Member Pipeline - Special Edition Member Alert - February 7, 2007
February 7, 2007
NACWA Applauds House Committee on Funding Bills
NACWA is pleased the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee moved so swiftly to favorably report legislation authorizing funding for clean water infrastructure. Two bills were marked up and reported out of the committee Feb. 7. The bipartisan Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720) would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) at $20 billion over fiscal years 2008-2012. After a lengthy debate over the inclusion of prevailing wage requirements under the Davis Bacon Act, the bill was reported out on a bipartisan 55-13 vote with the prevailing wage provisions intact. An amendment was offered that would have required a two-year study on the financial impacts of the Davis-Bacon provisions, but it failed. Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), the former chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said during the debate that several Senators would likely put holds on the bill because of the Davis-Bacon provisions, which could delay the movement of similar legislation expected to be introduced in the Senate.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the committee, said he hopes to get the bill to the House floor before the President’s Day weekend. NACWA strongly supports the bill and commends the committee on this legislative victory, but maintains that it is only a first step toward securing actual funding for the nation’s clean water agencies. With that in mind, NACWA will continue to work with Congress to ensure the federal government rededicates itself to providing adequate financial resources to address the burgeoning funding gap estimated at $300-$500 billion over 20 years. NACWA was pleased that H.R. 720 included provisions calling for a six-month study on potential funding mechanisms and resources available to establish a clean water trust fund, in line with Congressional testimony NACWA provided on Jan. 19. NACWA believes the establishment of a trust fund, similar to what is available for highways and airports, is the most realistic option for financing the nation’s clean water infrastructure. The House committee also voted unanimously to report out the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 (H.R. 569), which would authorize $1.8 billion in grants from fiscal year 2008-2012 to address sewer overflows. It was noted that sufficient funds must be appropriated to the CWSRF in order to trigger the funding levels in this bill. In addition, the committee also approved the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007 (H.R. 700), which would extend a pilot program for alternative water source projects. NACWA supports both bills.
Administration’s Budget Proposal for EPA Slashes SRF Funding…Again
NACWA expressed its disappointment at the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2008 budget request for EPA, which includes only $687.5 million for the SRF. This is the same amount requested in FY 2007, a budget that was never approved by Congress, but is half the historic funding level of $1.35 billion last seen in fiscal year 2004. The request also includes $221 million for Clean Water Act Section 106 and $194 million for the Section 319 nonpoint source pollution program. Since the request for Section 106 funds is higher than the fiscal year 2006 enacted level, EPA’s proposed permit fee program would likely be triggered. EPA issued a proposed rule (http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/E6-22549.pdf) in January that would shift funding of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program to an almost entirely fee-based approach, despite significant opposition from numerous stakeholder groups, including NACWA, which has been part of a broad-based coalition to address the issue NACWA will submit comments on the proposal by the March 5 deadline. Meanwhile, NACWA will work with members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to boost funding for the nation’s critical clean water infrastructure once the funding bills are introduced. Further details on the legislation and EPA budget will be provided in NACWA’s next Legislative Update.