On July 31, the Willamette Partnership (WP), USDA Office of Environmental Markets (EM), Pinchot Institute for Conservation (PIC), and the World Resources Institute (WRI) launched a new report explaining how water quality trading programs can be developed. The report contains best practices, case studies on high-profile programs from across the United States, and recommendations on how state and federal governments can support trading with environmental benefits. The report is the coalition’s latest effort in developing and evaluating water quality trading programs throughout the world. [Read more]

EPA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in the July 31 Federal Register the availability of the Microbial Risk Assessment Guideline: Pathogenic Microorganisms with Focus on Food and Water (MRA Guideline). The MRA Guideline is designed to improve transparency in the way that the two federal agencies conduct microbial risk assessment and also promote consistency in approaches and methods. This new MRA Guideline lays out an overarching approach to conducting meaningful assessments of the risks to Americans posed by pathogens in food and water The MRA Guideline can be applied to similar scenarios involving microbial contamination, and it will serve a resource for federal government risk assessors, their agents, contractors, and for other members of the risk assessment community. When appropriate, the EPA intends to use the guidance prospectively when conducting risk assessments.  A downloadable version and supporting materials are available on-line by clicking here.

Earlier this week, the House leadership withdrew from the floor agenda a combined disaster relief and  one year extension of the Farm Bill because of opposition expressed by a broad group of farming, environmental, and national organizations, and Senate Democrats that felt it would have block consideration of a full five year Farm Bill.  In June, the Senate the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240) and in early July the House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act [H.R. 6083], by a vote of 35-11 with bipartisan support.  House Leadership has refused to take up the FARRM Act, meaning Congress likely will not consider a multi-year Farm Bill before a month-long August recess. Continued delays could allow the Farm Bill to expire on September 30th, meaning the Farm Bill would revert to the outdated 1949 version of the law. [Read more]

On August 1, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, which will create a new trust fund to finance wastewater infrastructure projects and provide grants for a variety of other clean water related efforts (summary document).  The legislation will increase federal funding available to publicly owned treatment works through the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and will provide additional incentives for green infrastructure and water efficiency.  The bill is considered federal deficit neutral because the new funding will be obtained by excise taxes to manufactures of specific consumer products that impact water and wastewater infrastructure.  The funding mechanism will generate an estimated $9 billion a year by placing an excise tax of 3% per container on water-based beverages and disposable products, such as toothpaste, cosmetics, toilet paper and cooking oil.  Additionally, a .5% excise tax will be placed on pharmaceutical products.  The legislation also sets aside 10% of the new funding for the Treasury Department to create a Water Infrastructure Financing Innovations Authority (WIFIA) program that will provide low-cost loans to clean water infrastructure projects.

With the Democratic and Republican Conventions just a few weeks away, WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger is urging the two political parties to include investment in water infrastructure as a plank in their 2012 campaign platforms.  In letters to Democratic Platform Committee chairman (and former Ohio governor) Ted Strickland and Republican Platform Committee chairman (and incumbent Virginia governor) Bob McDonnell, Eger points out that spending on water infrastructure creates jobs, in addition to protecting public health, driving innovation, and improving the quality of life in local communities. [Read more]