ($2,559, 64 acres).
The advisory growth measures are not binding on the council.
Frank Bavaro said he and other property owners are advocating for Measure E without the help of a development firm, in hopes that the area would be ready to build when the market rebounds in several years.
"There is not a developer involved in this, other than me getting landowners together and saying, 'Hey, let's all kick in a few bucks,' " Bavaro said.
Supporters were late filing campaign reports because the city clerk's office did not inform them they had to, said campaign consultant Michael Gaffney. The landowners paid him $6,000, according to the report.
Added to the other measures, Modesto voters will weigh in on potential development of nearly 3,000 acres on the city's fringe -- the largest combined areas in 30 years of advisory growth measures.
Capitol Weekly
Two-step bond eyed in water talks...John Howard
http://capitolweekly.net/article.php?_c=ybnf6scq2y5l9i&xid=yc5s2gq9xwtky7&done=.yc5zpc7ip7jn9q
The closed-door negotiations over California's water future between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Legislature's leaders include a plan to borrow $9.4 billion with voter approval -- but use only half the funds through 2015 and the rest later.
About a third the money, perhaps $3 billion, would be used to develop storage, but whether by dams or groundwater storage has not yet been spelled out. The bond money would be spent in conjunction with matching funds from the locals, and streams of revenue coming from the rates of watger consumers. 
There is no agreement on the finance piece of the water proposal, but sources in both houses believe the political leadership appeared closer on this section than on other sections of the complex water puzzle.
Earlier, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer questioned the wisdom of adding more bond indebtedness. "If we're not careful, rising debt service payments soon will consume more than 10 percent of General Fund revenues," he noted. "The days of blithely heaping more and more debt burden on the Gneral Fund are over - at least they should be." He said improvements in the state's water works should be financed mainly by users, not the state's General Fund, which is backed by all taxpayers. 
At issue is a plan to overhaul California aging water delivery system that would move more water from rain-rich northern California to mid-state farmers and the vast population centers of the arid south. The plan would include environmental protections for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of San Francisco and a create a new body called the Stewardship Council. Its seven members -- including four gubernatorial appointees -- would make critical decisions on water projects. Potentially, the plan could lead to the construction of two new reservoirs - thus far, however, they are not spelled out in the proposed legislation and none are guaranteed -- and increase the water level of a third. Similarly, the hotly contested building of a canal to move water through or around the delta to the south is not specifically spelled out in the latest negotiations but is included in separate state planning.
If ultimately approved, the proposals would mark the most significant water development in California since voters approved the State Water Project a half-century ago.
The governor and legislative leaders said that they were close to an agreement last year and earlier this year, but negotiations collapsed as time ran out and partisanship kicked in. Major players in the latest political fight over water, including environmentalists and an array of water agencies, say they have been excluded from the Capitol negotiations, which have been tightly held in the governor's office. 
The construction of billions of dollars in projects has drawn fire from environmentalists, who contend that too little attention is being directed at conservation, groundwater storage, species protection, groundwater monitoring and other issues. They questioned provisions in the latest proposals, still under discussion, that could lessen monitoring and lower the amount of set aside to protect wildlife.
The governor has called a special session on water to begin Wednesday, but Capitol sources in both houses said it was unlikely that lawmakers would be able to act this week, in part because any newly drafted legislation reflecting the a deal would need to be in print and vetted.
A north-south, bipartisan agreement on water, a rarity in the Capitol, is the culmination on months of negotiations and a bitter, three-pronged fight between environmentalists, northern water interests and the powerful public water districts of the Central Valley and Southern California.
Despite legal hurdles, two reservoirs have figured in the discussions. One is the 1.9 million acre-foot Sites Reservoir near Maxwell in Colusa County in the Antelope Valley. The other is Temperance Flat complex above Fresno, a $3.3 billion project that would store about 2 million acre-feet. A third reservoir, Los Vaqueros run by Contra Costa water officials, could have its level raised.
San Francisco Chronicle
Myriad details on water fix divide Calif lawmakers...SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writer
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/10/12/financial/f150017D44.DTL&type=printable
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) -- Figuring out a way to update California's water system has vexed governors and lawmakers for decades, a record of inaction Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to reverse through a special legislative session this fall.
Even after days of negotiations, it is unclear whether the pressure Schwarzenegger is placing on the legislative leaders of the Assembly and Senate will result in the type of consensus that has eluded generations of political leaders.
"I think the jury is still out," said Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, who said Democrats and Republicans set aside their differences decades ago to make sure the state had a reliable water supply for farms and cities. "But now even water projects are in the partisan crosshairs in Sacramento."
Democrats have proposed a $9.4 billion bond that is intended to improve California's aging water infrastructure and address environmental problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the estuary that serves as the conduit for moving water from Northern California's rivers to the south.
A companion bill calls for statewide conservation and groundwater monitoring, higher penalties for those who take water illegally and a new government body to oversee the delta.
But lawmakers continued to haggle over how to pay for it, how much cities should be required to conserve and whether private land owners ought to let the state survey their wells to determine the level of groundwater available.
"We have to eliminate a number of poison pills in this bill, which if not addressed could move us backward by a generation in the state," Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said in an interview Monday.
Schwarzenegger, Republicans and farmers have pushed for an increased water supply — primarily by building two new dams — while Democrats prefer to save water by increasing conservation measures. The state's severe fiscal crisis hangs over the negotiations, complicating any decision about spending billions of dollars on public works projects.
Democratic leaders said they hope to reach an agreement with Republicans on the outstanding issues by the end of the week. While Schwarzenegger called a special session of the Legislature on Sunday, neither the Assembly nor the Senate have set a date to meet.
At a Monday news conference in Los Angeles focused on renewable energy, Schwarzenegger said legislative leaders have shown "great interest" in reaching a water deal. It was one of the reasons the Republican governor said he backed off his threat to veto hundreds of their bills by Sunday if they failed to agree on water legislation.
Passing a water bond needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring at least some support from Republicans. The latest proposal by Democrats would authorize a $9.4 billion general obligation bond that would go before voters in 2010.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said lawmakers were discussing a provision that would prevent half the bond money from being spent before 2015. That would spread out the interest the state would owe on such a large bond.
"When people, (lawmakers), stakeholders, most importantly the public, have an opportunity to review this work, I believe they will see this as the most comprehensive advance in water in California in many decades," Steinberg said.
Republicans have been unwilling to hash out the final details of a bond until they are satisfied with the policy changes Democrats are seeking in the accompanying bill, which requires a simple majority vote and can be passed without GOP support.
Among the sticking points:
_ Democrats want to create a seven-member council to create a plan on how to get a healthy delta. Republicans are concerned about creating another government entity that has no accountability to the Legislature. They also question the council's composition.
_ Democrats want to mandate that cities boost water conservation by 20 percent over the next decade. Republicans are objecting to exemptions that would be granted to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Francisco, which might only have to conserve 5 percent of their water use because of past conservation achievements. They also are concerned that cities that do not meet the target would be subject to lawsuits.
_ Democrats say water districts should be required to monitor private wells to determine how much groundwater there is in the state. They argue California is the only state that does not have a groundwater monitoring program. Republicans say groundwater levels can be determined in each basin by monitoring only a handful of wells. They say keeping tabs on every well in the state would be burdensome and unnecessary.
_ Democrats have proposed doubling fines on those who illegally take water and giving the State Water Resources Control Board greater power to investigate water diversions. Republicans oppose giving that kind of power to an unelected body.
_ Democrats have scaled back their initial bond proposal from $12 billion to $9.4 billion. Republicans like the language that would make some of the money available for dams and restoring the delta, but they question what one lawmaker describes as pork-barrel projects meant to generate support from Southern California water districts and voters. Those include grant money for water recycling, cleanup of contaminated groundwater and wastewater treatment facilities.
Indybay
Governor Schwarzenegger's Race to Raise the Deficit...Dan Bacher..10-12-09 
There is no doubt the Arnold Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish, people and the environment in California history, is obsessed with building a monument to his "manhood" and gigantic ego, the peripheral canal.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, reports on Governor Schwarzenegger's mad race to raise the state's deficit by building the peripheral canal.
Delta Flows: Restore the Delta Newsletter, October 12, 2009
"That's the scary part. I didn't know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run." ---The Wizard of Oz
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/12/18625288.php
Governor Schwarzenegger's Race to Raise the Deficit
Today, Bloomberg News Service reports that a $2.1 billion tax deficit for October, 2009 threatens to unravel California's three-month-old budget. Click here to read the story:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aVrXkgPkXqSk
But that doesn't fluster Governor Schwarzenegger and top legislative leaders who according to Governor Schwarzenegger's statement yesterday are close to a deal on a water package. Never mind that the public has no idea at this point what is in the proposed legislation or how much it will cost - that this deal in its latest incarnation has not been seen in print - or that all Delta legislators have been left out of the negotiations process.
Instead, Governor Schwarzenegger declared in his statement regarding a special session on water that he is ready to:
"To consider and act upon legislation to place a general obligation bond and, as necessary, a lease revenue bond on the ballot."
Columnist Mike Fitzgerald from the Record wrote a terrific column this weekend showing the peripheral canal project getting bigger by the minute (Click here to read his column:
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091011/A_NEWS0803/910110301#STS=g0pm1apb.rot).
Yes, it's getting bigger and more fantastical in the minds of canal proponents; never mind the pesky deficit is growing in size at the same time. After all, it's so easy to govern say if one ignores reality and manages the Capitol like a movie set.
And while the Governor and DWR Chief Lester Snow continue pushing forward the BDCP (also known as the Big Detrimental Canal Project), water exported from the Delta is for resale. Click here to see Restore the Delta's You Tube clip,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpEhieTzVHQ, on where Delta water is going after it leaves the Delta.
As all this water theater plays out in Sacramento with the Governor in his starring role, thousands of people in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, many in the farmworker communities that the Governor likes to make references to in his speeches, do not have clean drinking water, despite numerous legislative efforts, and the passage of previous water bonds.
But that doesn't disturb the Governor. He vetoed AB1242 yesterday - a bill calling for a human right to clean and affordable drinking water. Clearly, in the Governor's mind, California's water, part of the public trust, is not to be managed for equitable human use including the poor, or for protecting Delta fisheries and family farming communities, the middle class. It's a commodity for the profit of a few well off landowners on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley.
There Are Alternatives for Managing California's Water System
Last Friday, Restore the Delta, along with twenty-three environmental organizations, rolled out California water policy recommendations to Governor Schwarzenegger, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. These groups, representing hundreds of thousands of Californians, are calling for a water package based on sustainability, equity, and sustainable financing, rather than the continued model of big projects that profit a small percentage of California water users. To read our recommendations for a new water paradigm for California's future click here:
http://www.restorethedelta.org/pdfs/New-Paradigm-FINAL.pdf.
Bloomberg
California Debt Unnerves Investors as Taxes Plunge $2 Billion...William Selway and Michael B. Marois...10-12-09
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aVrXkgPkXqSk
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- A $2.1 billion drop in California tax collection is opening a hole in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget only three months after lawmakers in the most-populous state slashed spending for the second time in a year.
General fund revenue in the state accounting for 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product dropped to $19.4 billion during the fiscal year’s first three months, according to figures Democratic Controller John Chiang released Oct. 9. The total for the period ended Sept. 30 trailed by $1.1 billion, or 5.3 percent, forecasts in the annual budget the Republican governor signed July 28.
“This reinforces that state’s budget problems aren’t over, and as the year goes on, we’re likely to see growing budget deficit projections,” said David Blair, an analyst with Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, which invests $20 billion in municipal bonds. “This clearly is going to continue to put pressure on the Legislature and the governor.”
The latest report underscores how states including California, the largest municipal bond issuer in the U.S., are still dealing with fallout from the recession even as the economy begins its recovery. The state last week was forced to raise yields to attract buyers to a $4.1 billion debt sale, after cutting the issue from $4.5 billion.
California’s decision helped push up borrowing costs in the municipal market by the most in almost four months even as states prepare new issues of taxable Build America Bonds, whose sales already total $40.2 billion. The Treasury pays 35 percent of interest costs for the debt, part of the federal economic stimulus plan approved in February.
Losing Jobs
State governments are particularly hard hit by a continuing loss of jobs, which dampens the income- and sales-tax collections upon which they depend. From April through June, states and localities recorded a 12 percent tax revenue decline from a year earlier, the third consecutive quarterly drop, according to the U.S. Census. The national unemployment rate in September was 9.8 percent, the highest since 1983, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
In New York, Governor David Paterson on Oct. 6 ordered state agencies to cut spending amid predictions that the deficit for the year ending March 31 may grow to $3 billion, $900 million more than budget officials estimated in July. Pennsylvania, acting 101 days into the fiscal year, enacted a $27.8 billion budget on Oct. 9 that raises cigarette taxes and expands gambling to boost revenue. Ohio confronts an $844 billion gap, while Connecticut will borrow $2.25 billion over the next two years, beginning with a $1 billion debt sale in November, to balance its budget.
‘Somewhat Unique’
“California’s problems, while somewhat unique and self- inflicted, are really America’s problems,” said Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of the world’s biggest bond fund wrote on Oct. 1. State and federal lawmakers, unable to comprehend the extent of consumer borrowing, “reflect a lack of vision to perceive that the strong growth in revenues was driven by the same excess leverage and the same delusionary asset appreciation that was bound to approach cliff’s edge.”
The state has been among the hardest hit and its Legislature, requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes or pass a budget, has struggled to respond swiftly as the state’s fiscal strains worsened this year. Since February, Schwarzenegger and lawmakers have slashed $32 billion from spending, cutting into funding for schools, universities and welfare programs. They also raised taxes by $12.5 billion to balance the $85 billion budget.
’ Court Decision
Chiang, the controller, said the state’s latest figures show that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature must prepare for “more difficult decisions ahead.” California was also handed a defeat on Oct. 2 by the state’s Supreme Court, which let stand a ruling that the governor and lawmakers illegally used $3.6 billion of money meant for local transportation agencies to balance the budget since 2007.
“Revenues more than $1 billion under estimates and recent adverse court rulings are dealing a major blow to a budget that is barely 10-weeks old,” Chiang said in a statement Oct. 9. “While there are encouraging signs that California’s economy is preparing for a comeback, the recession continues to drag state revenues down.”
California isn’t at immediate risk for running out of cash as it did in July, when it resorted to issuing IOUs to pay some vendors and tax refunds as lawmakers fought over how to shore up finances. Last month, it borrowed $8.8 billion by selling notes, an advance on the tax it will collect later in the budget year.
Plugging Gaps
Schwarzenegger’s administration said it’s too soon to tell whether the slide in tax receipts through September foretells a worsening trend. Should revenue continue slipping, California lawmakers may find it difficult to make up for the gaps, given how deeply they have already cut and resistance among Republicans to further tax increases.
Schwarzenegger, 62, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits, doesn’t have to present his budget for the next 12- month fiscal period until January, and he has given no indication that he is planning to call an emergency session beforehand, as he did last year.
“Clearly, the numbers are cause for concern but the issue now for us is to determine if this is a one-time event or whether it has one more long-term implications,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger’s finance department.
The tax collection figures were released after the conclusion of a $4.1 billion bond sale, which was trimmed by about $400 million after investors demanded higher yields than the state was willing to pay on some of the securities. The sale came after a rally in demand for municipal bonds pushed state- and local-government borrowing costs to a 42-year low.
Watching for Deterioration
David Blair, the Pimco analyst, said the pullback was caused by the low yields California offered amid lingering investor concern that the state’s fiscal condition may deteriorate further.
“They just got a little aggressive in where they wanted to price it,” Blair said. “Most people still recognize that there’s budget deficits the state is trying to deal with this year and going forward.”
The difference between a 10-year California bond and a top- rated municipal security reached as much as 1.71 percentage points on July 1, when the California debt yielded 5.21 percent, according to Bloomberg data. The difference slipped to 1.06 percent on Sept. 11 before ending at 1.21 percent on Oct. 9.
Future Debt Sales
California plans to sell as much as $15 billion more in bonds this year and its deficits, while not projected to reach the $60 billion it dealt with in the two years that end in July, are persistent. The state will face a $7.4 billion gap in the fiscal year beginning on June 30 and about $15 billion in each of the following two fiscal periods, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer said in his annual report on the state’s debt, released ahead of the bond sale.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the treasurer, said his office has alerted investors that the fiscal troubles are far from over and the latest tax data did little to alter the outlook.
“The state has been very clear that our budget problems aren’t behind us,” Dresslar said. “This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anybody.”
Contra Costa Times
EBMUD likely to move ahead with dam plan today...Mike Taugher
http://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_13545984
The East Bay's largest water agency today will consider moving ahead on its plan to raise a Sierra dam, flooding a prime stretch of river to ease the grip of droughts.
The proposal is part of the East Bay Municipal Utility District's plan to secure additional water supplies through the year 2040. The district's directors are expected to approve the final environmental study today at a meeting in Oakland.
Water agency planners offered two alternatives —- either raise Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne River or build desalination plants with other Bay Area water agencies to ensure its 1.3 million customers never have to endure more than 10 percent water rationing in a drought.
"What we're trying to do is look down the road," said board director John Coleman. "We may find in this entire process (that the benefits) don't justify the cost of an enlarged Pardee. We may find that desalination will do it for us."
Critics contend that inundating a scenic and popular stretch of river is unwarranted.
"We can't drought-proof California," said Steve Evans, conservation director for Friends of the River. "When we have drought, people are going to have to cut back."
A final decision on whether to raise the dam is years away and will require additional environmental studies, but if the board adopts the plan as expected today, Evans said, environmentalists will have 30 days to sue.
The decision comes just months before the district expects to have access to water from the $1 billion Freeport project that it is building with Sacramento.
Freeport, which will draw water from the Sacramento River, is meant to shield residents from droughts. But EBMUD customers could still face 25 percent rationing in the most severe drought.
"To ask our customers to cut 25 percent after they've done all the things we've asked for was to be too much of a hardship," said district general manager Dennis Diemer.
Regulatory agencies that oversee salmon, land, water and the Mokelumne River have strongly criticized the environmental report.
· The collapse of California's chinook salmon runs could require finding ways to allow salmon and steelhead to pass the district's Camanche and Pardee dams so they can spawn upstream, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Raising the dam, "doesn't support recovery of these fish," the service wrote to the district earlier this year.
· The state agency that oversees water rights questioned whether the district really needs the water "in the near term" and noted that it already has unused reservoir space downstream of Pardee.
· The stretch of the Mokelumne River that would be inundated if the dam has been declared suitable for inclusion as a wild and scenic river, the nation's highest level of environmental protection for a river in the nation, noted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
· The board meeting begins at 1:15 p.m. in EBMUD's board room at 375 11th St., Oakland.
Mercury News
High Speed Rail Authority shops alternatives through San Jose...John Woolfol
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_13547760?nclick_check=1
State officials looking to shoot 220-mph bullet trains through densely populated neighborhoods in San Jose — with the least resistance from residents — are shopping four alternatives to the original route along existing Caltrain tracks.The California High Speed Rail Authority's preliminary proposal was to run the trains along the existing tracks from downtown's Diridon Station south toward the Tamien Station. But that route runs through the Gardner and North Willow Glen neighborhoods, where residents fear the increased rail traffic and accompanying noise. Neighbors also fear they could be forced to sell property adjacent to the tracks to accompany the new trains.
Willow Glen resident Larry Ames said the original proposal "would be very destructive to the northern Willow Glen area," where homes are right alongside the tracks. With high-speed rail eventually expected to run trains every 3 minutes, he said, "that would be maddeningly noisy."
The $45 billion bullet-train project, supported by bonds that state voters approved last year with Proposition 1A, is projected to run trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, beginning in 2020. The alternative routes will be evaluated as part of an environmental review expected to be completed in 2011.
One possible alternative suggested by the city is a narrower high-speed rail footprint with three rather than four tracks to accommodate express trains. But the rail authority last week also unveiled four other alternatives suggested by residents and local officials that would ease neighborhood concerns — though likely at a much steeper price.
"This is what we heard from you, this is what we've come up for the alternatives," said Gary Kennerly, the rail authority's regional manager for the San Jose-to-Merced section of the high-speed line. "The next step is to take these alternatives and evaluate them."
While trains following the existing tracks would run at or above ground level, three of the new alternatives would put a significant part of the line underground between Tamien and Diridon. An underground line is favored by many residents in the North Willow Glen and Gardner neighborhoods and would allow the trains to run a straighter, faster route.
But Kennerly said the tracks would have to be bored 110 feet underground to avoid a proposed BART line and other obstacles. It is not even certain such a route is feasible from an engineering standpoint, and the cost is expected to be huge.
"If we can determine it's actually constructible, we can then start putting a price to it," Kennerly said. "I would expect it to be quite a high premium."
Another possibility is running elevated tracks along Interstate 280 and Highway 87 between Diridon and Tamien. Such a route would have even more of an "S" curve than the original proposal, slowing the trains. But it would be cheaper and easier than tunneling.
Ames had suggested such a route and was pleased to see it included.
"They're listening to the whole community," he said, "and that's what I'm glad to hear."
Proposed alignments for high-speed rail...image
http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentItemRelationshipId=2681360
Los Angeles Times
What if Tom Campbell had money?
The Republican is not far from the California mainstream, but his race for governor needs dollars...George Skelton, Capitol Journal...10-12-09
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap12-2009oct12,0,2211027,print.column
From Sacramento
Tom Campbell is one of those "what if?" political candidates with intriguing potential scenarios.
He doesn't appear to stand a prayer of winning the Republican nomination for governor, let alone the job of chief executive itself. But what if:
* Voters in the Republican primary next June are looking for a new governor who doesn't need training wheels, who could get up to speed from the start and has been leveling with them about the precise routes he'll take?
* Campbell's two mega-rich GOP competitors -- former EBay chief executive Meg Whitman and state insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- commit murder-suicide in a bombardment of TV attack ads? That's what Democrats Al Checchi and Jane Harman did in 1998, allowing under-funded Gray Davis to win the party nomination.
* He does manage to become the Republican nominee? Many political pros think that the centrist Campbell would be the strongest candidate against either probable Democratic offering, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger provides Campbell with a priceless ballot title: "Lieutenant Governor"? The office is expected to be vacated soon. The incumbent, Democrat John Garamendi, is favored to win a congressional seat in a special election on Nov. 3. His replacement would be appointed by the governor. Campbell was Schwarzenegger's finance director in 2005 and the two share similar ideologies, if not styles.
Have they talked about the lieutenant governor's job? "I'm going to keep my conversations confidential," Campbell told me, hinting that he had.
One huge problem, however, with the scenario of an LG appointment: It would have to be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
"Campbell is the Republican who scares us the most," says Bill Cavala, a former Democratic operative for the state Assembly who's now managing Garamendi's campaign. "Not in a thousand years would we breathe life into such a dangerous candidate."
OK, that in itself would be a gift: Campbell would get a lot of news media attention. And after Democrats rudely rejected him, he could appeal to Republican voters by railing against Sacramento's incessant hyper-partisan politics.
But Campbell, 57, rarely rails. More commonly he lectures, like the longtime professor -- law, economics, business -- that he is when not representing Silicon Valley in Congress or the state Senate. He also has run twice unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
Nobody I've talked to gives Campbell much chance of winning, for three basic reasons:
First, and most important, he's a political pauper. He'll be greatly outspent by Whitman and Poizner, who can dig into their own deep pockets for campaign cash, and are doing it.
Second, his personality isn't exactly rock-star quality. He comes across as the smartest kid in the class, and he usually is. He's highly articulate, very polite, often smiles and seldom frowns, but he isn't someone voters would naturally warm up to unless they're fellow wonks.
Third, he may seem too centrist for GOP activists, who lean far right and greatly influence party primaries.
But he's holding his own in the early competition.
A Field Poll released last week showed him essentially tied with Whitman among Republican primary voters. The results: Whitman 22%, Campbell 20%, Poizner 9%. Whitman ran strongest among voters over 50. Campbell led comfortably among those under 50.
But half the voters were undecided and most had no opinion of any GOP candidate.
In general election matchups, all three Republicans trailed Democrat Newsom -- Campbell less so. Brown clobbered everyone.
Few people are paying attention. But Campbell's still pumping out eye-glazing specifics, including these:
* Taxes. He won't take the "no tax" pledge because that would "handcuff" a governor. He wants "flexibility." In fact, he proposed a one-year gas tax increase to balance the state budget rather than borrow and raid local treasuries.
But, he says, "I'd far rather lower taxes. And you should lower taxes when you've lowered expenditures, not the other way around, or you're just creating a budget deficit."
He wouldn't touch Proposition 13, the property tax break.
And he thinks a recent blue-ribbon commission headed by investor Gerald Parsky was "on the right track" when it recommended a totally new "business net receipts tax" to replace the corporation and state sales taxes. That's because it would tend to tax consumption rather than income.
* Marijuana. He's against legalizing and taxing it. "That would be absurd because the federal government won't permit it." Besides, he adds, many marijuana distributors also peddle meth. Legalizing pot would set up an easy money laundering scheme for "very, very dangerous people."
* Budget. Cut back all social spending -- on healthcare, welfare and the aged and disabled -- to the national average.
And ask Washington to allow California to take all the federal and state money spent on healthcare for the poor -- $42 billion -- and permit private insurers to compete to provide the care. That could save $8.6 billion, he asserts. The feds probably wouldn't agree, he admits, "but one has to try."
* Water. He'd call for help from the so-called god squad, a federal panel that could exempt the Delta smelt from endangered species protection and pump water back into San Joaquin Valley irrigation ditches. He'd transplant that tiny fish to another body of water.
Long term, he'd heighten Shasta Dam, develop an off-stream reservoir and build the controversial peripheral canal around the delta. He'd also emphasize conservation and encourage desalinization using clean, economical nuclear power.
* Other stuff: He favors same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He opposes offshore drilling and demoting the Legislature to part-time. He's for an open primary.
Call him a fiscal conservative and social moderate -- not far from the California mainstream. Nobody's going to agree with all his views, but he should get points for not playing dodge ball.
What if that's what voters want next year? Naw. Even if they did, he'd still need money to be noticed.
New York Times
California Tries to Solve Water Woes...JENNIFER STEINHAUER
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13calif.html?sq=conservation&st=cse&scp=3&pagewanted=print
LOS ANGELES — In a sign that a deal addressing California’s longstanding water supply problems may be near, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger convened a special session of the Legislature on Monday to revisit a package of water bills.
A three-year drought, federal environmental regulations restricting water flows and the fixation of Mr. Schwarzenegger — who has said he is determined to leave a mark on one of the state’s most intractable problems before leaving office next year — have heightened the urgency for an agreement.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had threatened to veto some 700 bills if lawmakers did not reach a water deal by Sunday, the end of the regular legislative session. But he backed off that threat on Monday, citing progress as lawmakers and members of his staff hunkered down to work on the issue.
The special session is expected to last until the end of the week, and both Republicans and Democrats expressed optimism on Monday that a deal was in the offing.
“While we still need to hammer out remaining issues,” Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and Senate president pro tem, said in a statement, “we are on the verge of the most comprehensive advance on water in California in decades. We’ve made significant breakthroughs on many of the sticking points that have plagued past attempts to stabilize the state’s water supply.”
The negotiations are focused on repairing the state’s fragile water ecosystem, unleashing new water supplies and increasing water conservation throughout the state. More specifically, negotiators hope to seal a deal that would make equal the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers that is a major source of the state’s drinking water — and increasing the supply of water to residents, businesses and farms.
State officials say the restoration of the delta, as envisioned in the negotiations, would be the largest environmental restoration project in the United States, surpassing the effort under way in the Florida Everglades.
But the battle over how to distribute California’s water is generations old — it was Mark Twain who was believed to have said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over” — and when it comes to water legislation, close to done never means done. In the delta alone, myriad efforts have sought to change how water flows and to whom, including a package of five policy and bond bills that never made it to a vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year.
Yet many factors have made the need to fix California’s water system problems all the more pressing.
The drought has led to water restrictions and increased prices for water around the state. And along with the drought, a federal order last year forcing water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help preserve dying smelt has reduced water flows to agriculture and resulted in dust-bowl-like conditions for many of the state’s farms. In 2008, over 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million acres in the Central Valley were left unplanted, and experts expect that number to grow this year.
In addition, environmental problems in the Sacramento River have resulted in a collapse of the Chinook salmon population, closing salmon season off the coast of California and much of Oregon for two years in a row.
Among the bills in the making is one that would issue roughly $9 billion in bonds, including $3 billion to build at least one dam. Some of the money would also be used to help restore the delta ecosystem and fortify levies to withstand natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The bonds would require voter approval.
What remains to be worked out, negotiators say, is whether any money would be set aside to build a peripheral canal that would transport water from the Sacramento River around the delta to federal and state aqueducts for use in urban and agricultural areas in the southern part of the state. The canal, long a contentious issue among California water managers and politicians, is favored by Mr. Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.
Another disputed piece of the negotiations involves the monitoring of groundwater levels. Without monitoring groundwater usage, it is impossible to tell whether aquifers are being stressed, which can lead to weakened levees and damage to the surrounding environment. As the drought has persisted, tapping into groundwater supplies has increased, especially among farmers — and in some areas, state officials say, dangerously so.
While roughly 70 percent of the state’s water districts voluntarily measure groundwater levels, reporting the levels is not mandatory, and Democrats had sought to make it so. Republican lawmakers staunchly opposed state government “trespassing” on private property to do so. A compromise would make a water district’s failure to voluntarily report levels result in the loss of billions of dollars from state bonds.
Find Water Polluters Near You...Interactive map
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/polluters/california
Across the nation, the system that Congress created to protect the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act of 1972 today often fails to prevent pollution. The New York Times has compiled data on more than 200,000 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants and collected responses from states regarding compliance. Information about facilities contained in this database comes from two sources: the Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board. The database does not contain information submitted by the states.
Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways...CHARLES DUHIGG. Karl Russell contributed reporting.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13water.html?sq=epa&st=cse&scp=10&pagewanted=print
MASONTOWN, Pa. — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.
So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.
But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north.
“It’s like they decided to spare us having to breathe in these poisons, but now we have to drink them instead,” said Philip Coleman, who lives about 15 miles from the plant and has asked a state judge to toughen the facility’s pollution regulations. “We can’t escape.”
Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.
Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers, or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.
Officials at the plant here in southwest Pennsylvania — named Hatfield’s Ferry — say it does not pose any health or environmental risks because they have installed equipment to limit the toxins the facility releases into the Monongahela River and elsewhere.
But as the number of scrubbers around the nation increases, environmentalists — including those in Pennsylvania — have become worried. The Environmental Protection Agency projects that by next year, roughly 50 percent of coal-generated electricity in the United States will come from plants that use scrubbers or similar technologies, creating vast new sources of wastewater.
Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead.
For instance, only one in 43 power plants and other electric utilities across the nation must limit how much barium they dump into nearby waterways, according to a Times analysis of E.P.A. records. Barium, which is commonly found in power plant waste and scrubber wastewater, has been linked to heart problems and diseases in other organs.
Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records. (An interactive database of power plant violations around the nation is available at www.nytimes.com/coalplants.)
Fines for Plants Modest
Other plants have paid only modest fines. For instance, Hatfield’s Ferry has violated the Clean Water Act 33 times since 2006. For those violations, the company paid less than $26,000. During that same period, the plant’s parent company earned $1.1 billion.
“We know that coal waste is so dangerous that we don’t want it in the air, and that’s why we’ve told power plants they have to install scrubbers,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “So why are they dumping the same waste into people’s water?”
Though the Environmental Protection Agency promised earlier this decade to consider new regulations on power plant waste — and reiterated that pledge after a Tennessee dam break sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal waste into farms and homes last year — federal regulators have yet to issue any major new rules.
One reason is that some state governments have long fought new federal regulations, often at the behest of energy executives, say environmentalists and regulators.
The counties surrounding Hatfield’s Ferry, which are home to multiple universities, are an example of what hangs in the balance as this debate plays out.
Last year, when Hatfield’s Ferry asked the state for permission to dump scrubber wastewater into the Monongahela River, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the request with proposed limits on some chemicals.
But state officials placed no limits on water discharges of arsenic, aluminum, boron, chromium, manganese, nickel or other chemicals that have been linked to health risks, all of which have been detected in the plant’s wastewater samples, according to state documents.
Records show, and company officials concede, that Hatfield’s Ferry is already dumping scrubber wastewater into the Monongahela that violates the state’s few proposed pollution rules. Moreover, those rules have been suspended until a judge decides on the plant’s appeal of the proposed limits.
“You can get used to the plant, and the noise and soot on your cars,” said Father Rodney Torbic, the priest at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, across the road from Hatfield’s Ferry. “But I see people suffering every day because of this pollution.”
Officials at Hatfield’s Ferry say there is no reason for residents to be concerned. They say that lawsuits against the plant are without merit, and that they have installed a $25 million water treatment plant that removes many of the toxic particles and solids from scrubber wastewater. The solids are put into a 106-acre landfill that contains a synthetic liner to prevent leaks.
Officials say that the plant’s pollution does not pose any risk. Limits on arsenic, aluminum, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium, manganese and nickel are not appropriate, the company wrote in a statement, because the plant’s wastewater is not likely to cause the Monongahela River to exceed safety levels for those contaminants.
“Allegheny has installed state-of-the-art scrubbers, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment, and state-of-the-art synthetic liners,” the company wrote in a statement. “We operate to be in compliance with all environmental laws and will continue to do so.”
The plant’s water treatment facility, however, does not remove all dissolved metals and chemicals, many of which go into the river, executives concede. An analysis of records from other plants with scrubbers indicates that such wastewater often contains high concentrations of dissolved arsenic, barium, boron, iron, manganese, cadmium, magnesium and other heavy metals that have been shown to contribute to cancer, organ failures and other diseases. Company officials say the emissions by the plant will not pose health risks, because they will be diluted in the river.
Though synthetic liners are generally considered effective at preventing leaks, environmentalists note that the Hatfield’s Ferry landfill is less than a mile uphill from the river, and that over time, other types of liners have proven less reliable than initially hoped.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in a statement last month, said it planned to revise standards for water discharges from coal-fired power plants like Hatfield’s Ferry. Agency studies have concluded that “current regulations, which were issued in 1982, have not kept pace with changes that have occurred in the electric power industry,” officials wrote.
But some environmentalists and lawmakers say that such rules will not be enough, and that new laws are needed that force plants to use more expensive technologies that essentially eliminate toxic discharges.
Cleaning Up Pollution
“It’s really important to set a precedent that tells power plants that they need to genuinely clean up pollution, rather than just shift it from the air to the water,” said Abigail Dillen, a lawyer with the law firm Earthjustice, which represents two advocacy organizations, the Environmental Integrity Project and the Citizens Coal Council, in asking a Pennsylvania court to toughen regulations on Hatfield’s Ferry.
Ms. Dillen, like other environmentalists, has urged courts and lawmakers to force plants to adopt “zero discharge” treatment facilities, which are more expensive but can eliminate most pollution.
State officials say they have established appropriate water pollution limits for Hatfield’s Ferry, and have strict standards for landfill disposal.
“We asked the plant for estimates on how much of various pollutants they are likely to emit, and based on those estimates, we set limits that are protective of the Monongahela,” said Ron Schwartz, a state environmental official. “We have asked them to monitor some chemicals, including arsenic, and if levels grow too high, we may intervene.”
However, environmental groups have argued in court documents and interviews that Hatfield’s Ferry probably will emit dangerous chemicals, and that they fear the state is unlikely to intervene.
Similar problems have emerged elsewhere. Twenty-one power plants in 10 states, including Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio, have dumped arsenic into rivers or other waters at concentrations as much as 18 times the federal drinking water standard, according to a Times analysis of E.P.A. data.
In Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere, power plants have dumped other chemicals at dangerous concentrations. Few of those plants have ever been sanctioned for those emissions, nor were their discharge permits altered to prevent future pollution.
Records indicate that power plant landfills and other disposal practices have polluted groundwater in more than a dozen states, contaminating the water in some towns with toxic chemicals. A 2007 report published by the E.P.A. suggested that people living near some power plant landfills faced a cancer risk 2,000 times higher than federal health standards.
Lobbyists Block Controls
In 2000, Environmental Protection Agency officials tried to issue stricter controls on power plant waste. But a lobbying campaign by the coal and power industries, as well as public officials in 13 states, blocked the effort. In 2008 alone, according to campaign finance reports, power companies donated $20 million to the political campaigns of federal lawmakers, almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
In interviews, E.P.A. officials said that toughening pollution rules for power plants was among their top priorities. Last month, the agency announced it was moving forward on new rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of power plants and other large industrial facilities. Lisa P. Jackson, who was confirmed to head the agency in January, has said she would determine by the end of the year whether certain power plant byproducts should be treated as hazardous waste, which would subject them to tougher regulations.
But for now, there are no new rules on power plant waste. And many states are trying to dissuade Ms. Jackson from creating new regulations, according to state and federal regulators, because they worry that new rules will burden overworked regulators, and because power plants have pressured local politicians to fight greater regulation.
For instance, Pennsylvania has opposed designating the waste from Hatfield’s Ferry and other power plants as hazardous. In a statement, the Department of Environmental Protection said the state had “sufficient state and federal laws and regulations at our disposal to control wastewater discharges at levels protective of the environment and public health.”
But residents living near power plants disagree.
“Americans want cheap electricity, but those of us who live around power plants are the ones who have to pay for it,” Mr. Coleman said. “It’s like being in the third world.”
Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells...CHARLES DUHIGG...9-18-09
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/us/18dairy.html?pagewanted=print
MORRISON, Wis. — All it took was an early thaw for the drinking water here to become unsafe.
There are 41,000 dairy cows in Brown County, which includes Morrison, and they produce more than 260 million gallons of manure each year, much of which is spread on nearby grain fields. Other farmers receive fees to cover their land with slaughterhouse waste and treated sewage.
In measured amounts, that waste acts as fertilizer. But if the amounts are excessive, bacteria and chemicals can flow into the ground and contaminate residents’ tap water.
In Morrison, more than 100 wells were polluted by agricultural runoff within a few months, according to local officials. As parasites and bacteria seeped into drinking water, residents suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and severe ear infections.
“Sometimes it smells like a barn coming out of the faucet,” said Lisa Barnard, who lives a few towns over, and just 15 miles from the city of Green Bay.
Tests of her water showed it contained E. coli, coliform bacteria and other contaminants found in manure. Last year, her 5-year-old son developed ear infections that eventually required an operation. Her doctor told her they were most likely caused by bathing in polluted water, she said.
Yet runoff from all but the largest farms is essentially unregulated by many of the federal laws intended to prevent pollution and protect drinking water sources. The Clean Water Act of 1972 largely regulates only chemicals or contaminants that move through pipes or ditches, which means it does not typically apply to waste that is sprayed on a field and seeps into groundwater.
As a result, many of the agricultural pollutants that contaminate drinking water sources are often subject only to state or county regulations. And those laws have failed to protect some residents living nearby.
To address this problem, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has created special rules for the biggest farms, like those with at least 700 cows.
But thousands of large animal feedlots that should be regulated by those rules are effectively ignored because farmers never file paperwork, E.P.A. officials say.
And regulations passed during the administration of President George W. Bush allow many of those farms to self-certify that they will not pollute, and thereby largely escape regulation.
In a statement, the E.P.A. wrote that officials were working closely with the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies to reduce pollution and bring large farms into compliance.
Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.
The problem is not limited to Wisconsin. In California, up to 15 percent of wells in agricultural areas exceed a federal contaminant threshold, according to studies. Major waterways like the Chesapeake Bay have been seriously damaged by agricultural pollution, according to government reports.
In Arkansas and Maryland, residents have accused chicken farm owners of polluting drinking water. In 2005, Oklahoma’s attorney general sued 13 poultry companies, claiming they had damaged one of the state’s most important watersheds.
It is often difficult to definitively link a specific instance of disease to one particular cause, like water pollution. Even when tests show that drinking water is polluted, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of the contamination.
Despite such caveats, regulators in Brown County say they believe that manure has contaminated tap water, making residents ill.
“One cow produces as much waste as 18 people,” said Bill Hafs, a county official who has lobbied the state Legislature for stricter waste rules.
“There just isn’t enough land to absorb that much manure, but we don’t have laws to force people to stop,” he added.
In Brown County, part of one of the nation’s largest milk-producing regions, agriculture brings in $3 billion a year. But the dairies collectively also create as much as a million gallons of waste each day. Many cows are fed a high-protein diet, which creates a more liquid manure that is easier to spray on fields.
In 2006, an unusually early thaw in Brown County melted frozen fields, including some that were covered in manure. Within days, according to a county study, more than 100 wells were contaminated with coliform bacteria, E. coli, or nitrates — byproducts of manure or other fertilizers.
“Land application requirements in place at that time were not sufficiently designed or monitored to prevent the pollution of wells,” one official wrote.
Some residents did not realize that their water was contaminated until their neighbors fell ill, which prompted them to test their own water.
“We were terrified,” said Aleisha Petri, whose water was polluted for months, until her husband dumped enough bleach in the well to kill the contaminants. Neighbors spent thousands of dollars digging new wells.
At a town hall meeting, angry homeowners yelled at dairy owners, some of whom are perceived as among the most wealthy and powerful people in town.
One resident said that he had seen cow organs dumped on a neighboring field, and his dog had dug up animal carcasses and bones.
“More than 30 percent of the wells in one town alone violated basic health standards,” said Mr. Hafs, the Brown County regulator responsible for land and water conservation, in an interview. “It’s obvious we’ve got a problem.”
But dairy owners said it was unfair to blame them for the county’s water problems. They noted that state regulators, in their reports, were unable to definitively establish the source of the 2006 contamination.
One of those farmers, Dan Natzke, owns Wayside Dairy, one of the largest farms around here. Just a few decades ago, it had just 60 cows. Today, its 1,400 animals live in enormous barns and are milked by suction pumps.
In June, Mr. Natzke explained to visiting kindergarteners that his cows produced 1.5 million gallons of manure a month. The dairy owns 1,000 acres and rents another 1,800 acres to dispose of that waste and grow crops to feed the cows.
“Where does the poop go?” one boy asked. “And what happens to the cow when it gets old?”
“The waste helps grow food,” Mr. Natzke replied. “And that’s what the cow becomes, too.”
His farm abides by dozens of state laws, Mr. Natzke said.
“All of our waste management is reviewed by our agronomist and by the state’s regulators,” he added. “We follow all the rules.”
But records show that his farm was fined $56,000 last October for spreading excessive waste. Mr. Natzke declined to comment.
Many environmental advocates argue that agricultural pollution will be reduced only through stronger federal laws. Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, has recently ordered an increase in enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, has said that clean water is a priority, and President Obama promised in campaign speeches to regulate water pollution from livestock.
But Congress has not created many new rules on the topic and, as a result, officials say their powers remain limited.
Part of the problem, according to data collected from the E.P.A. and every state, is that environmental agencies are already overtaxed. And it is unclear how to design effective laws, say regulators, including Ms. Jackson, who was confirmed to head the E.P.A. in January.
To fix the problem of agricultural runoff, “I don’t think there’s a solution in my head yet that I could say, right now, write this piece of legislation, this will get it done,” Ms. Jackson said in an interview.
She added that “the challenge now is for E.P.A. and Congress to develop solutions that represent the next step in protecting our nation’s waters and people’s health.”
A potential solution, regulators say, is to find new uses for manure. In Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle has financed projects to use farm waste to generate electricity.
But environmentalists and some lawmakers say real change will occur only when Congress passes laws giving the E.P.A. broad powers to regulate farms. Tougher statutes should permit drastic steps — like shutting down farms or blocking expansion — when watersheds become threatened, they argue.
However, a powerful farm lobby has blocked previous environmental efforts on Capital Hill. Even when state legislatures have acted, they have often encountered unexpected difficulties.
After Brown County’s wells became polluted, for instance, Wisconsin created new rules prohibiting farmers in many areas from spraying manure during winter, and creating additional requirements for large dairies.
But agriculture is among the state’s most powerful industries. After intense lobbying, the farmers’ association won a provision requiring the state often to finance up to 70 percent of the cost of following the new regulations. Unless regulators pay, some farmers do not have to comply.
In a statement, Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said farmers can only apply waste to fields “according to a nutrient management plan, which, among other things, requires that manure runoff be minimized.”
When there is evidence that a farm has “contaminated a water source, we can and do take enforcement action,” he wrote.
“Wisconsin has a long history of continuously working to improve water quality and a strong reputation nationally for our clean water efforts,” he added. “Approximately 800,000 private drinking water wells serve rural Wisconsin residents. The vast majority of wells provide safe drinking water.”
But anger in some towns remains. At the elementary school a few miles from Mr. Natzke’s dairy, there are signs above drinking fountains warning that the water may be dangerous for infants.
“I go to church with the Natzkes,” said Joel Reetz, who spent $16,000 digging a deeper well after he learned his water was polluted. “Our kid goes to school with their kids. It puts us in a terrible position, because everyone knows each other.
“But what’s happening to this town isn’t right,” he said.
Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering...CHARLES DUHIGG. Karl Russell contributed reporting...9-13-09
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/us/13water.html?pagewanted=print
Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va.
In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.
Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.
“How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.
She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.
“How is this still happening today?” she asked.
When Mrs. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of putting dangerous waste into local water supplies, their lawyer did not have to look far for evidence. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals — the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.
But state regulators never fined or punished those companies for breaking those pollution laws.
This pattern is not limited to West Virginia. Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found.
In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.
Because it is difficult to determine what causes diseases like cancer, it is impossible to know how many illnesses are the result of water pollution, or contaminants’ role in the health problems of specific individuals.
But concerns over these toxins are great enough that Congress and the E.P.A. regulate more than 100 pollutants through the Clean Water Act and strictly limit 91 chemicals or contaminants in tap water through the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Regulators themselves acknowledge lapses. The new E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said in an interview that despite many successes since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, today the nation’s water does not meet public health goals, and enforcement of water pollution laws is unacceptably low. She added that strengthening water protections is among her top priorities. State regulators say they are doing their best with insufficient resources.
The Times obtained hundreds of thousands of water pollution records through Freedom of Information Act requests to every state and the E.P.A., and compiled a national database of water pollution violations that is more comprehensive than those maintained by states or the E.P.A. (For an interactive version, which can show violations in any community, visit www.nytimes.com/toxicwaters.)
In addition, The Times interviewed more than 250 state and federal regulators, water-system managers, environmental advocates and scientists.
That research shows that an estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways.
Those exposures include carcinogens in the tap water of major American cities and unsafe chemicals in drinking-water wells. Wells, which are not typically regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, are more likely to contain contaminants than municipal water systems.
Because most of today’s water pollution has no scent or taste, many people who consume dangerous chemicals do not realize it, even after they become sick, researchers say.
But an estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. That figure does not include illnesses caused by other chemicals and toxins.
In the nation’s largest dairy states, like Wisconsin and California, farmers have sprayed liquefied animal feces onto fields, where it has seeped into wells, causing severe infections. Tap water in parts of the Farm Belt, including cities in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, has contained pesticides at concentrations that some scientists have linked to birth defects and fertility problems.
In parts of New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, California and other states where sewer systems cannot accommodate heavy rains, untreated human waste has flowed into rivers and washed onto beaches. Drinking water in parts of New Jersey, New York, Arizona and Massachusetts shows some of the highest concentrations of tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent that has been linked to kidney damage and cancer. (Specific types of water pollution across the United States will be examined in future Times articles.)
The Times’s research also shows that last year, 40 percent of the nation’s community water systems violated the Safe Drinking Water Act at least once, according to an analysis of E.P.A. data. Those violations ranged from failing to maintain proper paperwork to allowing carcinogens into tap water. More than 23 million people received drinking water from municipal systems that violated a health-based standard.
In some cases, people got sick right away. In other situations, pollutants like chemicals, inorganic toxins and heavy metals can accumulate in the body for years or decades before they cause problems. Some of the most frequently detected contaminants have been linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.
Records analyzed by The Times indicate that the Clean Water Act has been violated more than 506,000 times since 2004, by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities, according to reports submitted by polluters themselves. Companies sometimes test what they are dumping only once a quarter, so the actual number of days when they broke the law is often far higher. And some companies illegally avoid reporting their emissions, say officials, so infractions go unrecorded.
Environmental groups say the number of Clean Water Act violations has increased significantly in the last decade. Comprehensive data go back only five years but show that the number of facilities violating the Clean Water Act grew more than 16 percent from 2004 to 2007, the most recent year with complete data.
Polluters include small companies, like gas stations, dry cleaners, shopping malls and the Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park in Laporte, Ind., which acknowledged to regulators that it had dumped human waste into a nearby river for three years.
They also include large operations, like chemical factories, power plants, sewage treatment centers and one of the biggest zinc smelters, the Horsehead
Corporation of Pennsylvania, which has dumped illegal concentrations of copper, lead, zinc, chlorine and selenium into the Ohio River. Those chemicals can contribute to mental retardation and cancer.
Some violations are relatively minor. But about 60 percent of the polluters were deemed in “significant noncompliance” — meaning their violations were the most serious kind, like dumping cancer-causing chemicals or failing to measure or report when they pollute.
Finally, the Times’s research shows that fewer than 3 percent of Clean Water Act violations resulted in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. And the E.P.A. has often declined to prosecute polluters or force states to strengthen their enforcement by threatening to withhold federal money or take away powers the agency has delegated to state officials.
Neither Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park nor Horsehead, for instance, was fined for Clean Water Act violations in the last eight years. A representative of Friendly Acres declined to comment. Indiana officials say they are investigating the mobile home park. A representative of Horsehead said the company had taken steps to control pollution and was negotiating with regulators to clean up its emissions.
Numerous state and federal lawmakers said they were unaware that pollution was so widespread.
“I don’t think anyone realized how bad things have become,” said Representative James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, when told of The Times’s findings. Mr. Oberstar is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over many water-quality issues.
“The E.P.A. and states have completely dropped the ball,” he said. “Without oversight and enforcement, companies will use our lakes and rivers as dumping grounds — and that’s exactly what is apparently going on.”
The E.P.A. administrator, Ms. Jackson, whose appointment was confirmed in January, said in an interview that she intended to strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act and pressure states to apply the law.
“I’ve been saying since Day One I want to work on these water issues pretty broadly across the country,” she said. On Friday, the E.P.A. said that it was reviewing dozens of coal-mining permits in West Virginia and three other states to make sure they would not violate the Clean Water Act.
After E.P.A. officials received detailed questions from The New York Times in June, Ms. Jackson sent a memo to her enforcement deputy noting that the E.P.A. is “falling short of this administration’s expectations for the effectiveness of our clean water enforcement programs. Data available to E.P.A. shows that, in many parts of the country, the level of significant noncompliance with permitting requirements is unacceptably high and the level of enforcement activity is unacceptably low.”
State officials, for their part, attribute rising pollution rates to increased workloads and dwindling resources. In 46 states, local regulators have primary responsibility for crucial aspects of the Clean Water Act. Though the number of regulated facilities has more than doubled in the last 10 years, many state enforcement budgets have remained essentially flat when adjusted for inflation. In New York, for example, the number of regulated polluters has almost doubled to 19,000 in the last decade, but the number of inspections each year has remained about the same.
But stretched resources are only part of the reason polluters escape punishment. The Times’s investigation shows that in West Virginia and other states, powerful industries have often successfully lobbied to undermine effective regulation.
State officials also argue that water pollution statistics include minor infractions, like failing to file reports, which do not pose risks to human health, and that records collected by The Times failed to examine informal enforcement methods, like sending warning letters.
“We work enormously hard inspecting our coal mines, analyzing water samples, notifying companies of violations when we detect them,” said Randy Huffman, head of West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection. “When I look at how far we’ve come in protecting the state’s waters since we took responsibility for the Clean Water Act, I think we have a lot to be proud of.”
But unchecked pollution remains a problem in many states. West Virginia offers a revealing example of why so many companies escape punishment.
One Community’s Plight
The mountains surrounding the home of Mrs. Hall-Massey’s family and West Virginia’s nearby capital have long been mined for coal. And for years, the area enjoyed clean well water.
But starting about a decade ago, awful smells began coming from local taps. The water was sometimes gray, cloudy and oily. Bathtubs and washers developed rust-colored rings that scrubbing could not remove. When Mrs. Hall-Massey’s husband installed industrial water filters, they quickly turned black. Tests showed that their water contained toxic amounts of lead, manganese, barium and other metals that can contribute to organ failure or developmental problems.
Around that time, nearby coal companies had begun pumping industrial waste into the ground.
Mining companies often wash their coal to remove impurities. The leftover liquid — a black fluid containing dissolved minerals and chemicals, known as sludge or slurry — is often disposed of in vast lagoons or through injection into abandoned mines. The liquid in those lagoons and shafts can flow through cracks in the earth into water supplies. Companies must regularly send samples of the injected liquid to labs, which provide reports that are forwarded to state regulators.
In the eight miles surrounding Mrs. Hall-Massey’s home, coal companies have injected more than 1.9 billion gallons of coal slurry and sludge into the ground since 2004, according to a review of thousands of state records. Millions more gallons have been dumped into lagoons.
These underground injections have contained chemicals at concentrations that pose serious health risks, and thousands of injections have violated state regulations and the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to reports sent to the state by companies themselves.
For instance, three coal companies — Loadout, Remington Coal and Pine Ridge, a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world — reported to state officials that 93 percent of the waste they injected near this community had illegal concentrations of chemicals including arsenic, lead, chromium, beryllium or nickel.
Sometimes those concentrations exceeded legal limits by as much as 1,000 percent. Those chemicals have been shown to contribute to cancer, organ failures and other diseases.
But those companies were never fined or punished for those illegal injections, according to state records. They were never even warned that their activities had been noticed.
Remington Coal declined to comment. A representative of Loadout’s parent said the company had assigned its permit to another company, which ceased injecting in 2006. Peabody Energy, which spun off Pine Ridge in 2007, said that some data sent to regulators was inaccurate and that the company’s actions reflected best industry practices.
West Virginia officials, when asked about these violations, said regulators had accidentally overlooked many pollution records the companies submitted until after the statute of limitations had passed, so no action was taken. They also said their studies indicated that those injections could not have affected drinking water in the area and that other injections also had no detectable effect.
State officials noted that they had cited more than 4,200 water pollution violations at mine sites around the state since 2000, as well as conducted thousands of investigations. The state has initiated research about how mining affects water quality. After receiving questions from The Times, officials announced a statewide moratorium on issuing injection permits and told some companies that regulators were investigating their injections.
“Many of the issues you are examining are several years old, and many have been addressed,” West Virginia officials wrote in a statement. The state’s pollution program “has had its share of issues,” regulators wrote. However, “it is important to note that if the close scrutiny given to our state had been given to others, it is likely that similar issues would have been found.”
More than 350 other companies and facilities in West Virginia have also violated the Clean Water Act in recent years, records show. Those infractions include releasing illegal concentrations of iron, manganese, aluminum and other chemicals into lakes and rivers.
As the water in Mrs. Hall-Massey’s community continued to worsen, residents began complaining of increased health problems. Gall bladder diseases, fertility problems, miscarriages and kidney and thyroid issues became common, according to interviews.
When Mrs. Hall-Massey’s family left on vacation, her sons’ rashes cleared up. When they returned, the rashes reappeared. Her dentist told her that chemicals appeared to be damaging her teeth and her son’s, she said. As the quality of her water worsened, Mrs. Hall-Massey’s once-healthy teeth needed many crowns. Her son brushed his teeth often, used a fluoride rinse twice a day and was not allowed to eat sweets. Even so, he continued getting cavities until the family stopped using tap water. By the time his younger brother’s teeth started coming in, the family was using bottled water to brush. He has not had dental problems.
Medical professionals in the area say residents show unusually high rates of health problems. A survey of more than 100 residents conducted by a nurse hired by Mrs. Hall-Massey’s lawyer indicated that as many as 30 percent of people in this area have had their gallbladders removed, and as many as half the residents have significant tooth enamel damage, chronic stomach problems and other illnesses. That research was confirmed through interviews with residents.
It is difficult to determine which companies, if any, are responsible for the contamination that made its way into tap water or to conclude which specific chemicals, if any, are responsible for particular health problems. Many coal companies say they did not pollute the area’s drinking water and chose injection sites that flowed away from nearby homes.
An independent study by a university researcher challenges some of those claims.
“I don’t know what else could be polluting these wells,” said Ben Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University who tested the water in this community and elsewhere in West Virginia. “The chemicals coming out of people’s taps are identical to the chemicals the coal companies are pumping into the ground.”
One night, Mrs. Hall-Massey’s 6-year-old son, Clay, asked to play in the tub. When he got out, his bright red rashes hurt so much he could not fall asleep. Soon, Mrs. Hall-Massey began complaining to state officials. They told her they did not know why her water was bad, she recalls, but doubted coal companies had done anything wrong. The family put their house on the market, but because of the water, buyers were not interested.
In December, Mrs. Hall-Massey and neighbors sued in county court, seeking compensation. That suit is pending. To resolve a related lawsuit filed about the same time, the community today gets regular deliveries of clean drinking water, stored in coolers or large blue barrels outside most homes. Construction began in August on a pipeline bringing fresh water to the community.
But for now most residents still use polluted water to bathe, shower and wash dishes.
“A parent’s only real job is to protect our children,” Mrs. Hall-Massey said. “But where was the government when we needed them to protect us from this stuff?”
Regulators ‘Overwhelmed’
Matthew Crum, a 43-year-old lawyer, wanted to protect people like Mrs. Hall-Massey. That is why he joined West Virginia’s environmental protection agency in 2001, when it became clear that the state’s and nation’s streams and rivers were becoming more polluted.
But he said he quickly learned that good intentions could not compete with intimidating politicians and a fearful bureaucracy.
Mr. Crum grew up during a golden age of environmental activism. He was in elementary school when Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972 in response to environmental disasters, including a fire on the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. The act’s goal was to eliminate most water pollution by 1985 and prohibit the “discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts.”
“There were a bunch of us that were raised with the example of the Clean Water Act as inspiration,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that fight.”
In the two decades after the act’s passage, the nation’s waters grew much healthier. The Cuyahoga River, West Virginia’s Kanawha River and hundreds of other beaches, streams and ponds were revitalized.
But in the late 1990s, some states’ enforcement of pollution laws began tapering off, according to regulators and environmentalists. Soon the E.P.A. started reporting that the nation’s rivers, lakes and estuaries were becoming dirtier again. Mr. Crum, after a stint in Washington with the Justice Department and the birth of his first child, joined West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection, where new leadership was committed to revitalizing the Clean Water Act.
He said his idealism was tested within two weeks, when he was called to a huge coal spill into a stream.
“I met our inspector at the spill site, and we had this really awkward conversation,” Mr. Crum recalled. “I said we should shut down the mine until everything was cleaned up. The inspector agreed, but he said if he issued that order, he was scared of getting demoted or transferred to the middle of nowhere. Everyone was terrified of doing their job.”
Mr. Crum temporarily shut the mine.
In the next two years, he shut many polluting mines until they changed their ways. His tough approach raised his profile around the state.
Mining companies, worried about attracting Mr. Crum’s attention, began improving their waste disposal practices, executives from that period said. But they also began complaining to their friends in the state’s legislature, they recalled in interviews, and started a whisper campaign accusing Mr. Crum of vendettas against particular companies — though those same executives now admit they had no evidence for those claims.
In 2003, a new director, Stephanie Timmermeyer, was nominated to run the Department of Environmental Protection. One of West Virginia’s most powerful state lawmakers, Eustace Frederick, said she would be confirmed, but only if she agreed to fire Mr. Crum, according to several people who said they witnessed the conversation.
She was given the job and soon summoned Mr. Crum to her office. He was dismissed two weeks after his second child’s birth.
Ms. Timmermeyer, who resigned in 2008, did not return calls. Mr. Frederick died last year.
Since then, hundreds of workplaces in West Virginia have violated pollution laws without paying fines. A half-dozen current and former employees, in interviews, said their enforcement efforts had been undermined by bureaucratic disorganization, a departmental preference to let polluters escape punishment if they promise to try harder, and a revolving door of regulators who leave for higher-paying jobs at the companies they once policed.
“We are outmanned and overwhelmed, and that’s exactly how industry wants us,” said one employee who requested anonymity for fear of being fired. “It’s been obvious for decades that we’re not on top of things, and coal companies have earned billions relying on that.”
In June, four environmental groups petitioned the E.P.A. to take over much of West Virginia’s handling of the Clean Water Act, citing a “nearly complete breakdown” in the state. The E.P.A. has asked state officials to respond and said it is investigating the petition.
Similar problems exist in other states, where critics say regulators have often turned a blind eye to polluters. Regulators in five other states, in interviews, said they had been pressured by industry-friendly politicians to drop continuing pollution investigations.
“Unless the E.P.A. is pushing state regulators, a culture of transgression and apathy sets in,” said William K. Reilly, who led the E.P.A. under President George H. W. Bush.
In response, many state officials defend their efforts. A spokeswoman for West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection, for instance, said that between 2006 and 2008, the number of cease-operation orders issued by regulators was 10 percent higher than during Mr. Crum’s two-year tenure.
Mr. Huffman, the department’s head, said there is no political interference with current investigations. Department officials say they continue to improve the agency’s procedures, and note that regulators have assessed $14.7 million in state fines against more than 70 mining companies since 2006.
However, that is about equal to the revenue those businesses’ parent companies collect every 10 hours, according to financial reports. (To find out about every state’s enforcement record and read comments from regulators, visit www.nytimes.com/waterdata.)
“The real test is, is our water clean?” said Mr. Huffman. “When the Clean Water Act was passed, this river that flows through our capital was very dirty. Thirty years later, it’s much cleaner because we’ve chosen priorities carefully.”
Some regulators admit that polluters have fallen through the cracks. To genuinely improve enforcement, they say, the E.P.A. needs to lead.
“If you don’t have vigorous oversight by the feds, then everything just goes limp,” said Mr. Crum. “Regulators can’t afford to have some backbone unless they know Washington or the governor’s office will back them up.”
It took Mr. Crum a while to recover from his firing. He moved to Virginia to work at the Nature Conservancy, an environmental conservation group. Today, he is in private practice and works on the occasional environmental lawsuit.
“We’re moving backwards,” he said, “and it’s heartbreaking.”
Shortcomings of the E.P.A.
The memos are marked “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE.”
They were written this year by E.P.A. staff, the culmination of a five-year investigation of states’ enforcement of federal pollution laws. And in bland, bureaucratic terms, they describe a regulatory system — at the E.P.A. and among state agencies — that in many ways simply does not work.
For years, according to one memo, federal regulators knew that more than 30 states had major problems documenting which companies were violating pollution laws. Another notes that states’ “personnel lack direction, ability or training” to levy fines large enough to deter polluters.
But often, the memos say, the E.P.A. never corrected those problems even though they were widely acknowledged. The E.P.A. “may hesitate to push the states” out of “fear of risking their relationships,” one report reads. Another notes that E.P.A. offices lack “a consistent national oversight strategy.”
Some of those memos, part of an effort known as the State Review Framework, were obtained from agency employees who asked for anonymity, and others through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Enforcement lapses were particularly bad under the administration of President George W. Bush, employees say. “For the last eight years, my hands have been tied,” said one E.P.A. official who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. “We were told to take our clean water and clean air cases, put them in a box, and lock it shut. Everyone knew polluters were getting away with murder. But these polluters are some of the biggest campaign contributors in town, so no one really cared if they were dumping poisons into streams.”
The E.P.A. administrators during the last eight years — Christine Todd Whitman, Michael O. Leavitt and Stephen L. Johnson — all declined to comment.
When President Obama chose Ms. Jackson to head the E.P.A., many environmentalists and agency employees were encouraged. During his campaign, Mr. Obama promised to “reinvigorate the drinking water standards that have been weakened under the Bush administration and update them to address new threats.” He pledged to regulate water pollution from livestock operations and push for amendments to the Clean Water Act.
But some worry those promises will not be kept. Water issues have taken a back seat to other environmental concerns, like carbon emissions.
In an interview, Ms. Jackson noted that many of the nation’s waters were healthier today than when the Clean Water Act was passed and said she intended to enforce the law more vigorously. After receiving detailed questions from The Times, she put many of the State Review Framework documents on the agency’s Web site, and ordered more disclosure of the agency’s handling of water issues, increased enforcement and revamped technology so that facilities’ environmental records are more accessible.
“Do critics have a good and valid point when they say improvements need to be made? Absolutely,” Ms. Jackson said. “But I think we need to be careful not to do that by scaring the bejesus out of people into thinking that, boy, are things horrible. What it requires is attention, and I’m going to give it that attention.”
In statements, E.P.A. officials noted that from 2006 to 2008, the agency conducted 11,000 Clean Water Act and 21,000 Safe Drinking Water Act inspections, and referred 146 cases to the Department of Justice. During the 2007 to 2008 period, officials wrote, 92 percent of the population served by community water systems received water that had no reported health-based violations.
The Times’s reporting, the statements added, “does not distinguish between significant violations and minor violations,” and “as a result, the conclusions may present an unduly alarming picture.” They wrote that “much of the country’s water quality problems are caused by discharges from nonpoint sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff, which cannot be corrected solely through enforcement.”
Ultimately, lawmakers and environmental activists say, the best solution is for Congress to hold the E.P.A. and states accountable for their failures.
The Clean Water Act, they add, should be expanded to police other types of pollution — like farm and livestock runoff — that are largely unregulated. And they say Congress should give state agencies more resources, in the same way that federal dollars helped overhaul the nation’s sewage systems in the 1970s.
Some say changes will not occur without public outrage.
“When we started regulating water pollution in the 1970s, there was a huge public outcry because you could see raw sewage flowing into the rivers,” said William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Richard M. Nixon, and then again under President Ronald Reagan.
“Today the violations are much more subtle — pesticides and chemicals you can’t see or smell that are even more dangerous,” he added. “And so a lot of the public pressure on regulatory agencies has ebbed away.”
 
|

To manage site Login