'Sandy' Funds Not Enough For Long-Term Regional Needs

New York state will receive about half of the $60 billion in post-Superstorm Sandy aid that Congress approved earlier this year, but that will not be enough to cover the region's needs for hardening infrastructure against crises like the storm, said speakers at a March 5 conference in New York City on post-Sandy infrastructure building and funding. Priorities should be set, they said. Before Sandy, about 40% of city bridges were deemed functionally deficient, said Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission. "We do need to build back and protect the shoreline, but we can't forget that there are other pressing infrastructure needs," she noted. The region also should plan for other disasters that are different from Sandy, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. "We don't want to fall into the fallacy of fighting the last war."

EPA Won't Appeal Court Ruling On Regulating Stormwater

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declined to appeal a January federal court ruling that prevents the agency from regulating stormwater in Virginia as a pollutant. Judge Liam O'Grady, who sits on the U.S. District Court in Richmond, had ruled that EPA exceeded its authority by mandating a 50% cut in the amount of water flowing through a Fairfax County, Va., watershed to address the effects of stormwater flow and control sediment buildup. EPA said the measures were justified under the federal Clean Water Act, but county and state officials argued they imposed an excessive regulatory burden that would have cost up to $285 million, uprooted homeowners and limited future development. The county also said it was already implementing more-effective stormwater controls. O'Grady agreed, ruling that EPA could establish maximum levels of pollutants to be discharged into a waterway but claiming its authority does not extend to non-pollutants, such as the stormwater itself. EPA says its decision to accept the ruling is based on the litigants' promise to revise pollutant levels to provide "necessary protections" to the watershed.

Maryland Orders Power Utilities To Outline Hardening Measures

In the wake of a damaging 2012 storm, Maryland regulators ordered utilities on Feb. 27 to file plans by May 31 listing measures they could complete in five years to accelerate reliability improvements to distribution systems. The state Public Service Commission also ordered companies to submit longer-term plans by Aug. 30 to determine needed infrastructure or operational investments to reduce the number and duration of outages after a major storm, including those that knock out power to 40% of customers. The commission said the analyses must include comprehensive cost-benefit reviews that weigh the cost of improving distribution systems to different levels of resilience against costs to customers.

Boston Suburb Probes Big Spill Of Raw Sewage Into Ocean

Officials in the Boston suburb of Hull, Mass., say a sudden water surge led to flooding and mechanical failure of the town's 33-year-old wastewater treatment plant on Feb. 28, sending 10 million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean before the 1.7-billion gallon-per-day facility was reactivated late on March 2. Town Manager Philip Lemnios says crews installed an interim pump system to use the normal outfall pipe for the sewage, which is being treated. Rain and snowmelt may have been factors, but the event's cause is unclear and under investigation, he says. The town will hire a consultant to probe the incident and evaluate damage to equipment and plant controls. The town's facility is operated privately by United Water, Harrington Park, N.J.