Monday, September 17, 2012

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water.Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.
SDWA was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation's public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells. (SDWA does not regulate private wells which serve fewer than 25 individuals.) For more information see:
SDWA authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. US EPA, states, and water systems then work together to make sure that these standards are met.
  • Standards and Risk Management – Learn about current and proposed drinking water regulations, basic information about drinking water contaminants, the regulatory process, and more.
  • Primacy – States and Indian Tribes are given primary enforcement responsibility (e.g. primacy) for public water systems in their State if they meet certain requirements.
Millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water every day from their public water systems, (which may be publicly or privately owned). Nonetheless, drinking water safety cannot be taken for granted. SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 160,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives.
There are a number of threats to drinking water: improperly disposed of chemicals; animal wastes; pesticides; human wastes; wastes injected deep underground; and naturally-occurring substances can all contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk.
Originally, SDWA focused primarily on treatment as the means of providing safe drinking water at the tap. The 1996 amendments greatly enhanced the existing law by recognizing source water protection, operator training, funding for water system improvements, and public information as important components of safe drinking water. This approach ensures the quality of drinking water by protecting it from source to tap.

Underground Injection Control

The Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program is responsible for regulating the construction, operation, permitting, and closure of injection wells that place fluids underground for storage or disposal.  Also,  geologic sequestration (GS), which is the process of injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) from a source through a well into the deep subsurface, has been the subject of regulatory action.   This process will with proper site selection and management, this new class of well could play a major role reducing emissions of CO2.

SDWA Fact Sheets

The following fact sheets provide basic information about various aspects of SDWA:

49 days ‘til Election Day (November 6, 2012)

It might as well be Harry Potter’s invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists. Teresa Sharp’s right to vote, as well as her family’s, was challenged by the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, which later apologized. The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election. “Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time,” Ms. Engelbrecht said. “Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so.” Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people “who did not appear to be from this country.” Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. “It’s so stealthy that no one is ever able to get a picture and no one is able to get a license plate,” said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin agency that oversees elections. In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. “Pick your minority group,” he said. Read More

After running a story about voter access laws last Sunday, the New York Times got some complaints from readers about its he-said-she-said treatment of whether voter fraud is a serious problem. Margaret Sullivan, the Times' public editor, asked the reporter and editor of the piece for their views:  The national editor, Sam Sifton, rejected the argument. “There’s a lot of reasonable disagreement on both sides,” he said. One side says there’s not significant voter fraud; the other side says there’s not significant voter suppression. “It’s not our job to litigate it in the paper,” Mr. Sifton said. “We need to state what each side says.” Mr. Bronner agreed. “Both sides have become very angry and very suspicious about the other,” he said. “The purpose of this story was to step back and look at both sides, to lay it out.” While he agreed that there was “no known evidence of in-person voter fraud,” and that could have been included in this story, “I don’t think that’s the core issue here.” This is a pretty remarkable response. Read More

In 2008 the majority-black town of Kinston, North Carolina, voted almost 2-to-1 to make its local elections nonpartisan. Nine months later, as the measure was set to kick in, the U.S. Justice Department blocked it. The department’s reason: The plan would reduce the power of black voters. The dispute in the town of 22,000 spawned a lawsuit that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court as a potential test case for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The landmark law was enacted to combat the discrimination that had kept blacks away from Southern polling booths for generations and has been used in this year’s elections to challenge Republican-backed voter- identification laws. The suit takes aim at one of the 1965 law’s core provisions: the power it gives the federal government to block changes in local election rules, like the one in Kinston, in 16 states. Read More

More than a year ago, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said there could be in excess of 11,000 noncitizens registered to vote in Colorado and more than 4,000 of those who had cast ballots, and he has called noncitizen voter registration a "gaping hole" in the system. But earlier this month, Gessler, a Republican, announced that his office had found only 141 people who were noncitizens registered to vote out of 1,416 names run through a federal database, and of those 141, only 35 who had cast ballots. That number represents 0.001 percent of Colorado's 3.5 million registered voters. Read More

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been investigating voter fraud for over a year even though concern over ballots being cast by thousands of voters who aren't U.S. citizens has been founded on myth, not math. "It's created an atmosphere where voters, even ones who are entitled to vote, fear their registration may not be valid or that they'll be challenged at the polls," said Elena Nunez, executive director of Common Cause, a liberal group that has tangled with Gessler over election issues. More than a year ago Gessler said there could be in excess of 11,000 noncitizens registered to vote in Colorado. Earlier this month, the Republican Secretary of State announced that his office had found only 141 people who were noncitizens registered to vote out of 1,416 names run through a federal database, and of those 141, only 35 who had cast ballots. That number represents 0.001 percent of Colorado's 3.5 million registered voters. Read More

Voting-rights groups that virtually stopped registering voters in Florida for a year as they challenged the state's new restrictions on elections now are scrambling to get people there registered for the November 6 election. The effort in Florida - a large, politically divided state that is crucial in the nationwide race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney - comes two weeks after a federal judge rejected strict limits on voter-registration drives that have led to a big drop in Floridians signing up to vote. The Florida law was so limiting that groups such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, which have helped to register millions of voters in the last two presidential elections, essentially halted their registration drives in the state. Now, with the restrictions lifted and Florida's October 9 deadline for registering to vote in the November election looming, such groups are fanning out across the state to find new voters. Read More

Florida has received a green light to implement its new early voting schedule for the November presidential election, including a Republican-backed plan that eliminates early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division agreed to end its challenge to the new early voting scheme in Florida, considered a critical battleground in the upcoming election. The department notified state officials late Wednesday that it would approve the state’s plan for early voting, provided election supervisors in five designated counties agree to offer 96 hours of early voting over an 8-day period.  “The Attorney General does not interpose any objections to the specified changes,” the letter says in part. Read More

Polk County judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, rejecting Schultz’s argument that a Latino advocacy group and the ACLU have no legal standing to try to block his imposition of new voting rules. District Judge Mary Pat Gunderson said the controversy, which stems from new rules that Schultz instituted in July under emergency rule-making procedures, falls within a special exception to legal limits on who has the ability to bring court cases in certain issues. Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2008 refused to overturn actions by the 2004 Iowa legislature, finding that the Sioux City taxpayer who sued hadn’t satisfied requirements that she 1) be personally involved in the controversy and 2) be seriously injured by the questioned action. According to a ruling filed by Gunderson late Tuesday, “The court in (that case) saw the absence of any allegations implicating ‘fraud, surprise, personal and private gain or other such evils inconsistent with the democratic process’ as diminishing the need to intervene in the activities of another branch of government. Read More

Citing a wave of angry backlash, a Kansas man on Friday withdrew a petition in which he argued that President Obama should be removed from the state’s election ballot because he did not meet citizenship requirements. The challenge filed this week by Joe Montgomery of Manhattan, Kan., prompted state election authorities to seek a certified copy of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate and reignited long-running conspiracy theories that the president was not born in the United States. The state will continue to try to obtain the birth certificate, and officials will meet on Monday as scheduled to close the case officially. But without the petition, Mr. Obama will remain on the ballot, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach told The Associated Press. Mr. Montgomery, the communications director for the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, explained his decision in an e-mail to Mr. Kobach. intimidation directed not only at me, but at people around me, who are both personal and professional associations,” he wrote. He added that he did not “wish to burden anyone with more of this negative reaction.” Read More

The U.S. Justice Department has approved legislative redistricting plans that give DeSoto County two new House seats and a third state Senate district, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday. Legislators last spring approved changes to House and Senate boundaries that are required after each 10-year Census is taken to reflect population shifts. But Justice Department approval, called pre-clearance, is required before the state may implement changes affecting voting in Mississippi, given the state's history of discrimination. Read More

Cheryl Ann Moore stepped into the state’s busiest driver’s licensing center, got a ticket with the number C809 on it and a clipboard with a pen attached by rubber band, and began her long wait Thursday to become a properly documented voter. Six blocks away, inside an ornate and crowded City Hall courtroom, a lawyer was arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the state’s controversial new voter ID law would strip citizens of their rights and should be enjoined. Just outside, on Thomas Paine Plaza, the NAACP president was inveighing against a modern-day poll tax at a boisterous rally of a few hundred opponents. Moore bent over a folding table and carefully filled out the form a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worker had given her, in the first line she would stand in that day. Her ticket was time-stamped 11:38 a.m. and gave an estimated wait time of 63 minutes, which, said Moore, didn’t seem so bad. She had been registered to vote since she was 19, and now she was 54. Read More

I doubt that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has the authority to enforce his generous new interpretation of South Carolina's new voter ID law – he can merely advise election officials, who may or may not follow his legal advice – but his out-of-courtroom explanation for testimony that enraged critics and seemed to startle a panel of federal judges represented the first hint of a rational approach to this issue that I've heard from an elected official. After testifying last month that people without cars, birth certificates or enough time to get a state-approved photo ID would “absolutely” be able vote by signing an affidavit saying they had a “reasonable impediment,” Mr. Wilson told The Associated Press that “We have balanced the interest of ensuring the integrity of the electoral system with the fundamental right of the individual to vote.” That seems so obvious. The question isn't whether those two fundamental values have to be balanced in a voting system; the question is how to balance them. Or at least that ought to be the question. What's so maddening about this whole issue is that neither side has been willing to recognize any shades of gray. Read More

Quite a few Texas voters are seeing dead people in the mirror these days when they go to brush their teeth in the morning. In Houston, high school nurse Terry Collins got a letter informing her that after 34 years of voting she was off the Harris County rolls. Sorry. "Friday of last week, I got a letter saying that my voting registration would be revoked because I'm deceased, I'm dead. I was like, 'Oh, no I'm not!' " Collins says. In order to stay on the rolls, the 52-year-old nurse had to call and inform the registrar of her status among the living. She tried, but it didn't go so well. "When I tried to call I was on hold for an hour, never got anyone," she says. "I called three days in a row and was on hold for an hour or more." Collins, who is black, says she noticed that in Houston, quite a few of those who got the letters seemed to be older and black. "There's one lady here. She's 52. She's African-American. Her dad is 80. They both got a letter saying they're dead," she says. Read More

Despite two recent setbacks for the state of Texas in separate federal court rulings, the hard-fought voting battles continue. But, at least for now, those prolonged fights have nothing to do with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse both lower court rulings. For some of you who missed it, in late August two judicial panels in Washington ruled the state’s redistricting maps and the voter ID law — both approved by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature last year — are unconstitutional because they violate the federal Voting Rights Act. The 1965 landmark legislation protects the voting rights of racial minorities. Read More

OMB Details Sequestration Plan; DHS Potentially Hit With $4B In Cuts

By: Mickey McCarter
09/17/2012 (12:00am)

The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a report Friday providing an overview of the Obama administration's plans for sequestration, which is set to cut the federal budget across the board beginning Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress can develop an alternate plan.

For the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the sequestration plan would mean a budget cut of just over $4 billion, according to the report, OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-155).

Overall, as spelled out in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (PL 112-25), sequestration would cut $1.2 trillion from the US budget over 10 years. The amount would be divided evenly between defense and non-defense accounts. For the first year of sequestration, that means the White House must cut about $54.67 billion from defense accounts and the same amount from non-defense accounts.

Most of DHS spending falls under non-defense accounts based on how the Budget Control Act defines those terms. Generally speaking, the biggest DHS agencies would take the biggest hits under the sequestration plan with aviation security, immigration enforcement, border security and disaster relief accounts losing roughly half a billion each or more.

The OMB report cautioned, "The estimates and classifications in the report are preliminary. If the sequestration were to occur, the actual results would differ based on changes in law and ongoing legal, budgetary and technical analysis. However, the report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions."

The report added, "The number of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, Customs and Border Patrol agents, correctional officers and federal prosecutors would be slashed."

Generally, sequestration reduces non-exempt defense discretionary funding by 9.4 percent and non-exempt non-defense discretionary spending by 8.2 percent. It further cuts non-exempt defense mandatory programs by 10 percent and non-exempt non-defense mandatory programs by 7.6 percent, according to OMB's calculations.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would experience one of the biggest cuts of $1.27 trillion overall under the sequestration plan. The Federal Air Marshal Service would be cut 8.2 percent by $79 million.

Aviation security spending would be cut $448 million between discretionary and mandatory spending. Surface transportation security would drop $11 million; transportation security support, $85 million. The TSA Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing program would lose $20 million

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement would see a cut of $477 million in immigration enforcement efforts. Its automation modernization program would lose $1 million

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would lose roughly $955 million overall, accounting for nearly a quarter of DHS sequestered funds. Border security spending alone would receive a cut of $823 million. Air and marine interdiction efforts would lose $41 million; border security fencing, infrastructure and technology, $33 million.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would lose a total of $878 million under the sequestration plan. Disaster relief funding would take the biggest hit of $580 million.

The US Coast Guard, while by no means unscathed, comes out a little bit better than other agencies with budgets around $10 billion. It would lose $439 million under sequestration. Its operating expenses would lose $297 million altogether; acquisition and construction, $115 million; and oil spill programs, $8 million.

In total, DHS would lose $4.068 billion under the OMB sequestration plan. As Congress had passed no appropriations bill at the time of the OMB report, the White House presumed that budget levels would largely remain at the annualized level based on appropriations for fiscal year 2012.

DHS received $39.6 billion in FY 2012 appropriations under a consolidated spending bill enacted last December. 

Philadelphia CBP Claims First-in-Nation Moth Discovery

Second Moth a First-in-Port Discovery

(Friday, September 14, 2012)

Philadelphia – The U.S. Department of Agriculture national entomologist confirmed on Wednesday that a moth that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered recently on a military cargo plane marked the first time that moth has been reported in the United States. The national entomologist also confirmed Thursday that a second moth discovered on that same airplane was a first reported discovery in the Philadelphia region.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests.

To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit ( Agriculture Specialist )

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Voting: Historical Perspective

U.S. Voting Rights

When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) had the vote. 

Over the past two centuries, though, the term "government by the people" has become a reality. During the early 1800s, states gradually dropped property requirements for voting. 

Later, groups that had been excluded previously gained the right to vote. Other reforms made the process fairer and easier.
1790 Only white male adult property-owners have the right to vote.
1810 Last religious prerequisite for voting is eliminated.
1850 Property ownership and tax requirements eliminated by 1850. Almost all adult white males could vote.
1855 Connecticut adopts the nation's first literacy test for voting. Massachusetts follows suit in 1857. The tests were implemented to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants.
1870 The 15th Amendment is passed. It gives former slaves the right to vote and protects the voting rights of adult male citizens of any race.
1889 Florida adopts a poll tax. Ten other southern states will implement poll taxes.
1890 Mississippi adopts a literacy test to keep African Americans from voting. Numerous other states—not just in the south—also establish literacy tests. However, the tests also exclude many whites from voting. To get around this, states add grandfather clauses that allow those who could vote before 1870, or their descendants, to vote regardless of literacy or tax qualifications.
1913 The 17th Amendment calls for members of the U.S. Senate to be elected directly by the people instead of State Legislatures.
1915 Oklahoma was the last state to append a grandfather clause to its literacy requirement (1910). In Guinn v. United States the Supreme Court rules that the clause is in conflict with the 15th Amendment, thereby outlawing literacy tests for federal elections.
1920 The 19th Amendment guarantees women's suffrage.
1924 Indian Citizenship Act grants all Native Americans the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.
1944 The Supreme Court outlaws "white primaries" in Smith v. Allwright (Texas). In Texas, and other states, primaries were conducted by private associations, which, by definion, could exclude whomever they chose. The Court declares the nomination process to be a public process bound by the terms of 15th Amendment.
1957 The first law to implement the 15th amendment, the Civil Rights Act, is passed. The Act set up the Civil Rights Commission—among its duties is to investigate voter discrimination.
1960 In Gomillion v. Lightfoot (Alabama) the Court outlaws "gerrymandering."
1961 The 23rd Amendment allows voters of the District of Columbia to participate in presidential elections.
1964 The 24th Amendment bans the poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections.
1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., mounts a voter registration drive in Selma, Alabama, to draw national attention to African-American voting rights.
1965 The Voting Rights Act protects the rights of minority voters and eliminates voting barriers such as the literacy test. The Act is expanded and renewed in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
1966 The Supreme Court, in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, eliminates the poll tax as a qualification for voting in any election. A poll tax was still in use in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.
1966 The Court upholds the Voting Rights Act in South Carolina v. Katzenbach.
1970 Literacy requirements are banned for five years by the 1970 renewal of the Voting Rights Act. At the time, eighteen states still have a literacy requirement in place. In Oregon v. Mitchell, the Court upholds the ban on literacy tests, which is made permanent in 1975. Judge Hugo Black, writing the court's opinion, cited the "long history of the discriminatory use of literacy tests to disenfranchise voters on account of their race" as the reason for their decision.
1971 The 26th amendment sets the minimum voting age at 18.
1972 In Dunn v. Blumstein, the Supreme Court declares that lengthy residence requirements for voting in state and local elections is unconstitutional and suggests that 30 days is an ample period.
1995 The Federal "Motor Voter Law" takes effect, making it easier to register to vote.
2003 Federal Voting Standards and Procedures Act requires states to streamline registration, voting, and other election procedures.