Feds face another clean water lawsuit

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The federal government is being sued by conservation groups and industry over the new Waters of the U.S. rule.

Conservation groups say new rule has too many pollution loopholes

Staff Report

FRISCO — There will be yet more legal wrangling over a new federal clean water rule, as conservation groups said last week they will sue to plug some loopholes that could open the door for more pollution in wetlands and streams.

At issue is the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May. That means the feds will be getting sued twice over the rule. Industry groups announced their challenge in mid-July, claiming the new regulations “dramatically expand federal regulatory authority. Continue reading

Polluters sue to block new wetlands regulations

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Polluters are asking a federal court to roll back protection for important wetlands. @bberwyn photo.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads effort to overturn Waters of the U.S. rule

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new federal wetlands rule that helps protect water quality and important wildlife habitat will face a federal court challenge from groups representing some of the country’s biggest polluters.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business,  and the Portland Cement Association last week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeking to overturn the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule. Continue reading

Congress out of synch with voters on environmental issues

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The majority of Americans support protection for endangered species, and for clean air and clean water. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Nearly 7 in 10 voters favor strong environmental laws, yet Congress kowtows to special interests

Staff Report

FRISCO — If Americans voted purely on environmental issues, the country would have a very “green” Congress, according to a new poll showing that most people support the Endangered Species Act, and are more likely to vote for candidates who want to uphold environmental safeguards. Continue reading

Climate change, pollution linked with amphibian decline

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A boreal toad captured as part of a research project in Breckenridge, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Warming and tainted waters raise threats to wood frog tadpoles

Staff Report

FRISCO — With more than a third of the world’s amphibian species threatened by extinction, scientists have been try to figure out what’s driving the decline. For some species, the chytrid fungus has been pinpointed as the biggest threat, but a study by scientists from California and Alaska shows that climate change and pollution may also be big factors.

Lab tests showed that wood frog tadpoles were attacked by dragonfly larvae 30 minutes sooner and three times more often in warmer water with a slight increase in copper pollution, than in cooler, copper-free treatments. The attacks either killed the tadpoles directly, left them with injuries that could become abnormalities in later life, or increased levels of stress measured by the behavior of other tadpoles in the tanks.  Continue reading

Study shows farm, urban runoff affect fish abundance

Dune-protected wetlands on Texel.

Estuaries are important nurseries for marine species, and they are also susceptible to pollution from land-based sources.

‘We are finding hypoxic areas wherever we look’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nutrient pollution from farming has seeped into nearly every corner of a California estuary, affecting the abundance of fish in the important marine nursery, according to new research by scientists with the University of California at Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy.

Lead author Brent Hughes began studying water quality in Elkhorn Slough as a UCSC graduate student. His earlier research showed that virtually every portion of the estuary is adversely affected by high nutrient levels. The pollution stimulates the growth of algae, leading to low oxygen levels when the algae die and decompose.

The new study, based on data collected over the past 40 years, shows how low levels of dissolved oxygen (a condition known as “hypoxia”) affects fish populations in the estuary and beyond. Continue reading

EPA fracking study eyes drinking water impacts

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A fracking rig in western Colorado.

Environmental agency found no evidence of widespread impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a draft fracking study that was subject to a political tug-of-war even before it was released, the EPA found no evidence of “widespread, systemic” impacts to drinking water, but identified numerous weaknesses in the fracking process that could lead to contamination. Continue reading

Environment: New Clean Water Rule finalized, but the fighting is not over

Runoff and rainstorms have combined to keep flows high in the Blue River.

A new EPA rule aims to define which streams and rivers are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Big loopholes for industry, farms will continue to threaten water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — After years of wrangling, the EPA has finalized a new rule intended to define which streams are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate goes back more than a decade to a pair of court rulings that called into question whether smaller tributaries and seasonal streams are subject to federal regulations.

Yesterday’s announcement probably won’t end the fighting — Republicans in Congress have launched a bitter attack on the rule at the behest of big polluters like industrial farms and factories, and some national conservation groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance say the new rule is too weak, and rolls back protection for some streams that were previously covered. Continue reading

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