Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One step forward and two steps back

Forward: Vermont story update. In the middle of February, I wrote a posting that mentioned a nuclear power plant in Vermont that was leaking tritium. Since that time, the state senate has voted to not renew the plant's operating permit when its current license expires in 2012. See this update from the February 26 edition of the New York Times.

Back: The Supreme Court gives us a tough Act to follow. Also from the New York Times (2/28/10 issue) comes this storyabout how recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have severely weakened regulators ability to enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972. (The story is part of the impressive "Toxic Waters" series from the NY Times, which I highly recommend.)

It is hard to assume this situation is anything but political; arguments center on the meaning of the word "navigable" as it relates to whether a waterway can be regulated. It has always been my understanding of the Act that "navigable waters" mean any waterway which can be navigated by any watercraft, based on that waterway's annual high-water mark. In other words, if the river, stream or connected lake can be navigated during the high waters typically associated with a spring thaw, it is protected. But now, the spirit of the law has apparently been neutered. (I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.")

Here's hoping the legislature can bring clarity to the meaning of the law, before the courts and their interests are allowed to irreparably "muddy the water." For more about the Clean Water Act, and how it was fought for, I highly recommend a book called The Riverkeepers, as explained in an article I wrote back in December, 2008. Or, visit the EPA website by clicking here.

Perhaps all of this is further support that when it comes to conservation, many things are beyond our control; those things within our reach must be addressed.

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

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