Member Pipeline - Legislative - January 2007 Update
|To:||Members & Affiliates,
Legislative Policy Committee,
Legal Affairs Committee, Clean Water Funding Task Force
|Date:||January 12, 2006|
This edition of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ (NACWA) Legislative Update, current through January 11, 2007, provides an overview of legislative activity in the 110th Congress, including anticipated hearings and bills, and the ongoing changes to the committees that will address legislation important to NACWA members. For more detailed information regarding NACWA activities related to specific legislation, click on the web links in selected news items, or contact NACWA’s Lee Garrigan at 202/833-4655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NACWA’s Bill Tracker (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legreg/legupdate/leg_tracker.cfm) provides members with a direct link to congressional websites where bill texts and summaries are conveniently posted. You can find NACWA letters, statements, alerts, updates and related documents under Legislative in the Member Pipeline section of the NACWA website (http://www.nacwa.org/private/leg_index.cfm).
Fate of EPA Programs Funded by Earmarks
The 109th Congress packed up and went home in December, leaving many issues, including EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget, unresolved. Nine appropriations bills that fund dozens of federal departments and agencies languished in the brief lame duck session after the November elections. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep its doors open through February 15. Democrats announced they would not attempt to pass the nine bills but will, instead, pass either a new CR or a Joint Resolution (JR) that will fund government programs through the end of FY 2007 ending September 30.
Currently, EPA’s programs are operating at the lowest funding level of: 1) the FY 2006 budget, 2) the FY 2007 House-passed bill, or 3) the FY 2007 proposal in the Senate committee bill. EPA is awaiting instructions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on how to proceed with its programs under the current CR. At risk are programs, including the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP), which operate on yearly ‘earmarked’ grants that are added to the annual appropriations legislation that funds EPA. Additionally, NACWA members that had wastewater, stormwater and drinking water projects included as earmarks in either the House or the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bills will not receive grants in FY 2007. Under any scenario, no earmarks will be included in a Continuing or Joint Resolution. It then will be up to EPA, with guidance from OMB, to determine the financial effects on relevant programs - including continued funding to the NBP. NACWA is urging EPA to continue to fund the NBP’s environmental management system for biosolids program for the remainder of FY 2007. NACWA also will continue to advocate for continued funding for the NBP when Congress moves forward with the FY 2008 appropriations process.
NACWA Works with New House Committee Chair on
January Funding Hearing
Representative James Oberstar (D-MN), a leading advocate for clean water issues, has taken over the powerful Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee in the 110th Congress. Mr. Oberstar, upon winning the gavel, said, “The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund has been bottled up for at least six years. In our committee, we had a bipartisan agreement on a $20 billion package to replenish the fund, but Tom Delay (former House Majority Leader) … refused to allow that bill to come to the House floor.”
NACWA has been meeting on a regular basis with congressional staff in preparation for a January 19 full committee hearing on clean water infrastructure funding and the introduction of a bill to reauthorize the expired clean water state revolving fund (CWSRF). NACWA has been invited to identify a member utility to testify on the funding needs of publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) before the T&I Committee on behalf of the Association.
The new bill will be similar to two previously introduced bills – the Water Quality Financing Act of 2002 (H.R. 3930) and the Water Quality Financing Act of 2003 (H.R. 1560) – both of which would have authorized $20 billion over five years from the U.S. Treasury to fund the CWSRF. While NACWA had some reservations on several provisions in the bills, including utility management and public-private partnership requirements, the Association supported both pieces of legislation. Chairman Oberstar’s staff also told NACWA that the creation of a trust fund to provide a dedicated source of revenue for clean water projects could be addressed either as part of the broader reauthorization measure or later in the year as a separate effort to explore future financing for wastewater treatment agencies. NACWA expects to report on the hearing and the bill at the NACWA Legislative Policy Committee meeting on February 2, at the 2007 Winter Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.
House Water Subcommittee Leaders Continue to
The top Republican slot on the T&I Committee was won by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the out-going chair of the Aviation Subcommittee. Rep. Mica’s staff says the congressman, who has never served on the Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee, is eager to meet with NACWA utility representatives to learn about the water quality issues that are most important to NACWA members. On the majority side, the former Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), is poised to take control of that Subcommittee, although Rep. Oberstar has not yet announced his selections for subcommittee chairs. Ranking Member Mica announced January 10 that Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA) will be the top Republican on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
Senate EPW Panels Scrambled - NACWA Meets with
Staff on Funding, Security
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the new Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has increased the number of subcommittees from four to six, shuffled the jurisdiction of the panels and named the chairmen of each subcommittee. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) left the committee and former ranking member James Jeffords (I-VT) retired. New Democrats on the Committee are Sens. Ben Cardin (MD), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT).
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was tapped to head the new Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act, wetlands, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and chemical, drinking water, and wastewater security, in addition to a host of other issues. At a recent meeting with NACWA, the Senator’s staff outlined their top water issues which included wetlands and wastewater security, including the likely revival of a bill (S. 1995) supported by Lautenberg and Sen. Boxer in 2006 that would require wastewater treatment agencies to complete and submit to the federal government vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans as well as consideration of switching to ‘inherently safer technologies’.
Sen. Lautenberg is keenly aware of the decline in federal funding for wastewater public works projects and will likely address clean water funding in legislation similar to that which the EPW Committee introduced in the 109th Congress (S. 1400, which was cosponsored by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK) and James Jeffords (I-VT)). Lautenberg’s staff also said they are aware of NACWA’s interest in creating a trust fund to ensure a reliable, sustainable long-term source of revenue to finance clean water public works projects. NACWA will work with the new chairman on an anticipated wastewater security bill, a possible infrastructure funding bill for wastewater and drinking water, and will continue to advocate for legislation to establish a permanent long-term financing source to close the deepening infrastructure funding gap.
On the Republican side of the aisle, former EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) will hold the title of Ranking Member. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Thune (SD) and Jim DeMint left the committee and have been replaced by Sens. Larry Craig (ID), Lamar Alexander (TN), and Craig Thomas (WY). NACWA has been meeting with Sen. Inhofe’s staff to discuss the reintroduction of his wastewater security bill and to determine what his water priorities are for the new Congress. The Senator will announce the top Republicans on the Subcommittees in mid-January.
In a December news conference, EPW Chairwoman Boxer stated that her top priority is climate change, and that she will begin intensive hearings on global warming in January. Her second priority is family health, which will include a review of the Administration’s policies on toxics, lead and superfund. She also wants to pass a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which has not been reauthorized since 2000. Boxer also included on her broad agenda the needs of the nation’s wastewater and drinking water facilities and "aggressive oversight" of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) activities.
Conservation Champion Returns to Chair of
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has retaken the chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. As the former head of the Committee, Harkin was the Senate’s leader in crafting the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, also called the Farm Bill. Harkin will again lead the reauthorization effort, stating that he will emphasize conservation funding as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency in a new bill. In the House, Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson is the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who has a good working relationship with Peterson, moves back into the ranking member’s seat. As soon as the political parties assign Members to the committees and settle into their new offices on Capitol Hill, NACWA will reach out to them to build support for the Association’s water quality priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill.
As congressional members prepare for next year, NACWA has been distributing its Issue Paper, titled 2007 Farm Bill Reauthorization and Potential Clean Water Benefits (http://www.nacwa.org/private/leg_outreach.cfm) to EPA and organizations representing the interests of farmers, conservationists, environmental advocates, and others to solicit their support for NACWA’s water quality goals. NACWA has become a member of a consortium of conservation groups - the Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group (AWWG) led by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) - to promote the inclusion of the Association’s water quality goals into the group’s draft recommendations to Congress. NACWA will take an active role in the reauthorization of farm legislation over the next two years to ensure that the billions of dollars paid annually to farmers and ranchers under the legislation’s conservation programs achieve real water quality benefits that accrue to urban, suburban, and rural waterways. Because the current authorization for the farm bill expires at the end of 2007, Congress may have to pass an extension of the deadline before a new, six-year bill can be approved by lawmakers and signed into law.
Rep. John Dingell Reclaims House Energy and
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) has returned to familiar territory in assuming the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a panel he led from 1981 to 1995. Slipping into the ranking member’s seat on the opposite side of the aisle is Republican Joe Barton (TX), the former chair of the committee. Although assignments have not yet been made, the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, which has jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act, drinking water security, and related issues such as perchlorate, radon and lead, could be chaired by current Ranking Member Hilda Solis (D-CA) with current Chairman Paul Gillmor (OH), moving into the ranking member slot. Dingell has promised oversight hearings of EPA policies and programs that could include drinking water protection, superfund cleanup and climate change. Chairman Dingell is expected to announce details of his agenda when he appoints his subcommittee chairs in mid-January. NACWA will work with the committee to identify issues of concern to NACWA member utilities.
Water Resources Bill High on 2007 Agenda
Although the House and Senate were unable last year to reach a compromise on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2005 (S. 728), which was last renewed by Congress six years ago, the bill is expected to be the baseline for new legislation in the 110th Congress. The bill funds U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and was approved in July 2006 by the Senate nearly a year after the House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 2864). In addition to funding a significant backlog of Corps projects, the WRDA bill included projects for municipal wastewater treatment and water supply facilities. Those ‘earmarked’ projects, which boosted the cost of the bill, were supported by the House but opposed by the Senate. This year, House Transportation and Infrastructure (T & I) Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) has stated that passage of WRDA is a top priority of his Committee in early 2007. Efforts to push a new WRDA bill forward on the Senate side got a boost with the announcement by Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that she has hired Ken Kopocis, long-time staff counsel to the House T & I Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment, to help with the reauthorization of WRDA.
Homeland Security Panels May Revive Chemical
New Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) says he expects the Committee to continue to work on a bipartisan basis and that he and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), had worked well together in the past. Lieberman wants to spend more time on oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and listed his early priorities as interoperable communications equipment, more resources to state and local first responders, homeland security grant distribution, better information-sharing, and more transit security funding. To date, there has been no mention of a revival of the sweeping security legislation that he and Sen. Collins proposed last year. In the House, however, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the new Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told reporters he will seek to strengthen security regulations for chemical plants and container cargo and also try to boost funding for rail and mass transit. Like Sen. Lieberman, oversight of DHS programs is high on Thompson’s agenda. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) became the ranking member of the House Committee earlier this month. NACWA has worked with staff of both Homeland Security Committees and will continue to work with them on any issues that may affect NACWA members.