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Legislative Affairs

WEF's Interest in U.S. Legislative Priorities

Under the leadership of the Legislative Subcommittee of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, WEF tracks, reviews and actively comments on legislation impacting clean water issues. WEF works closely with its membership to educate Congress on clean water issues impacting their districts and States, and disseminates information on Congressional activities to WEF membership via meetings, webcasts and emails.  WEF also collaborates with other organizations to provide support, or comment on pending legislation affecting the clean water community.

This Week In Washington 

This Week in Washington is a weekly publication of the Water Environment Federation’s Government Affairs department. It provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. To subscribe, please send an email to akathman@wef.org.  To read the latest issue, click here.

WEF Legislative Activities

House Panel Advances Prospects for Water Projects
Earlier this week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment moved closer to authorizing 28 new water infrastructure projects to support commerce, flood control, and environmental restoration.  All 28 projects may be authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.  
The subcommittee also got an update during a hearing from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on preperations for the next round of project studies.  To read Maj. General Donald Jackson's testimony, click here.
Subcommittee Chair Bob Gibbs prepared opening remarks on this matter. (Bloomberg BNA)
As a reminder, on April 28th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their version of the The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 - including a Sense of the Senate provision which cited the findings of the WEF/WateReuse analysis, and calls upon Congress to provide robust funding for the SRF programs. Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe expects the bill to be brought to the floor in the Senate in June or early July.
 
Infrastructure Week 2016 Shows Why #InfrastructureMatters
Infrastructure Week 2016 began across the nation on May 16th and will continue to run through May 23rd.  This national, annual week of events helps to elevate infrastructure as a critical issue impacting all Americans.  
There have been multiple ways to get involved this year from planning an event to writing to Congress, writing an op-ed, hosting a field trip, and much, much more.  This is also a great opportunity to engage the next generation.  For more information on ways to participate in the future click here.  To download an affiliate toolkit, click here.
On May 16th, WEF Members attended a kick-off event on Monday morning which included equal or superior focus on water infrastructure vs. other kinds of infrastructure. 
May 18th was Infrastructure Advocacy Day and Building America’s Future Co-Chair Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) started the day by pointing out the high percentage of state initiatives to improve infrastructure that are approved by voters.
The briefing included remarks from all four of Infrastructure Week’s Congressional Co-Chairs: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. Garett Graves (R-LA), and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). Each Member of Congress took a few minutes to talk about why #InfrastructureMatters and highlighted the important work Infrastructure Week and its participants are doing.
The theme for 2016 is "Infrastructure Matters."  Tweet why #InfrastrucureMatters to you!
WEF and Other Key Groups Write Congress on WRDA Legislation 
 
On May 10th, WEF and other key groups sent a letter to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member for the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Envirnment to encourage them to consider including specific language in their Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) for 2016. 

 
Specifically, the letter asks these leaders to include a provision in WRDA that will require increased coordination between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and municipalities and will encourage local and federal officials to manage water as one resource with multiple purposes.  The suggested language is as follows: 
“sec. xxx.—INTEGRATED WATER RESOURCES PLANNING. In carrying out a water resources development feasibility study, the Secretary shall coordinate with local governments in the watershed area covered by such study to determine if local or regional water management plans exist or are under development for the purposes of stormwater management, water quality improvement, aquifer recharge, or water reuse. When such local or regional water management plans do exist in the watershed, the Secretary, in cooperation with the non-federal sponsor and affected local public entities, shall seek opportunities for mutually beneficial management of water resources.” 
To read the full letter, click here. 

 
On April 28th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their version of the legislation -  S. 2848, The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 - including a Sense of the Senate provision which cited the findings of the WEF/WateReuse analysis, and calls upon Congress to provide robust funding for the SRF programs. Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe expects the bill to be brought to the floor in the Senate in June or early July. 

 
Read a section by section summary of S.2848 here. 

 
Utilities Back Bill Creating Sewer and Water Assistance Program Pilot 

 
On May 12th, water and wastewater utility officials from Cleveland, OH, Jackson, MS, and Washington DC, gathered at a House briefing and urged Congress to create a program modeled after the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help poor residents who are unable to afford their water and sewer bills avoid shutdowns.  They spoke specifically about a pilot program Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)offered to create in a bill she introduced earlier this year. 

 
The Low Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program Act of 2016 (H.R. 4542), introduced by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in February, would require the EPA to establish a pilot program modeled after the heating assistance program that would provide at least 10 grants to municipalities to assist low-income households with high water and sewer bills. 

 
The Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program that assists low-income families with paying for home heating bills, energy crises, weatherization and minor energy-related repairs. 

 
“There is no question that an assistance program is necessary,” George Hawkins, chief executive officer and general manager for D.C. Water, told the staffers. He said LIHEAP has been a highly successful program. (Bloomberg BNA) 

 
Senate Approves $37.5 Billion Energy and Water Appropriations Bill 

 
On May 12th, the Senate voted 90-8 to approve a $37.5 billion FY 2017 energy and water spending bill (H.R. 2028).  This bill, which is the chamber's first appropriations bill of the year, would fund the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation. 

 
The bill also includes a provision sought by Alpha Natural Resources and other mining companies that prohibits any changes to the definition of “fill material” and “discharge of fill material” under the Clean Water Act. 

 
With passage of the Senate bill, attention now turns to the House's $37.4 billion version, which was been approved by the House Appropriations Committee in April but has yet to see floor time.  The House bill includes language that would block the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule and has sections of the House-passed California drought legislation (H.R. 2898). (Bloomberg BNA) 
  
 
WEF Releases Study on Return of Investment in Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs 
 
A new economic benefits analysis study of the impacts of increased funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRF), released on Tuesday by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the WateReuse Association, has revealed that a requested $34.7 billion of federal SRF spending will generate $102.7 billion in total economic input and create more than 500,000 U.S. jobs.
 
WEF and WateReuse conducted the analysis at the request of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for an April 7 hearing that examined the federal role in water/wastewater infrastructure funding. 
 
The preliminary findings were included in the organizations’ joint testimony and have since been verified and officially entered into the Committee’s official record. Using the IMPLAN economic model—which captures the effect of spending as it ripples through the economy—the organizations examined the estimated impacts (output, labor income, jobs, and federal tax revenue) of SRF-funded projects in four example states.
 
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee included a Sense of the Senate provision in S. 2848, The Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which cited the findings of the WEF/WateReuse analysis, and calls upon Congress to provide robust funding for the SRF programs. The Committee passed S. 2848 on April 28 and the bill is now awaiting full Senate consideration.
 
Based on an assumption that the proposed $34.7 billion in allocations ($14.7 billion for drinking water and $20 billion for clean water) would be spent over a ten-year period (2017-2021), the final report results include:
  • $34.7 billion in federal SRF spending results in $7.43 billion in federal tax revenues; 
  • When leveraged with the state SRF program funds, a $34.7 billion federal investment will result in $32.3 billion in federal tax revenue or $0.93 for every dollar spent; 
  • On average, 16.5 jobs are created for each million dollars of SRF funding, meaning that a $34.7 billion federal investment will result in 506,000 new jobs; and 
  • Every million dollars of SRF spending results in $2.95 million in U.S. economic input, meaning that a $34.7 billion federal investment will generate $102.7 billion in total economic input. 
 
Read a section by section summary of S.2848 here. 
 
“SRFs are widely acknowledged as one of the most successful infrastructure funding programs, yet the resources needed to maintain and upgrade our systems remains out of sync with current investment levels,” said WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “This report shows that water and wastewater infrastructure is a sound and wise economic investment that also provides immeasurable returns for public health, the environment, and our future.”
 
“There’s little dispute that our nation’s infrastructure is badly in need of repair,” said WateReuse Association Executive Director Melissa Meeker. “With release of this report, it’s also abundantly clear that SRFs both contribute to a high quality of life for taxpayers and foster a robust economy.”
 
To find out more information please contact WEF Legislative Affairs, Steve Dye, sdye@wef.org. 
 
Senate EPW Committee Passes Bill with WEF SRF Study and Other Water Infrastructure Initiatives 
 
This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in a 19-1 vote passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that includes a provision that cites a recent WEF study and other water infrastructure funding, including a $220 million aid package for Flint, Michigan.  S.2848 will provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, to authorize the Secretary of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the United States.
  
Thanks to the bipartisan cooperation and willingness of Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to include significant drinking water and clean water policy and funding provisions in the bill, the legislation is one of the most noteworthy water bills in Congress in the last two  years.  Of note, Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer have both been championing the importance of the SRF programs, and this bill continues those efforts.  A study that WEF and WateReuse Association will soon to be releasing is highlighted in Section 7002, a Sense of the Senate that calls upon Congress to substantially increase funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF.  The provision cites the WEF/WateReuse study that analyzed the economic, job creation and federal tax revenue benefits of increased federal funding for the SRF programs.  The full study will be released on Monday, May 2.
 
The bill also includes a number of other major water infrastructure funding and policy matters.  It makes the WIFIA program permanent by removing “Pilot Program” from it’s name, and provides for additional money through the Flint aid package to go towards WIFIA projects.  Additionally, if enacted, the bill will create a new trust fund to support the CW and DW SRF programs through revenues generated by manufactures that place a voluntary label on products.  The bill will also set aside approximately $25 million in grant funding for technical assistance to small and medium sized WRRFs. 
 
Also, the EPA is directed to promote the integration of green infrastructure into permitting programs, planning efforts, research, technical assistance, and funding guidance.
 
The bill also directs the EPA to not use median household income as the sole indicator of affordability when assessing a community’s financial capabilities to make water infrastructure investments.  Additionally, the bill authorizes permits to incorporate integrated plans, which may combine requirements related to a combined sewer overflow; a capacity, management, operation, and maintenance program for sanitary sewer collection systems; a municipal stormwater discharge; a municipal wastewater discharge; and a water quality-based effluent limitation to implement an applicable wasteload allocation in a total maximum daily load. It directs the EPA to notify communities of the opportunity to prepare integrated plans in the context of consent decrees or administrative orders. Establishes an integrated plan as a basis for a request to modify an administrative order or consent decree.
 
Finally, the bill will authorize $50 million for the EPA to make grants to accelerate the development of innovative technologies to address pressing water challenges.

True LEADership Act Introduced in Senate 

On April 20, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and twenty-six original co-sponsors introduced the True, Removal and Updated Evaluations of Lead Everywhere in America for Dramatic Enhancements that Restore Safety to Homes, Infrastructure and Pipes Act of 2016 or True LEADership Act (S.2821) 

The bill would provide additional federal funding for water infrastructure, tax credits for homeowners to remove lead, and grants to schools to help children survive the effects of lead poisoning.  

Reforms in the True LEADership Act include:  

  • Increasing investments in our water infrastructure, particularly through a grant program specifically designed for projects that reduce lead in tap water 
  • Establishing a mandatory, nationwide requirement for states to report elevated levels of lead in children 
  • Establishing mandatory testing and notification of lead in water systems 
  • Reforms to HUD authorities and a new tax credit for homeowners to remove lead 
  • A new grant program for schools to aid children with the effects of lead poisoning 
  • Accelerates development of new water technologies 

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority Leader Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she will look for opportunities to advance the bill, including on the Water Resources Development Act, which the committee is looking to mark up next week.   

Click here to read Sen. Cardin's press release on the bill. 

House Bill Introduced to Reauthorize Clean Water SRF 

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure introduced the Water Quality and Job Creation Act of 2016 (H.R. 4954)  The bill amends the Clean Water Act to provide for additional funding for water infrastructure, including the State Revolving Fund (SRF).   

Specifically, the bill: 

  • Authorizes $20 billion over five years in wastewater infrastructure through SRFs and other efforts to improve water quality. 
  • Authorizes $1.5 billion over five years for grants or State water pollution control agencies to implement State water pollution control programs. 
  • Authorizes $600 million over five years for Clean Water programs for watershed-based or system-wide efforts to address wet weather discharges, to promote stormwater best management practices, to undertake integrated water resource management, and to increase the resiliency of treatment works to natural or man-made disasters. 
  • Authorizes technical assistance to rural, small, and tribal communities to assist them in gaining access to financing wastewater infrastructure. 
  • Includes economic incentives to encourage the adoption of energy- and water-efficient technologies and practices to maximize the potential for efficient water use, reuse, and conservation, and energy conservation, and realize the potential corresponding cost-savings for water treatment. 
  • Authorizes $2.5 billion in grants over five years for grants to address combined and sanitary sewer overflows and recapture and reuse of municipal stormwater under section 221 of the Clean Water Act. Grants would be provided to the state to award to local agencies. 
  • Authorizes $75 million annually ($250 million in grants over five years) for alternative water source projects under Section 220 of the Clean Water Act, including projects that reuse wastewater and stormwater to augment the existing sources of water. 
EPW Chair and Ranking Member Criticize Budget Cuts in Drinking Water and Clean Water SRFs 
 
On April 19, during an EPA budget proposal hearing, EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, that the agency's “activist” agenda on climate change jeopardizes its other important work.
 
“The President's budget would cut $414 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund which helps these very same states and local communities pay for improvements to sewer and waste water treatment systems,” Inhofe said. “As we have seen from the Gold King Mine blowout and the contaminated drinking water in Flint, EPA has at times been distracted from fulfilling its core missions due to the Obama Administration's previous single-minded focus on remaking EPA into an agency that regulates climate change and the energy sector.”
 
The White House proposed $8.27 billion for the EPA's fiscal year 2017 funding. 
 
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the committee's Ranking Member and often a supporter of EPA policies, criticized cuts in the Obama administration's proposal for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
 
“Our nation's water infrastructure needs far outstrip the funding available, and the proposed $257 million cut to the State Revolving Funds will make this funding gap grow,” Boxer said. The EPA proposal boosts the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund by roughly $157 million.  (Bloomberg BNA)
 
Click here to watch a recording of the hearing and read testimony.

Senate to Consider $37.5 Billion Energy and Water Bill  

On Thursday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $37.5 billion Senate Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for FY 2017.  This bill funds the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation. 
 
Originally, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) offered an amendment that would block the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward with its Waters of the US (WOTUS) regulation, but he eventually withdrew it.  (Bloomberg BNA) 
 
Also this week, on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy, Water Development and Related Agencies passed their $37.4 billion version of the bill, which is scheduled to go before the full Committee next Tuesday.  For a summary, click here. 
 
The House bill includes riders that would block the Clean Water Rule and "restricts the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches," according to the summary. 
 
WRDA Details Being Negotiated 
 
Recently, Chairman Inhofe (R-OK) spoke about his desire to move the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation out of Committee before the next recess.  This week, other Members including EPW Committee Member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also spoke of progress being made on the bill - and the likelihood of it being passed by the full Senate before the August recess.  WRDA details are being negotiated at this time.
 
It is indeed looking like a potential vehicle to get additional aid to Flint - Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act (S. 2579)- after the Flint language was removed from the Senate energy bill this week.
 
New WEF Study on Infrastructure Spending is the Focus of Senate Hearing 

 
WEF was invited to testify at a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing entitled "The Federal Role in Keeping Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Affordable" today in the U.S. Senate.  The goal of this hearing was to examine the federal role in water and wastewater infrastructure.  A primary purpose of the hearing was to receive the results of an analysis that WEF and the WateReuse Association conducted at the request of the Senate EPW Committee.  The analysis shows the full economic benefits to the economy, job creation and federal tax revenues from federal funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. 

 
Rudolph Chow, P.E., Director of the Department of Public Works in Baltimore, represented WEF, the City of Baltimore and the WateReuse Association.  Mr. Chow is a proponent of above-ground and underground infrastructure renewal and has spent his career in the water industry developing and implementing new and innovative programs. 

 
Mr. Chow’s testimony focused on three significant issues affecting water and wastewater infrastructure:  affordability, federal funding of infrastructure, and economic benefits of SRF spending.  He focused on the results of the economic analysis which shows the impact of SRF spending in four sample states, including taxes returned to the federal government, jobs created and other benefits to the state and national economies. 

 
Mr. Chow explained how the results of this analysis show that SRF spending generates Federal tax revenues. Specifically:  
  • Total (state and federal) annual SRF spending in these 4 states has averaged $1.46 billion. This generates $234 million of Federal tax revenues. Therefore, every million of SRF spending is estimated to generate $160,000 in Federal taxes from those states. This does not include tax revenues generated by indirect spending by firms in other states (other than CA, OH, MD and OK).   
  • When compared only to the federal portion of SRF spending, which accounts for 23% of total spending, every $1 million of federal spending generates $695,000 in Federal taxes from those states. 
However, not only does SRF spending increase Federal revenues, it generates output in the state economies, as well. Every $1 million of SRF spending results in $2.25 million in output for the states’ economies, on average.

 
Complete results of this analysis will be added to the Committee Report and available for review within the next several weeks. 

 
For more information, please contact WEF Legislative Director, Steve Dye at sdye@wef.org, or WateReuse’s Legislative Director, Ian Wolf, at iwolf@wateruse.org. 

 
WEF Invited to Testify at EPA Hearing 

 
WEF has been invited to testify at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing entitled "The Federal Role in Keeping Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Affordable" on Thursday April 7, 2016.  The goal of this hearing is to examine the federal role in water and wastewater infrastructure. 

 
Rudolph Chow, P.E., Director of the Department of Public Works in Baltimore, will represent WEF.  As his official biography states, Mr. Chow is a proponent of above-ground and underground infrastructure renewal and has spent his career in the water industry developing and implementing new and innovative programs. 

 
The US Conference of Mayors, AWWA, NAWC, Rural Water, and NRDC will also be represented at the hearing. 

 
The hearing will be at 10 AM EST in Dirksen 406.  You will be able to watch the hearing live. 

 
Flint's Potential Impact on Lead and Copper Revision Rule 

 
  
According to Bloomberg BNA, on Monday, March 21, Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water, said the EPA will use lessons from the lead-tainted drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., in drafting its revisions to the lead and copper rule in 2017, particularly on such issues as how to determine an appropriate sampling regime.

 
Peter Grevatt, the Director of the EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, said there also will be movement on an unregulated contaminant monitoring rule, a strontium determination and actions related to algal blooms. 

 
Beauvais' comments are some of the most specific yet by an EPA official on how the crisis in Flint, where 100,000 people were exposed to high lead levels in their water, could affect national standards. Grevatt's comments offer a glimpse of the rest of the drinking water agenda in a year in which activity has been largely dominated by Flint. 

 
Army Corps of Engineers Pushed on Water System Financing 

 
On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing entitled “The 2016 Water Resources and Development Act – Policies & Projects" about new water resources projects to improve that infrastructure and the Corps’ policies that can help the delivery of project benefits. 

 
The panel included Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary to the Army Corps of Engineers and Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers.  Click here to read their statements. 

 
According to Committee Chairman Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), they are back on schedule to pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) every two years, which “allows Congress to help meet the demands for navigation, flood control and ecosystem restoration projects around the country.” 

 
During the hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Ranking Member, pushed the Corps to make progress on a new program of innovative financing for water infrastructure projects. 

 
The Corps' budget request for fiscal year 2017 includes nothing for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), legislation included as a program within the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.  WIFIA was designed as a five-year pilot of loans and loan guarantees for Corps water resources infrastructure projects and EPA approved water and wastewater projects. 

 
The Environmental Protection Agency has been working to set up its part of the WIFIA program and included $20 million for it in its FY 2017 budget request. 

 
New Congressional Caucus for Municipal Bonds 

 
In early March, Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) formed a new congressional caucus to advocate for preserving tax-exempt municipal bonds.  The Municipal Finance Caucus will unite Members of Congress to fight to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds from efforts to alter them, such as a change requested in President Obama’s FY17 budget which would reduce the deductibility levels of tax-exempt bonds for upper income earners.  Upper income earners purchase nearly 50% of all tax-exempt municipal bonds, which accounted for over $50 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure financing in 2010. 

 
Tax-exempt municipal bonds fund more than 90% of all water and wastewater infrastructure financing in the United States, so efforts to alter the effectiveness of them have been met with strong resistance from public and private organizations.  WEF has supported these efforts and is a member of a coalition of municipal and financial organizations united to fight against changes to tax-exempt municipal bonds.  The new Municipal Finance Caucus will unify a block of Members of Congress to also oppose any changes, such as those proposed in the President’s budget or in future tax reform legislation.

 
WEF and Other Water Sector Organizations Join in Letter to Congress 

This week WEF and nine other water and municipal associations sent a joint letter to Congress requesting $2 billion in FY17 for both the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF programs. That amount matches the amount also being requested in a letter being circulated among Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The Clean Water SRF received $1.39 billion in FY16, and the President has only requested $979 million in FY17, which would be a $414 million cut. WEF has joined with the other organizations to make a strong push for increasing the funding for SRF programs. Recent Clean Water and Drinking Water Needs Surveys from the U.S. EPA estimate the combined total needed for water infrastructure investments over the next 20 years to be $655 billion. 

The letter also requests Congress to fully fund the WIFIA program at the authorized level of $35 million in FY17, which conservatively would equal approximately $2 billion in water infrastructure project investments. Additionally, the letter calls on Congress to provide $23.365 million for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI program, which is a grant program for water reuse projects in Western states. Finally, the letter asks for $6.5 million to support the EPA’s Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach (Integrated Planning) to help communities better manage regulatory compliance. 

House Committee Approves Great Lakes Restoration Bill 

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 (H.R. 223), a bill reauthorizing $1.5 billion over five years to restore the Great Lakes was adopted March 2 on a voice vote by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  

Sponsored by Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and backed by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), H.R. 223 now heads to the House floor.  Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced an identical bill (S. 1024) in the Senate, which has been placed on the legislative calendar.  The initiative would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with the Great Lakes Restoration Task Force to prioritize and carry out projects that focus on the following areas: remediation of toxic substances and areas of concern; prevention and control of invasive species and their impacts; the protection and restoration of near-shore health and the prevention and mitigation of nonpoint source pollution; and habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. 

Water Infrastructure and Innovation Funding in the FY 2017 Federal Budget Proposal 

On Tuesday, Feb. 9th, President Obama released his proposal for the FY 2017 federal budget. The budget proposal included changes in funding for water infrastructure and increased funding for water R&D.     

Clean Water SRF and Drinking Water SRF 

The President is requesting only $979M for the CW SRF in FY17, which was appropriated $1.35B in FY16. The DW SRF received an increased request amount of $1.02B for FY17, which was appropriated $863M for FY16. The combined total reduction in proposed SRF funding is -$257M below the FY16 appropriated amount. There is speculation that the increase in the DW SRF may be in reaction to the Flint, MI, crisis, but the budget proposal makes minimum mention of Flint.     

The President’s proposal also includes $20M for WIFIA loans, $5M of which is for administration costs.  The $15M for WIFIA would conservatively equal at least $375M in new infrastructure funding (assuming a very conservative 25:1 leveraging ratio for the $15M), but the EPA has much higher expectations for the program and estimates “potential loan capacity of nearly $1 billion to eligible entities for infrastructure projects with the initial loans taking place in FY 2017.” 

Program 

FY16 Request 

FY16 Enacted 

FY17 Request 

Delta from FY16 Enacted to FY17 Request 

 % Change 

Clean Water SRF 

$1.116B 

$1.35B 

$979M 

($414M) 

-29.73% 

Drinking Water SRF 

$1.186 

$863M  

$1.02B 

$157M 

18.22% 

WIFIA 

 

 

$20M 

 

100% 

Total Combined 

$2.302B 

$2.213B 

$2.019B 

($257.12M) 

-8.64% 


Water R&D and Innovation Funding 

The President’s budget proposal also announces approximately $300 in new funding to support the Administration’s water innovation strategy.  The strategy focuses on water sustainability and reducing the price and energy costs of new water supply technology to address resiliency, climate change and population growth.   

Specifically, the budget proposal will direct:  

$98.6 million for the federal WaterSMART program, which promotes water conservation initiatives and technologies. 

$4 million of new funding for the US Geological Service to provide near real-time assessment of water use during drought 

$28.6 million to support R&D at the Bureau of Reclamation. These funds include $8.5 million for the water technology solutions challenge program, a technology challenge prize focused on next-generation water-treatment technologies; $5.8 million for desalination and water purification, and $2 million to continue the Open Water Data, which aims to centralize national water data collected by various agencies and make it more accessible. 

$25 million in new funding for the Department of Energy to launch a new Energy-Water Desalination Hub  

The DOE would also invest nearly $20 million in complementary R&D on desalination technologies relevant to fossil, concentrated solar power, and geothermal applications. 

$15 million in additional funding for US Department of Agriculture research to support agricultural production and practices that conserve water 

$88 million for the National Science Foundation for water research, focusing on technologies that increase the US water supply, drinking water quality, and water for use in agriculture and industry processes or cooling. 

Other Programs and Priorities 

Green Infrastructure & Stormwater: The budget proposal does not specifically identify significant new funding for GI and SW, but it does highlight the EPA’s intentions to support more GI and better SW management to address CWA goals. The budget proposal reemphasizes the authority to set aside “20 percent of the Clean Water SRF capitalization grants, subject to project availability, to green infrastructure and innovative projects including those to manage stormwater, which helps communities improve water quality while creating green space, mitigating flooding, and enhancing air quality.”   

USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program: The program will receive an increase of $1,881,000 to a total of $63,881,000.  The budget proposal directs the increased funding to go towards long-term groundwater and surface water quality monitoring networks.     

Next Steps 

WEF was aware in advance of these changes to the funding levels of the SRF programs and have already begun efforts in Congress to ensure full funding for both SRF programs in the final budget.  WEF is working closely with a coalition of water and municipal associations to have a coordinated message and action plan, as well as reaching out to WEF membership to build grassroots advocacy before Congress in opposition to cuts to the CW SRF. 

Final FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Restores Funding  

In mid-December, the U.S. Congress reached a final agreement for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget for the federal government, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. The bill provides $1.067 trillion in base funding, which includes $73.7 billion for overseas contingency operations, $7.1 billion in disaster aid, $1.5 billion for program integrity, and $700 million in emergency funding. Read the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 at https://rules.house.gov/bill/114/hr-2029-sa.    

Funding to all federal agencies is included in the bill, and it retains or increases the funding amounts for the agencies from FY 2015. The bill holds the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) at the FY 2015 enacted level of $8.139 billion. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.394 billion and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $863 million, restoring severe cuts proposed in 2015 in the draft House and Senate committee bills. The bill did not include funding for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans and loan guarantees, but it did include language directing EPA to continue to use administrative monies to establish the program.  The bill was free of many of the policy riders that had been hotly debated in Congress, including any restrictions on EPA in proceeding with the implementation of the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Rule.   

In 2016, WEF will be advocating before Congress and the Administration for full funding for the SRF programs, as well as funding for the WIFIA program to provide low interest loans for infrastructure projects. 

Rider That Banned CSO and Wet Weather Bypassing Excluded  

Also, in the FY16 Omnibus bill, a major effort to strip an unfunded mandate was successful. The Senate version of the appropriations bill that funds EPA included a rider that would have forbidden wet weather bypassing and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the Great Lakes watershed. The compromise language in the final bill will require some additional reporting for CSO events only, but it makes no changes to the Clean Water Act requirements or additional fines.  

The Senate's FY16 appropriations bill contained a policy rider (Sec. 428 of S. 1645) requiring all combined sewer overflows (CSO) in the Great Lakes watershed to be eliminated, including overflows discharged in compliance with a CSO Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) or consent decrees. The rider would have also required water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) to eliminate discharges of blended effluent that otherwise meet standards established in a WRRF's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit during peak wet weather events.   

A recently completed survey of Great Lakes WRRFs estimated the cost-of-compliance to the policy rider exceeded $72 billion in the region. A coalition of cities, counties, and associations is aggressively lobbying Congress in opposition to this policy rider because it has the potential to be extremely costly, requiring massive infrastructure expansion, ratepayer increases, and reopening of consent decrees and/or LTCPs. More than 45 letters were sent to Congress from public agencies and organizations opposed to the policy rider, including WEF; the Water Environment Associations of Indiana, Michigan, New England, New York, and Ohio; and WEF members at agencies throughout the Great Lakes region.  

WIFIA Fix and Better Highway Stormwater Management   

The highway reauthorization bill, known as the Fixing American Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) that was enacted into law in December, included a fix to the WIFIA program that WEF helped create and a stormwater management provision that WEF helped draft.  

The fix removed a restriction on the use of tax-exempt financing on WIFIA-financed projects. WEF and other water associations have been advocating for the provision since the program was enacted in 2014. The WIFIA program required that WIFIA can finance only up to 49% of a total project cost, and the remaining 51% could not come from a tax-exempt source, such as tax-exempt municipal bonds or private activity bonds. This was limited by Congress in 2014 to keep the cost of creating WIFIA budgets neutral, with the intent of fixing it later. The restriction on tax-exempt financing was removed by the provision in the FAST Act that WEF and other water associations strongly advocated.   

Also included in the FAST Act was a stormwater management provision that WEF helped draft that directs metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, and statewide transportation planning agencies to “improve the resiliency and reliability of the transportation system and reduce or mitigate stormwater impacts of surface transportation,” among the list of items to be included when agencies are planning surface transportation projects that use federal funding.  

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who was a member of the conference committee negotiating the final bill, included the provision. Language similar to the provision was originally developed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) with WEF staff assistance and was introduced as the Highway Stormwater Management Act as stand-alone legislation in 2014 and 2015 (S. 518). On behalf of WEF, Dr. Dan Medina of Atkins Global (Epsom, U.K.) and Jim Gibson of Sanitation District #1 in Fort Wright, Ky., participated in a hearing in May 2014 before the Senate Water & Wildlife Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Cardin. During the hearing, the WEF members testified on the importance of better stormwater runoff management during the surface transportation planning process. Sen. Cardin introduced his legislation shortly after the hearing.  

The provision that Rep. Edwards included in the bill is a significant step toward better stormwater management included early in the planning process of surface transportation bills. Currently, planning agencies that use federal dollars for projects are given eight criteria to consider during the planning process, such as increased safety, economic growth, and intermodal connectivity. The Edwards provision amends U.S. Code 23, Section 134(h)(1) and 135(D)(1), and will urge planning agencies to “reduce and mitigate stormwater impacts of surface transportation.” Planning agencies are not required to include these criteria in projects, but projects that meet more criteria will score higher.   

In 2016, WEF will be working closely with EPA to help complete the formation of the WIFIA program and establish another federally backed source of low-interest financing. WEF will also be working with the Federal Highway Administration to incorporate the stormwater management provisions into the project planning process so that stormwater management costs are built into the federally funded highway projects and are not left to local agencies to address after a project is completed.  

Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF Reauthorization Legislation Introduced in the Senate 

In mid-February, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced new legislation (S. 2532) to reauthorize and increase the funding levels for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRFs). Together, these funds serve as the primary source of federal funding for all states to maintain, repair and replace their aging water infrastructure systems.  

Cardin’s bill starts by immediately returning the SRFs to 2009 funding levels that included boosts from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – more than tripling the authorizations for both SRFs that have seen cuts in recent years. With an update to FY16 authorizations, this new legislation would provide immediate authorization for additional resources that would assist communities nationwide with infrastructure funding challenges.

Obama Vetoes Congressional Resolution to Block Water Rule 

In January 2016, President Obama vetoed legislation that would have nullified the administration's rule defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The rule, written jointly by the Environmental Protection agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would have been negated by a joint resolution of Congress passed under authority of the Congressional Review Act. The resolution (S.J. Res. 22) was passed by the Senate in November and the House last week. 

The Senate attempted, but failed, to override this veto. The veto was fully anticipated and is expected to stand, given that neither house of Congress in approving the resolution mustered the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

In his veto message, Obama said, “The rule, which is a product of extensive public involvement and years of work, is critical to our efforts to protect the nation's waters and keep them clean; is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders; and is consistent with decisions of the United States Supreme Court.”

He added, “Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it.”

The Clean Water Rule, also widely referred to as the “waters of the U.S.” rule, or WOTUS, is the subject of litigation in many courts, leaving its fate in limbo. It has been put on hold by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit pending a decision on what court jurisdictions are appropriate for lawsuits against the rule and will remain a focus of litigation in federal courts.

WEF, Others Urge Funding for WIFIA, SRF, and No Changes to Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds

In early November 2014, WEF and other leading water organizations sent letters to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan and the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, requesting that Congress and the Administration provide full funding to the newly authorized Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and include it in EPA’s FY15 and FY16 budgets. Along with American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), WEF also requested that the funding level for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving funds (SRFS) be maintained and no changes be made to the tax benefits of tax-exempt municipal bonds. WIFIA FY15 Funding Letter to Senate and FY16 Funding Letter to OMB.
 

WEF, AWWA and AMWA Raise Concerns on Possible Buy American Provisions for State SRFs 

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies is considering adding Buy American provisions for state revolving funds (SRF) to the FY2013 EPA appropriations.  These provisions would be similar to those included in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or Stimulus Bill, in 2009.  

Given potential impacts on State Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and WEF sent a June 19 joint letter to the House Subcommittee urging careful consideration of the ramifications on local utilities including delays in initiating much-needed water infrastructure projects and related impacts on job creation.  WEF, AWWA and AMWA recommended an independent review before Congress proceeds with such provisions.  The group also suggested that a more reasonable approach to promoting American manufacturing may be through incentives, such as loan discounts, for utilities that utilize U.S. manufactured goods.

WEF, Other Water Leaders Urge Passage of New Water Infrastructure Financing Legislation  (February 28, 2012) 

WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger joined with other industry leaders February 28 on Capitol Hill to urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass new legislation that would fund water infrastructure needs. Eger’s testimony, presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, highlighted the financial challenges facing water facilities around the country and the importance of providing support for these essential services. During the first of a two-part hearing titled, Review of Innovative Financing Approaches for Community Water Infrastructure Projects, Eger and other water industry leaders helped educate the Subcommittee about the critical need for water infrastructure funding and potential financing tools to help local communities pay for the rising costs of providing clean and safe water. 

Specifically, WEF and the American Water Works Association voiced support for draft legislation to create the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a funding mechanism modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. WIFIA would assist local governments with water infrastructure needs and leverage available federal dollars through low-interest funding that complements the already established State Revolving Fund. The second of the two-part hearing is expected sometime in March. 

 WEF Commends Introduction of Water Quality Protection & Job Creation Act (Updated October 12, 2011) 

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has submitted a letter of support to Congressmen Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Tim Bishop (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment, for the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2011, H.R. 3145—a new bill that was introduced yesterday on Capitol Hill.

The new legislation proposes a Federal investment of $13.8 billion in wastewater infrastructure over five years through the renewal of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). This much needed funding would also help create thousands of new domestic jobs in the engineering, construction and clean water sectors while providing financial assistance for communities to address wet weather overflows and create incentives for innovation including green infrastructure, energy efficiency and watershed approaches.

Click here to read the official press release from the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. 


WEF Testimony

WEF provides testimony for Congressional hearings on various clean water legislative issues though the direct involvement of the water professionals that make up the WEF membership.

WEF Vice-President Jeanette Brown provides Congressional testimony on Energy Efficiency and Energy Independence for Sustainable Wastewater Treatment (Updated April, 2009)

Review her blog on the issue and read the press release.
 

Congressional Visits

2012 WEF/AWWA Water Matters Fly-In (March 7-8, 2012)

Water leaders from WEF and AWWA gathered in Arlington, Virginia, on March 7 at the AWWA/WEF Water Matters! Fly In event to show their support for draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). Following a morning briefing on WIFIA and the comments from Rep. Gibbs, utility representatives visited Capitol Hill for more than 400 meetings with their national legislators and staff. The draft legislation would lower the cost of large water projects for consumers at a time when infrastructure is aging and in need of replacement.  “The time for new thinking is now,” said AWWA President Jerry Stevens, who is also general manager for West Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works. “The WIFIA proposal strikes just the right balance between federal assistance and local responsibility.” “If we are going to continue to provide essential services and make progress in water quality, we need to re-imagine the way we provide local water services,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. “We need to encourage innovation—innovative technologies, innovative management approaches, and innovative financing.”

Congressional Briefings

From time to time WEF co-sponsors briefings with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment Program for congressional staff and other interested organizations on clean water topics. Below is information about recent and upcoming Congressional Briefings.

WEF Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing on Green Infrastructure

October 25, 2011
Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 215

WEF and American Rivers (AR), in association with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), co-sponsored a congressional briefing, “Reducing Costs and Spurring Job Growth: Using Green Infrastructure Practices to Protect and Restore Clean Water for Communities” on October 25 at the U.S Capitol Visitor Center. The briefing highlighted the multiple economic benefits of green infrastructure practices as an integral component of stormwater management to protect clean water, and was indeed a great success. Attendees included congressional staffers, water sector professionals, and environmental policy specialists. 

The event was moderated by WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. Speakers included Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Manager of Watershed Programs, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Chair, NACWA Stormwater Management Committee; Theodore E. Scott, Executive Vice President and Founder, Stormwater Maintenance, LLC., and Tricia Martin, Principal, WE Design, NY Chapter President, American Society of Landscape Architects. The briefing provided information on the problem of stormwater and its management using the traditional approach, the growing paradigm shift towards green infrastructure (from the small business perspective) and its economic benefits, in addition to showcasing some successful case studies. Presentation Slides  PDF Slides     

 

WEF Hosts Congressional Briefing on Updated USGS Nutrient Tool

October 28, 2011
Room 2167 Rayburn House Office Building
 

WEF, along with the Notheast Midwest Institute, hosted a briefing this week on Capitol Hill to inform Congressional staffers and other interested parties on an updated web-based decision support system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program.  The event, which took place on Friday, October 28, was moderated by WEF Government Affairs Vice-Chair, Alan Vicory, who is the executive director for the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission. 

Sparrow Video Link 

The USGS presented updates of the SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) watershed modeling tool with other presentations from by state officials from Minnesota and Tennessee on how their respective state programs utilize this tool.  The USGS described the ability of the SPARROW platform to provide online snapshots in time of nutrient loads, yields and sources for areas covered by the tool, which includes all areas of the contiguous 48-state with the exception of California and portions of the Southwest region. A real-time demonstration was also provided by USGS to illustrate the modeling and forecasting ability of the tool.  The online tool can be accessed at this link

Upcoming Briefings:

There are currently no upcoming briefings at this point in time. Please check back later.

Congressional Briefings Archive 

Legislative News Updates

House Holds Hydraulic Fracturing Hearing (Updated Nov 18, 2011)

The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), held a hearing on November 16 to consider potential new regulations by EPA on the hydraulic fracturing of shale beds to produce natural gas.  Read more >> 

Congressional Supercommittee Struggles to Meet November 23 deadline; Continuing Resolution Passed (Updated Nov 18, 2011) 

The congressional bipartisan supercommittee continues to struggle with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by a deadline. Read more >> 

House T&I Committee Debating Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (Updated Nov 11, 2011)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will resume debate next week on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2838), a bill that would require both EPA and Coast Guard to establish a national technology-based standard to treat ballast water discharges from commercial ships that preempts individual state standards. Read more >> 

Senate Committee Adopts Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011 (Updated Nov 4, 2011)

On November 2, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011 (S. 1701). Read more >> 

WEF Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing on Green Infrastructure (Updated Oct 28, 2011)  

WEF and American Rivers (AR), in association with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), co-sponsored a congressional briefing, “Reducing Costs and Spurring Job Growth: Using Green Infrastructure Practices to Protect and Restore Clean Water for Communities” on October 25 at the U.S Capitol Visitor Center. Read more >> 

WEF Hosts Congressional Briefing on Updated USGS Nutrient Tool  (Updated Oct 28, 2011)  

WEF, along with the Notheast Midwest Institute, hosted a briefing this week on Capitol Hill to inform Congressional staffers and other interested parties on an updated web-based decision support system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. Read more >> 

Congressional Deficit Reduction Supercommittee Urged to Support Increased Water Funding (Updated Oct 14, 2011)

A number of letters submitted from House Democrats are urging the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to increase EPA funding for drinking water and wastewater state revolving funds (SRFs).  Read more >> 

House Committee Introduces Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011 (Updated Oct 14, 2011)

(H.R. 2840), the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011, was approved by voice vote on October 13 by the House by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), amends the Clean Water Act to set a single nationwide performance standard, which conforms to the standard set by the International Maritime Organization, for the treatment of vessel ballast water.  Read more >> 

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Nutrient Reduction Approaches (Updated Oct 7, 2011)

A hearing was convened by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife on October 4 - Nutrient Pollution: An Overview of Nutrient Reduction Approaches - to document nutrient pollution as a national threat and discuss the causes and impacts of nutrient pollution, in addition to the various mitigation approaches.  Read more >> 

Legislative Archives

Please click on the below link to read more Legislative News. 

More Legislative Archives >> 

For more information, contact: Claudio Ternieden, Director, Government Affairs, 703-684-2400 or cternieden@wef.org.