2016 Election Will Be One of the Most Pivotal Moments of Our Time

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Why the 2016 Election Will Be One of the Most Pivotal Moments of Our Time

Every four years the political parties describe the impending presidential election as a historic event – and every once in a while it’s true

December 3, 2015 By Sean Wilentz – RollingStone

More than 150 years ago, in 1858, as the national crisis over slavery heightened, Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and that the “crisis” would be “reached and passed” only when the house divided would “become all one thing or all the other.” Now, the long conflict over social equality, political democracy and American government that began during the Progressive era, followed by the New Deal and the Great Society, is reaching its inescapable conclusion. If the Republicans win the presidency in 2016, they will also almost inevitably control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, giving them virtually unfettered command over the entire federal government to go along with their domination of the great majority of the state governments. The Republican president could easily be in a position to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court for an unstoppable right-wing majority that would last for a generation to come. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and Shelby County v. Holder (the 2013 ruling that greatly weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act) would be merely the prelude to tilting political and social power. If, however, the Democrats win the presidency in 2016, they will almost certainly take back the Senate and make gains in the House – and the Democratic president will likely be able to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court that will eventually comprise a liberal majority. Between these two stark alternatives, there is no middle ground. In 2016, the country will become either one thing or the other.

How did we arrive at this decisive moment? Two powerful historic developments have driven American politics over the past half century. The Republican Party has been transformed by a conservative movement that has pushed it ever further to the right. The Democratic Party, stunned by the conservative counterrevolution, has struggled to reinvent itself and its politics, while facing the increasingly formidable resources of the right. These shifts are responsible for the polarization and dysfunction that have gripped American government since the 1990s. But they began in 1968.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-2016-election-will-be-one-of-the-most-pivotal-moments-of-our-time-20151203

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies at 79

Feb 13, 2016 By EMILY SHAPIRO – abcnews

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has died at age 79, two law enforcement sources told ABC News today.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said in a statement: “On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.”

Scalia died today in Texas of apparently natural causes, according to law enforcement sources. Father Mike Alcuino from the Diocese of El Paso administered last rites to Scalia this afternoon, a diocese official said.

Scalia, a conservative, was the longest-serving current justice on the Supreme Court. He was nominated to the court by President Reagan and took his seat Sept. 26, 1986.

For more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/supreme-court-justice-antonin-scalia-dies-79/story?id=36920029

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GOP Moves To Block Obama From Naming Scalia Successor

February 13, 2016 ByTIERNEY SNEED – tpm

Almost immediately after the first public confirmation that Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the GOP-controlled Senate would block President Obama from nominating Scalia’s successor.

“The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

McConnell’s statement came as a chorus of conservatives called for the confirmation process to be delayed until the next President takes office in January 2017. Not longer after, Sen. Chuck Grassley — the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, through which Supreme Court nominations come through — also issued a statement that said “it only makes sense” to wait until the next president is elected to replace Scalia.

Minority Leader Harry Reid countered in his own statement Saturday that said the “Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible.”

“It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat,” Reid said. “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”

The move would deny President Obama the opportunity to name his third Supreme Court justice and potentially to change the court dramatically from a conservative to liberal majority.

The possibility of a Republican Senate thwarting a Supreme Court nomination for the remainder of Obama’s presidency sets the stage for a major political battle running parallel with the 2016 elections.

For more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/conservative-senate-block-noms

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Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails & Sand to Snow Natl Monuments

San Bernardino County Natl Monuments

National Monument in the United States is a protected area that is similar to a National Park except that the President of the United States can quickly declare an area of the United States to be a National Monument without the approval of Congress. National monuments receive less funding and afford fewer protections to wildlife than national parks. However, areas within and extending beyond national parks, monuments, and national forests can be part of wilderness areas, which have an even greater degree of protection than a national park would alone, although wilderness areas managed by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management often allow hunting and grazing.

National monuments can be managed by one of several federal agencies: the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or Bureau of Land Management. National monuments can also be privately managed.

National monuments can be so designated through the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906. President Theodore Roosevelt used the act to declare Devils Tower in Wyoming as the first national monument. He thought Congress was moving too slowly and it would be ruined by the time they made it a national park.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Monument_(United_States)

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President Obama Designates 3 National Monuments in California

FEBRUARY 12, 2016 AT 9:34 AM ET BY TANYA SOMANADER

“Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world. We’re blessed with natural treasures – from the Grand Tetons to the Grand Canyon; from lush forests and vast deserts to lakes and rivers teeming with wildlife. And it’s our responsibility to protect these treasures for future generations, just as previous generations protected them for us.”

 President Obama

President Obama has taken unprecedented action to invest and conserve America’s natural treasures. The natural and cultural richness of our national parks, monuments, forest, and public lands are an important reflections of our environmental responsibility and the legacy we leave to future generations. That is why this President has protected more than 265 million acres of land and water – more than any other president in history.

Today, he’s adding a few million acres more.

Today, he will designated three new national monuments in the California desert: Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument.

These designations encompass nearly 1.8 million acres and nearly double the number of acres of public lands that he’s previously protected.

For more: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/02/12/photos-president-obama-designates-3-national-monuments-california

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National Monuments 

National Monuments Established by President Obama 

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Friday, February 12, 2016
President Obama signs a proclamation establishing the Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails & Sand to Snow National Monuments

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#NationalMonuments

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Global Carbon Emissions Standards for Commercial Airplanes

Commercial aviation produces primary combustion products, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O), at a level comparable to its expenditure of fossil fuels, about 3 percent of global fuel consumption. Unlike ground-based combustion sources, aircraft deposit their combustion products at much higher altitudes, into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (25,000 to 50,000 feet). Combustion byproducts deposited there can have long residence times, enhancing their impact. The apparent increased incidence of cirrus clouds and persistent contrails are visible examples of these effects. The major objective of AEAP is to provide periodic assessment of the impact of cruise altitude aircraft emissions on ozone change in the upper atmosphere and climate change, such as the impact of increased cirrus cloud cover on global warming. Source: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/events/showcase/environ.htm
Commercial aviation produces primary combustion products, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O), at a level comparable to its expenditure of fossil fuels, about 3 percent of global fuel consumption. Unlike ground-based combustion sources, aircraft deposit their combustion products at much higher altitudes, into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (25,000 to 50,000 feet). Combustion byproducts deposited there can have long residence times, enhancing their impact. The apparent increased incidence of cirrus clouds and persistent contrails are visible examples of these effects. The major objective of AEAP is to provide periodic assessment of the impact of cruise altitude aircraft emissions on ozone change in the upper atmosphere and climate change, such as the impact of increased cirrus cloud cover on global warming. Source: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/events/showcase/environ.htm

 

New  Aircraft CO2 Standard One Step Closer To Final Adoption

MONTRÉAL, 8 FEBRUARY 2016 – An eagerly awaited aircraft CO2 emissions standard made further and important headway today at the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

The new environmental measure was unanimously recommended by the 170 international experts on ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), paving the way for its ultimate adoption by the UN agency’s 36-State Governing Council.
 
“It is particularly encouraging that the CAEP’s recommendation today responds so directly to the aircraft technology improvements which States have forged consensus on at recent ICAO Assemblies,” highlighted Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of the ICAO Council. “Every step taken in support of ICAO’s full basket of measures for environmental improvement is an important one, and I am sure the Council will be deeply appreciative of the this latest CAEP achievement.
 
Under the CAEP recommendation, the new CO2 emissions standard would not only be applicable to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, but also to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023. A cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard was also recommended. In its current form the standard equitably acknowledges CO2 reductions arising from a range of possible technology innovations, whether structural, aerodynamic or propulsion-based. 
 
The proposed global standard is especially stringent where it will have the greatest impact: for larger aircraft.  Operations of aircraft weighing over 60 tonnes account for more than 90% of international aviation emissions. They also have access to the broadest range of emissions reduction technologies, which the standard recognizes.
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FACT SHEET: U.S. Leadership in Securing First-Ever Global Carbon Emissions Standards for Commercial Airplanes

International Civil Aviation Organization sets carbon standards for commercial airplanes that will reduce carbon pollution and save on fuel costs

Today in Montreal, the U.S. and 22 other countries reached agreement on the first-ever global carbon standards for commercial aircraft. When fully implemented, the standards are expected to reduce carbon emissions more than 650 million tons between 2020 and 2040, equivalent to removing over 140 million cars from the road for a year. These technology standards, agreed to at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations with 191 member countries, will apply to aircraft manufacturers once formally adopted by the ICAO Council.

Today’s announcement follows closely on the heels of the Paris Climate Agreement reached last December and demonstrates the international community’s continued commitment to take action on climate change and to put in place policies that reduce harmful carbon pollution. Globally, commercial aircraft emit 11 percent of carbon emissions from transportation. Without additional action, emissions from the aviation sector are projected to grow by nearly 50 percent. That is why, for more than five years, the United States has played a leadership role in developing these standards.

The aircraft standards agreed to today are part of a comprehensive approach by the United States and other ICAO countries to reduce carbon emissions from aviation through technology development, air traffic improvements, alternative fuels, and market mechanisms. The agreement on carbon emission standards is the first of two important opportunities this year to reduce carbon emissions from aviation.  The second opportunity is reaching an ICAO agreement on a market-based approach to ensure carbon-neutral growth in the global aviation industry after 2020, which has the potential to offset several gigatons of carbon through 2035. Today’s agreement is an important signal that the international community is well-positioned to rise to the challenge of implementing a global market-based approach to reduce aviation emissions later this year.

KEY FEATURES OF THE COMMERCIAL AIRLINE CARBON STANDARDS

The standards announced today will apply to new aircraft designs and, in a first for any type of ICAO standards for aircraft, will also apply to aircraft types currently in production.

The standards for new and in-production commercial airplanes will promote fuel efficiency improvements, with commensurate carbon pollution reductions of more than 650 million tons between 2020 and 2040. This standards address commercial airplanes that are responsible for more than 92 percent of aviation emissions. In the negotiations, ICAO members were considering a range of stringency options (SO) from 1 – 10. The standards announced today were finalized in the upper end of the range for large aircraft at SO8.5 and SO7.

Recognizing that aircraft technology and fuel efficiency will continue to improve over time, ICAO will complete a review of state-of-the art aircraft technology and projected improvements before 2019, to inform further tightening of the standard to keep pace with aircraft fuel-efficient technology improvements.

TODAY’S AGREEMENT BUILDS ON A ROBUST SET OF ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE U.S. TO REDUCE GLOBAL CARBON EMISSIONS

  • Paris Climate Agreement: After years of hard work, and thanks to principled American leadership, more than 190 countries came together to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.
  • Montreal Protocol Amendment: Along with Canada and Mexico, the United States proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases.
  • Mission Innovation: Last year, President Obama joined other world leaders to launch Mission Innovation, a landmark commitment to accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation, and dramatically expand the new technologies that will define a clean, affordable, and reliable global power mix.
  • American Business Act on Climate Pledge: 154 companies have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
  • Commitment to Reduce Financing for Coal: The United States fostered a commitment by more than 30 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to dramatically reduce financing for coal-fired power plants overseas.

For the entire article: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/08/fact-sheet-us-leadership-securing-first-ever-global-carbon-emissions

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ACTION PLAN https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change
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Endangered Species Act of 1973 – 42nd Anniversary

Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 7 U.S.C. § 136, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.) is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” The U.S. Supreme Courtfound that “the plain intent of Congress in enacting” the ESA “was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.”

The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_species_act

* View and learn more about each section of the Act.
* Learn the history of the Act.
* Know your species map: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/map/index.html
* Access the full library of documents related to the Endangered Species Act..
* View and learn more about each section of the Act.
* Learn the history of the Act.
* Access the full library of documents related to the Endangered Species Act.
* Species in Your State and U.S. Territories http://www.fws.gov/endangered/map/index.html

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US Using Trade Pacts to Fight Wildlife Poaching

June 17, 2014 7:12 AM VOAnews

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said wildlife poaching is funding terrorism and corruption.

For that reason, Froman said, the U.S. considers poaching a threat to global security because it’s driven by criminal elements, including terrorists using profits from items such as rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks to finance their activities.

To meet the threat, U.S. officials are emphasizing the environmental component of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Froman said in a Reuters report.

Similar efforts are also part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the European Union, Reuters reported.

Froman spoke at a news conference at Kennedy Airport in New York Monday, standing next to a table heaped with illegal wildlife goods seized by U.S. customs officials.

They included stuffed lion and leopard heads, animal skins and figurines carved out of ivory.

Froman said terrorists use money gained from the illegal wildlife trade in Africa and Asia to fund their deadly activities.

U.S. officials have said they are working to reduce demand for illegal animal products at home and abroad, including Asia, where some believe such goods as powdered rhinoceros have medicinal benefits.

“The high demand for wildlife products is having a devastating impact, with iconic species like elephants and rhinos facing the risk of significant decline or even extinction,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement reported by Reuters.

“The president’s strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, including decreasing demand at home and abroad, is important to strengthen our nation’s leadership on countering the global security threat posed by the criminal markets that encourage poaching and illegal trade,” Jewell said.

 

Cathching & Changing the Word “Should” to “Shall” @ COP21

GOP Climate Change Denier cartoon

The one word that almost sank the climate talks

U.S. tactics during the negotiations included making a last-minute tweak to the text and amassing a huge coalition to help pressure China and India.

12/12/15 07:51 PM EST By Andrew Restuccia – politico

LE BOURGET, France — After years of preparation and two weeks of tireless negotiations, after all the speeches and backroom compromising, one misplaced word brought the momentum toward a historic global deal on climate change to a halt Saturday — for at least a few hours.

Obama administration lawyers discovered early in the day that the latest draft text had a potentially deal-killing tweak: Deep into the document, in Article 4, was a line declaring that wealthier countries “shall” set economy-wide targets for cutting their greenhouse gas pollution.

That may not sound like such a headache-inducing roadblock, but in the world of international climate negotiations, every word counts. In previous drafts, the word “shall” had been “should” — and in the lingo of U.N. climate agreements, “shall” implies legal obligation and “should” does not. That means the word change could have obliged the Obama administration to submit the final deal to the Senate for its approval. And inevitably, the GOP-led chamber would kill it on sight.

“When I looked at that, I said, ‘We cannot do this and we will not do this,'” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters afterward. “‘And either it changes or President Obama and the United States will not be able to support this agreement.’”

And so the scrambling began. With the clock ticking and the start of the talks’ final meeting already delayed by several hours, top U.S. negotiators huddled in a cavernous plenary hall in this suburb of Paris trying to get the language changed. At the same time, supporters of the deal feared that re-opening the text would lead to a flood of revisions from other countries, possibly swamping the entire effort.

In the end, the U.S. persuaded the summit’s French hosts to change the wording, and the tweak was read aloud by a delegate in the plenary hall, lost in a package of other technical revisions. Minutes later, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius banged his gavel and the most significant international climate change deal in history won the resounding approval of 196 governments, representing nearly every country on the planet.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/12/paris-climate-talks-tic-toc-216721

COP21 Agreement announcement

“I want to commend President Hollande and Secretary General Ban for their leadership and for hosting such a successful summit, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for presiding with patience and resolve.  And I want to give a special thanks to Secretary John Kerry, my Senior Advisor Brian Deese, our chief negotiator Todd Stern, and everyone on their teams for their outstanding work and for making America proud.

I also want to thank the people of nearly 200 nations — large and small, developed and developing — for working together to confront a threat to the people of all nations.  Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.”

12/12/15 President Obama’s remarks on the Paris Climate Agreement

 

U.S. Center COP21

http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/

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UN Conference on Climate Change – Paris COP21

2015 UN CCC

WHAT IS COP 21?

France will chair and host the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The conference is crucial because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.

THE CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS SO FAR

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. This Framework Convention is a universal convention of principle, acknowledging the existence of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change and giving industrialized countries the major part of responsibility for combating it.

The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 was a milestone in the international negotiations on tackling climate change.
For the first time, binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were set for industrialised countries. The protocol, which entered into force in 2005, was intended to cover the period 2008-2012.

For more: http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/learn/what-is-cop21/

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President Obama Travel Itinerary

Sunday, November 29th

President Obama departs White House
South Lawn

President Obama departs Joint Base Andrews en route for Paris

President Obama arrives Paris
Paris Orly Airport, Paris, France

President Obama pays his respects to the victims of the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks
Bataclan Concert Hall, Paris France

 

Monday, November 30th

President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama and his cabinet officials, US State Secretary Kerry, Interior Secretary Jewell, USDA Secretary Vilsack, Labor Secretary Moniz and EPA Administrator McCarthy, attend meetings at the COP21
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama attends the opening ceremony 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama attends the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama delivers a statement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama attends a lunch host by French President Hollande
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama participates in a Mission Innovation Event with other leaders and the private sector
Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

President Obama attends a working dinner hosted by French President Hollande
Élysée Palace, Paris, France

 

Tuesday, December 1st

President Obama meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
US Chief of Mission’s Residence,  Paris, France

President Obama meets with Embassy personnel and families
Organization for Economic Co-Operation And Development Centre, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

President Obama convenes a meeting of the island nations leaders of the Seychelles, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, St. Lucia and Barbados who are most at risk from the threat of climate change
Organization for Economic Co-Operation And Development Centre, Issy-les-Moulineaux,  Paris, France

President Obama holds a press conference
Organization for Economic Co-Operation And Development Centre, Issy-les-Moulineaux,  Paris, France

President Obama departs Paris
Paris Orly Airport, Paris, France

President Obama departs Joint Base Andrews en route for White House

President Obama arrives White House
South Lawn

 

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November 30 – December 11, 2015
2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference

Le Bourget, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France

Clean Water Act of 1972 – 43rd Anniversary

Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act

This Act [ voted into law on October 18, 1972 by Congress’ supermajority vote  over riding President Nixon’s (R) veto]  , is the principle law governing pollution control and water quality of the Nation’s waterways. The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters (33 U.S.C. 1251). The Act has been amended numerous times and given a number of titles and codification. It was originally enacted as the Water Pollution Control Act in 1948 (P.L. 80-845), and was completely revised by the 1972 amendments, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (P.L. 92-500). The 1972 amendments gave the Act its current form, and established a national goal that all waters of the U.S. should be fishable and swimmable. The goal was to be achieved by eliminating all pollutant discharges into waters of the U.S. by 1985 with an interim goal of making the waters safe for fish, shellfish, wildlife and people by July 1, 1983 (86 Stat. 816, 33 U.S.C. 1251) . The 1977 amendments (the Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-217)) gave the Act its current title. Additional amendments were enacted in 1981 (Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grants Amendments (P.L. 97-117)) and in 1987 (Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-4).  The Act regulates discharges to waters of the United States through permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program. The Water Quality Protection Division, issues the NPDES permits and the Water Enforcement Branch assures that all discharges comply with the NPDES permits.

 Learn more: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6en/w/cwa.htm

Clean Water Legislative History

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_water_act

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#CleanWaterAct

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