Supreme Court’s Murky Clean Water Act Ruling Created Legal Quagmire

Lawyers rarely agree on anything, but here’s an exception: They all say the Supreme Court bungled Rapanos v. United States, a major wetlands case, almost five years ago.

Attorneys representing all interested parties say lower court judges, regulators, the business community and individual landowners continue to suffer as a result of the confusion sown by the justices whose main job is to provide clarity in the law.

The case concerned the efforts of Michigan landowner John Rapanos to develop a property that, much to his dismay, was designated as a wetland. He hadn’t applied for a permit and was subsequently the target of U.S. EPA civil and criminal enforcement actions.

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Congresswoman Grace Napolitano Headlines Joint WRD And County Sanitation Districts Press Event

Federal Funds Awarded to Help Develop Local Water Supplies

Lakewood, CA /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-38th) today announced the award of $300,000 in 2010 WaterSmart funding to the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD). At a joint press conference with officials from WRD and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Napolitano said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) award will be used to develop WRD’s Groundwater Basin Master Plan.

“WRD’s grant application was among the highest rated in the country,” Napolitano said, “reflecting the national importance of developing local water supplies in our region to reduce reliance on increasingly vulnerable and expensive imported supplies from Northern California and the Colorado River.”

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Desert hydroelectric power project awaits federal decision

By JANET ZIMMERMAN
The Press-Enterprise
 

In the future, when Inland residents flip a light switch or turn on an air conditioner, the power could come from a desert hydroelectric plant that would create and store energy.

Federal regulators are considering a license application for the proposed $1 billion-plus Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project east of Joshua Tree National Park. The 1,100-acre plant would be housed at the abandoned Kaiser iron-ore mine, near where another group wants to build the world’s largest landfill.

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Comment:

The Feds shouldn’t get involved. It’s California’s power plant and California’s electricity. We’re a big state. We can take care of ourselves.

Aganomics question on farm water

From David Zetland at Aguanomics:

Economists often assume that people use their foresight to weight the costs and benefits from actions on their current and future selves.

For example, a farmer without neighbors* will not overdraft an aquifer today because he will want water tomorrow, for himself or his descendants.

But what if he makes a mistake and really does use the water “unsustainably”?

There appear to be three ways to respond to this mistake:

  1. He’s screwed up. Let him suffer.
  2. The government should intervene, to rescue him from his folly and regulate sustainable use.
  3. Allow the market to correct the problem, so an outside buyer replaces him and restores sustainability, i.e., the long term flow of value from the land and water.

Note the problems with (2) that do not exist with (3). The government is a monolith that can make a similar mistake (intervening too much or too little or in the wrong way), but many market players compete to provide the best solution. Second, the government does not get rewarded for clever action (more profits) so there’s no incentive to get things right. A new buyer, OTOH, would benefit from the profits of a good action.

What do you guys think of this problem and the solutions? Do you have example of wise governments or dumb markets? Please DO ignore problems and solutions involving property rights and/or commons.*


* I am intentionally avoiding a tragedy of the commons race among neighbors to pump before others do, etc. 

Economists often assume that people use their foresight to weight the costs and benefits from actions on their current and future selves.

For example, a farmer without neighbors* will not overdraft an aquifer today because he will want water tomorrow, for himself or his descendants.

But what if he makes a mistake and really does use the water “unsustainably”?

There appear to be three ways to respond to this mistake:

  1. He’s screwed up. Let him suffer.
  2. The government should intervene, to rescue him from his folly and regulate sustainable use.
  3. Allow the market to correct the problem, so an outside buyer replaces him and restores sustainability, i.e., the long term flow of value from the land and water.

Note the problems with (2) that do not exist with (3). The government is a monolith that can make a similar mistake (intervening too much or too little or in the wrong way), but many market players compete to provide the best solution. Second, the government does not get rewarded for clever action (more profits) so there’s no incentive to get things right. A new buyer, OTOH, would benefit from the profits of a good action.

What do you guys think of this problem and the solutions? Do you have example of wise governments or dumb markets? Please DO ignore problems and solutions involving property rights and/or commons.*


* I am intentionally avoiding a tragedy of the commons race among neighbors to pump before others do, etc.

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Trager Water Report comment:

Generally, the private solutions would be better, with government acting only as referee to private contracts. But it also depends on what sort of government one has. If it’s a reasonable local government, then even #2 might be tolerable. But if it’s a distant, unreasonable government — what America now has — then expect the worst.

Stimulus dollars bring recycled water to Rosemead, San Gabriel Valley

ROSEMEAD – Last year’s $800 billion federal economic stimulus package is bringing something increasingly valuable to Rosemead parks, schools and businesses: recycled sewage water.

The recycled water, treated to high levels that make it safe for human contact but not considered drinkable, will soon flow through a new pipeline to nourish and irrigate lawns and greenways in the area.

The $3.2 million pipeline was constructed by the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District with the help of a $600,000 federal stimulus grant. And upon its recent completion, it became the first recycled water project completed with stimulus funds in Southern California.

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Comment: 

The “stimulus” was paid for with money borrowed from China. Now the money has run out and the economy is crashing again. Plus we owe hundreds of billions more to China.

As to water, California can take care of itself, and doesn’t need the foolish Feds “helping” us.

Elite Science Panel Wades Into Calif. Water War

TRACY, Calif. — Scientists tasked with unraveling one of the nation’s most vexing environmental puzzles started their first field trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at a fish processing facility here near one of the estuary’s major water-pumping stations.

Assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists — 15 experts in estuarine ecology, hydrology, fisheries science and water resources engineering — were gathering information for a series of reports that could influence management of the West Coast’s largest estuary for decades to come.

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Pacific Legal Foundation files Ninth Circuit delta smelt brief

Author: Brandon Middleton of the Pacific Legal Foundation

Yesterday we filed our opening brief in the Ninth Circuit delta smelt Commerce Clause appeal, arguing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to restrict water deliveries on behalf of the delta smelt is unconstitutional.  For a copy of the brief, go here.

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