BROWN URGES CONSERVATION AS CA RUNS DRY: With the state facing its worst drought in decades, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) urged Golden State residents last week to cut back their water usage wherever possible. Brown said residents should voluntarily be taking shorter showers, turning off faucets while brushing their teeth and flushing their toilets less often. Brown's plea came the same week that a state task force said 17 rural communities are now in danger of running completely dry within the next 60 to 100 days. And with only a smattering of rain on the horizon, state water officials say the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. "As the drought goes on, there will be more [communities] that probably show up on the list," Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for the state Department of Public Health, told the San Jose Mercury News. Officials note that many of the most affected areas are sparsely populated and depend on wells and reservoirs that are now going dry. Several also have outdated supply systems, but with fewer customers than larger communities the money is not there to upgrade to more reliable and efficient equipment. Officials are looking at a variety of possible solutions, including trucking in water or fronting the money to pay for digging new wells or connecting to other water systems. Brown spent part of last week touring the state to speak to water agency officials. He hinted that the state may make some conservation practices mandatory if the situation does not improve. "Make no mistake, this drought is a big wakeup call," Brown said. "Hopefully it's going to rain. If it doesn't, we're going to have to act in a very strenuous way in every part of the state to get through." "Every day this drought goes on, we're going to tighten the screws on what people are doing," he added. "Right now it's voluntary." (REUTERS, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, ASSOCIATED PRESS, WEATHER.COM)
ENVIRONMENT: The CALIFORNIA Assembly unanimously approves AB 1102, which would grant the California Coastal Commission authority over the placement and use of beach bonfire rings. The bill was in response to rules adopted last year by Southern California air regulators that barred the rings within 700 feet of beachfront homes. It is now in the Senate (REUTERS). • The CALIFORNIA Senate approves SB 812, which would require state regulators to approve or reject a permit request for companies that handle toxic waste within three years of that request. The bill notes that 29 of the state's 117 toxic waste facilities are operating on expired permits, including one that has been expired for 17 years. The bill moves to the Assembly (STATE NET). • The WEST VIRGINIA Senate approves SB 373, legislation that would force chemical storage tank owners and operators to develop spill prevention and response plans for each tank, subject to approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The bill, which would also require disclosure of substances kept at such facilities, moves to the House (CHARLESTON GAZETTE). • The INDIANA House approves HB 1143, legislation that would bar Hoosier State regulators from adopting environmental rules tougher than federal standards. It moves to the Senate (INDIANAPOLIS STAR).
BUSINESS: The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejects a request to rehear a challenge to a CALIFORNIA law banning the force-feeding of fowl to produce foie gras, the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened beyond normal growth. The court previously upheld the law (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS).
POTPOURRI: The VIRGINIA House approves HB 1237, a bill that would end the Old Dominion's 84-year-old ban on hunting on Sundays. The measure moves to the Senate (VIRGINIAN-PILOT [NORFOLK]).
— Compiled by RICH EHISEN
BUDGETS IN BRIEF: The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared portions of 11 drought-stricken states — ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, HAWAII, IDAHO, KANSAS, NEVADA, NEW MEXICO, OKLAHOMA, TEXAS and UTAH — primary natural disaster areas last month. The designation will allow eligible farmers to qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the department (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS).
— Compiled by KOREY CLARK
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