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NACo Environment, Energy & Land Use Committee Report - 2013 Annual Conference

Posted Date: 
July 29, 2013
John Prinkki, Carbon County Commissioner

NACo Annual Meeting July 19-22, 2013

As usual, the Environment, Energy, and Land Use Committee meeting had several contentious resolutions and policy changes to discuss that had either been presented by EELU Committee members, or claimed as Cross-Jurisdictional Resolutions. This year the EELU claimed 6 resolutions from Public Lands Committee.

The following is a brief regarding the proposed policy changes, EELU proposed resolutions, and the claimed Cross-Jurisdictional Resolutions. Each proposed policy change and resolution were discussed briefly on Friday and voted on Saturday morning.

Proposed Policy Changes: (Changes/additions underlined)

1.  Federal  Storm water  Regulations; Under WATER QUALITY - Section A). Clean Water Act

NACo supports revisions to the CWA and development of a federal storm water program, which would achieve the following outcomes:

  • Incorporate public, state and local governments comments and/or suggestions into promulgation and/or expansion of existing federal storm water rules;
  • Flexibility for local governments to consider the site-specific nature of storm water (including geographically-specific information) and determine the most cost-effective and technologically feasible means of reducing pollutant s to meet CWA objectives;
  • Consolidation of Phase I (over I 00,000 population) and Phase II (under 100,000 population)storm water regulatory programs for local governments into a simplified, workable and effective program;
  • Development by local governments of local storm water management programs consistent  with state storm water program goals and EPA guidance;
  • Federal funding of a comprehensive storm water research program to determine the impact of storm water on overall water quality. This study should also include a comprehensive cost benefit analysis;
  • An exemption from regulation for local governments that do not contribute to storm water pollution problems or have implemented storm water management program s that are shown to be successful in addressing local water quality concerns; and
  • Logging roads should be excluded as a "point source" under CWA rules and regulations (pertaining to storm water discharges).

Passed unanimously

2.  Good Samaritan Environmental Laws: Under WATER QUALITY - Section: A). Clean Water Act; New section #4

(This Proposed policy was added, a similar proposed resolution was then moot and not discussed)

Good Samaritans for Abandoned Mine Sites - NA Co supports legislation and/or policy that will immediately limit liability for "Good Samaritans" performing voluntary, cooperative mitigation efforts on water discharging from abandoned mine sites which measurably improves water quality that has been impacted by mining activity where there is no financially responsible party.

Passed unanimously

3.  Pesticide Use in County Ditches; Under WATER QUALITY - Section D). Wetlands Permitting and Navigable Waters

NACo supports using pesticides in accordance with the instructions on the label, and supports strong penalties for those who mi s-u se pesticides in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (CFIFRA). NACo opposes any legislation that expands the Environmental  Protection Agency's (EPA) jurisdiction  in regard to pesticide use in (and around) county-owned and operated streets, gutters, and ditches.

Passed unanimously

4.  Funding for Maintenance of Dam Infrastructure:  Under WATER QUALITY - Section E). Funding and Security for Water Infrastructure (EELU section of American County Platform)

E.  Funding and Security for Water Infrastructure: NA Co recognizes the threat posed to the health and safety of our nation as it faces a crucial time of aging and crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure and an increased risk for both natural and human -made disasters. NACo calls for a reliable, Long-term, and substantially increased federal investment in water infrastructure, watershed protection, and the protection of water resources and facilities from physical and chemical security threats. The broad range of local needs to achieve national clean water goals and objectives that would be funded by this investment include the construction, repair and replacement of treatment works, collection and distribution systems, compliance with federal regulatory mandates, investments in decentralized  wastewater systems, voluntary  non-point source pollution  abatement, source water protection, and improvements in the security of water resources and facilities, consistent with local land-use plans.

NACo recognizes the critical role dams and levees play in local flood control, and that failure of unsafe or deficient dams and levees can lead to significant property destruction and immeasurable loss of human life. Like other critical infrastructure, these man-made structures deteriorate and on going investment is necessary to ensure the safety of such structure . NACo supports increased federal commitment to fund the repair and rehabilitation of America's non-federal, publicly-owned dams and levees, including those constructed through agreements between counties and the National Resource Conservation Service, with priority funding given to structures presenting the highest risk of failure and which present the highest risk to homes, schools, businesses or important infrastructure in the event of failure. Federal funding should be made available through grants, loans, and federal cost-share programs designed to assure that unsafe or deficient dams and levees are brought into compliance with national minimum safety standards and to assure that necessary maintenance and upgrades can be conducted to meet these standards on an ongoing basis. Moreover, NA Co urges federal and state governments to consult with, and include, counties in the decision-making process when undertaking the rehabilitation of unsafe or deficient dams and levees located within the jurisdiction of the county.

Passed unanimously

5.  Oil Pollution Act and Sharing of CWA Penalty Fines; Under WATER QUALITY - Add section I). Oil Pollution Act after section H).  Oceans and Coastal (EELU section of American County Platform).

I. Oil Pollution Act:  NACo supports federal legislation and policies to strengthen local government involvement under the Oil Pollution Act COPA). NACo supports requiring federal agencies who oversee OPA to consult and coordinate with local governments in environmental protection, oil spill contingency planning, training and implementation of OPA processes.

NACo supports sharing CWA penalty oil spill fines with impacted communities.

NACo supports using the 2012 RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act) provisions as a model for future pollution incidents throughout the country.

Passed unanimously

6. Cap and Trade/Carbon Tax; Under AIR -Section J). Greenhouse Gases (This policy change was sponsored by Robert Cope, Lemhi County, Idaho; Alan Gardner, Washington County, Utah; and John Prinkki, Carbon County, Montana

J. Greenhouse Gases: NACo urges Congress to address global warming/climate change. NACo urges Congress to aggressively pursue national and international programs to develop carbon-neutral energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions utilizing sensible and cost effective technologies. NACo opposes any proposals such as cap and trade or carbon tax, that would impose federal  taxes or fees  onto counties and local economies.

NACo supports immediate and long-range efforts by the federal government to involve all levels of stakeholders to mitigate possible sources of climate change/global warming now through a series of practical incentives and through more federal funding for all means of emissions reduction. This includes economic incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovation technology awards and research and development. Federal funding of sensible and cost-effective technologies to reduce greenhouse gases should be continued.

Passed 31 to 14 (Naturally we voted in favor)

7. Property Assessed Clean Energy Program; Under ENERGY - Section C). Energy Conservation

NACo supports funding for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs and supports their treatment by federal regulators as a traditional tax assessment program with priority lien status.            

8. Changes to Electric Utility Restructuring; Under ENERGY - Section H. Electric Utility Restructuring

H. Electric Utility Restructuring:  NACo supports the following principles of reliability, equitable benefit s, social and environmental impacts, and stranded costs in any attempts to restructure the delivery of electricity:

  • The federal government should work in partnership with state and local governments if it plans to restructure the nation's electric industry ;
  • Whether or not restructuring i s pursued .the foremost consideration is to develop and enforce a common goal and supporting policies that maintain and improve the system, including upgrading and replacing aging and outdated  infrastructure with particu lar attention to our older communiti es ensuring reliability  and affordability of service with particular attention to resilience in the face of natural and other hazards.

Passed unanimously

9. DOD's Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative; Under LAND USE - Section E). Federal Installations and Weapon Sites

  1. NACo supports continued funding and commitment for  Department of Defen se's (DOD) Readiness  and Envi ronmental  Protection  Initiative (REP[).  The REP! program enables       DOD to enter into cost-sharing partnerships, authorized by Congress, with private conservation groups, local and state government s to protect military test and training capabilities and conserve land. These partnerships acquire easements or other interests in land from willing sellers to preserve compatible land uses and sustain wildlife habitat near installation s and  ranges where the military operates, tests, and trains

Passed unanimously

Proposed Resolution on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 Permit Program

Issue: Administration of Clean Water Act (CWA) §404 Permit Program for routine maintenance

Proposed policy: NA Co urges the federal government to improve the CWA §404 permit process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps); remove routine maintenance of public flood protection facilities from the §404 permit process when no endangered species habitat present; and extend the (CWA) general permit term for routine maintenance from five to ten years. This proposal does not apply when endangered species are present in the maintenance area.

Passed unanimously

Proposed Resolution on the Reduction and Cleanup of Marine Debris

Issue: Encourage clean-up of marine debris.

Proposed Policy:  To address the exponentially increasing problem of marine debris, NACo:

  • Supports continued reauthorization of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention , and Reduction Act (MDRPRA) and/or similar legislation;
  • Supports increased funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide additional resources for:
  • Grants to coastal counties for beach cleanup efforts;
  • Funding for derelict fishing gear removal; Research on the effectiveness of off-shore clean-up methods ; and
  • Federal policies that encourage states and localities to educate small business communities and consumers about the significant environmental harm of single-use plastic bags/bottles and the benefits of associated county-wide bans and additionally encouraging reuse/recycle policies at the local level.

Passed unanimously

Resolution on Exempting Renewable Biomass Emissions from the EPA's Tailoring Rule

Issue: Renewable Biomass Emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule

Proposed Policy:  NACo supports the permanent exemption of emissions from renewable biomass combustion from the Environmental Protection A gency's (EPA) "Greenhouse Gas   Tailoring Rule" and supports policy that recognizes the full carbon benefits of biomass combustion for energy consistent with established and well-supported science.

Passed unanimously

Proposed Resolution Supporting County Divestment from Fossil Fuels

Issue: The climate crisis is a serious threat to current and future generations in every one of our counties and around the world.

Proposed Policy: NACo urges counties to make a commitment to divest from existing holdings in fossil fuel companies or commingled  assets that include holdings in fossil fuel companies, and to not make any new investments in fossil fuel companies or in commingled assets that include holdings in fossil fuel companies.  For the purposes of this resolution, a "fossil fuel company" shall be defined as any of the 200 publicly-traded  companies with the largest coal, oil, and gas reserves as measured by the giga-tons of carbon dioxide that would be emitted if those reserves were extracted and burned , as listed by the Carbon Tracker Initiative in its "Un-burnable Carbon" report.

Tabled: This proposed resolution got no support at all, but illustrates a mindset that does exist.

Proposed Resolution on the Keystone XL Pipeline; (This resolution was sponsored by Richard Dunbar, Philips County, Montana.)

Issue: Allowing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Proposed Policy: NACo urges the Department of State and the Administration to expedite the comprehensive review and submission for the approval process, the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline and other petroleum pipeline projects.  

Passed 37 to 5 (We voted in favor, of course.)

Proposed Resolution Opposing Delay in Issuance of Oil and Gas Drilling Permits

Issue: Issuance of drilling permits

Proposed Policy: NACo strongly supports domestic energy production and recognizes that U.S. independence from foreign oil also requires expanded alternative and renewable resources. NA Co urges the Administration to safely and thoughtfully grant oil and gas drilling permits in a timely fashion.

Passed unanimously

Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs; Platform Change

Assessment & Tax Administration

Tax Exemption for Municipal Bonds:  NA Co supports the right of counties to issue governmental debt for essential public services by marketing bonds to investors with interest on such bonds remaining totally exempt from federal taxation. Just as federal debt is exempt from local taxes, county governments vigorously oppose any action in the context of tax reform or deficit reduction that would directly or indirectly tax, under the federal income tax, interest on state or local government municipal bonds, or would place these bonds in an inferior competitive position with federal debt instruments and corporate securities. NA Co asserts that tax-exempt bonds are a critical tool for budgeting and financing of long-range investments in the infrastructure and facilities necessary to meet public demand for government services. NACo opposes restrictions that would drive up the cost of issuing tax-exempt bonds. NACo endorses simplifications that would ease existing burdensome restrictions on tax-exempt financing.

NACo supports the use of direct subsidy bonds (e.g. Build America Bonds and Recovery Zone Bond s) as additional financing options for county government s but not as a replacement for traditional tax-exempt municipal bonds.

Passed unanimously

Proposed Resolution on Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and FEMA Mapping Procedures

Issue: Changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program and the release of inaccurate flood maps are causing dramatic increases in the cost of flood insurance.

Proposed Policy: NA Co supports a sustainable, fiscally responsible National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that protects the businesses and homeowners who built according to code and have followed all applicable laws.  NACo urges Congress to amend the Biggert-Waters  Act to keep flood insurance rates affordable while balancing the fiscal solvency of the program.  NA Co urges Congress to reinstate grand-fathering of properties (not policies) that were built to code, have maintained insurance, have not repeatedly flooded, etc. and to implement rate structures that reflect an economically reasonable and slower increase in rates to actuarial rates.

Passed unanimously

Proposed Resolution Supporting an Amendment to the Antiquities Act to Require Congressional Approval and NEPA Review Before a Presidential National Monument Proclamation Becomes Effective

Issue:  National Environmental  Policy Act (NEPA) review and congressional approval prior to establishment of a national monument             

Proposed Policy:  NACo supports Congressional revision of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require that any Presidential National Monument proclamation be subject to NEPA review and Congressional approval before becoming effective.

Passed 26 to 20 ( We voted in favor.)

Proposed Resolution Opposing BLM's 2012 Decision to Reduce Lands Available for Oil Shale and Tar Sands Leasing

Issue:  The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) 2012 Programmatic Environmental  Impact Statement (PEIS), which greatly reduced the areas approved by BLM in 2008 for oil shale and tar sands leasing Programs in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado

Proposed Policy: NACo urges BLM to reverse the 2012 PEIS and approve for oil shale and tar sands leasing all qualifying lands in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Passed 25 to 17 ( We voted in avor.)

Proposed Resolution Urging Congress to Expedite a Commercial Oil Shale Leasing Program

Issue: Oil shale leasing program in Utah and Wyoming

Proposed Policy: NACo urges Congress to address in a timely manner, the regulatory review process in order to facilitate a functioning, environmentally  responsible commercial oil shale leasing program  in Utah and Wyoming.

Passed 34 to 9 (Again, we voted in favor. Are you beginning to see a trend?)

Proposed Resolution Opposing the U.S. Department of lnterior’s Secretarial Order 3321, National Blueways System

Issue: The Department  of Interior's Use of Secretarial Order 3321, National Blueways System 22

Proposed Policy:  NA Co opposes the Department of Interior 's use of Secretarial Order 3321, National Blueways System, as the program lacks transparency, fails to require formal public involvement, allows designations over local objections, and will lead to more federal involvement in the regulation of non-navigable waters, which could usurp state authority and impact private property rights.

Passed 34 to 10 (We also voted in favor here.)

Sunday morning, I attended the Solutions for Shale Impacted Counties Educational Forum from 9:00 am to noon. Attendees shared their experiences with oil shale development and ideas for mitigating social and environmental impacts. Although there was not any ideas that I thought we have not previously discussed or heard of from our own Montana Counties, it was interesting to hear the similarities and differing perspectives on dislocation of low income and senior citizen populations and the varying interactions of counties and developers.

That Sunday afternoon I attended a seminar on the Affordable Healthcare Reform Act and the effect on county employees. The information was very similar to what we have been getting here in Montana. Aetna did have very well done fliers that outlined timeframes and compliance issues for us that is very useful.

The NACO Board met to hear the various committee reports and vote on the resolutions and platform changes that each committee had adopted. The NACo Board voted positively to support each committee report and adopted the resolutions and policy changes that came from those committees.

As it has been stated many times, those that show up make the rules, it was all the more made evident in the EELU committee once again. I strongly believe in the investment that MACo makes for the involvement in the National Association of Counties. We do make a difference, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent the Montana Association of Counties on the NACO Board and the EELU Committee.

John Prinkki | | (406) 446-1231