Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - May 25, 2007
May 25, 2007
House Subcommittee Approves $8.1 Billion in FY 2008 Funding For EPA
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved a fiscal year (FY) 2008 funding bill May 23 that would provide $8.1 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up from the $7.7 billion authorized in the current fiscal year. The funding bill provides $1.1 billion for the clean water state revolving fund (SRF), up from the $688 million requested by the Bush administration for FY 2008. NACWA has worked to educate members of Congress and the public about the critical need for infrastructure funding. While NACWA appreciates the increase, $1.1 billion is still far short of the amount municipalities need for their infrastructure. EPA, the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimate the infrastructure funding need at $300 billion to $500 billion over 20 years. NACWA will continue to work with members of Congress and their staffs to push for more funding for municipal clean water agencies, including advocating for a clean water trust fund. The bill is expected to be taken up by the full committee sometime after the Memorial Day holiday.
Oberstar, Dingell Offer Legislation Altering Definition of Waters of the U.S.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and more than 150 other members in introducing legislation that could expand the reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by clarifying what is meant by “waters of the United States.” Recent Supreme Court rulings in Rapanos v. United States (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legalalerts/leg06-05.cfm) and Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Corps of Engineers narrowed the scope of the law’s coverage by excluding intrastate, non-navigable waters and, some argue, adding confusion to what waters are covered. The Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421) (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-05HR2421.pdf) would replace the statutory definition of “waters of the United States” with the broader Corps of Engineers definition found at 33 CFR 328 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_06/33cfr328_06.html). NACWA is studying what effect such a change would have on members, particularly those who discharge to effluent-dominated streams or those who construct wetlands for treatment. While the bill has strong support in the House, its future in the Senate is less certain. NACWA will provide more information and seek member comment in a Legislative Alert to be sent out next week.
House Agriculture Subcommittee Marks up Farm Bill Conservation Provisions
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research approved the conservation title (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-05hr2419.pdf) of the massive Farm Bill reauthorization May 22, including provisions mirroring a Bush administration proposal supported by NACWA. The proposed “Regional Ground and Surface Water Enhancement Program,” is similar to the administration’s Regional Water Enhancement Program (RWEP) and would authorize funding for multi-stakeholder projects that provide water quality benefits within a watershed. The program would be funded at $60 million or $100 million through fiscal year (FY) 2012, depending on whether the money from a reserve fund becomes available. NACWA supported such provisions in letters (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-05-16ltrs.pdf) to key members of the House Agriculture Committee earlier this month. While the administration’s proposal sought $175 million annually, NACWA was pleased that the House version clearly opens the program to clean water agencies by making states “or a unit of local government” eligible to participate. The conservation section also would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote the development of uniform standards for quantifying environmental benefits and promoting market-based approaches for conservation activities. In addition, the Chesapeake Bay is identified in the language as a conservation priority, and $100 million over FY 2008-2012 is authorized for its restoration.
Clean Water Exchange Debuts to Enhance Clean Water Advocacy at Regional, Local Level
The inaugural edition of the Clean Water Exchange (CWE) was distributed this week, building on the success of NACWA’s Regional Network and enhancing the Association’s ability to advocate at the grassroots level. The CWE is jointly sponsored by NACWA, the American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and replaces the regional Network as the outreach vehicle to regional and local clean water organizations. NACWA will continue to manage the content of the CWE and be the main contact for CWE questions; however, the addition of APWA and WEF as co-sponsors will expand the reach of CWE advocacy and allow for greater dissemination of important clean water information. The CWE will distribute a monthly News Alert summarizing important legislative, regulatory, and legal developments affecting the clean water community, as well as periodic Action Alerts when specific, time-sensitive issues arise. The CWE name reflects the “exchange” of ideas and information we hope to foster between the local and national levels. Please contact Nathan Gardner-Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 833-3692 for more information on the CWE.
NACWA Discusses Green Energy Trading Program with EPA
NACWA met with officials from Municipal Support Division in the EPA Office of Wastewater Management this week to discuss a possible green energy credit program for clean water agencies and how such a program may fit into EPA’s broader water program strategy on climate change. The Municipal Support Division has been working with EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) on potentially expanding an OAR program on methane gas reuse for landfills to include wastewater treatment facilities. EPA also may create a green credit market for clean water agencies that reuse methane and decrease their demand for power, making clean water agency credits available to power utilities and others looking to purchase ‘green power.’ Under the plan, clean water agencies already reusing methane would be able to get credit for the work they have done, and EPA would provide additional technical information and assistance to encourage other utilities to begin reusing their methane. While many details of a methane gas reuse program have yet to be addressed, including whether funding will be available for clean water agencies to purchase equipment necessary to use their methane gas for power, it will likely be mentioned in a forthcoming strategy on climate change for the national water program being developed by EPA. NACWA expects a draft of the strategy will be available later this summer for public comment and will alert the membership when it becomes available.
Plan Now to Attend NACWA’s 2007 Summer Conference
Join your clean water colleagues July 17-20 for NACWA’s 2007 Summer Conference, Sustainable Infrastructure Choices…Gray, Green, & Everything In Between, in Cleveland. Former congressional Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), who chaired the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment and later the House Science Committee, will deliver a keynote address that looks back over the accomplishments achieved in the 35 years since the Clean Water Act became law and ahead at the potential role of green infrastructure in water quality improvements. Other featured speakers and panel presentations will address topics such as regulatory challenges to green infrastructure implementation, the costs and benefits of green infrastructure options, and collaborations with new green infrastructure partners. More information about the conference and online registration are available at http://www.nacwa.org/meetings/07summer/. The deadline for reserving a room at the conference rate of $159 per night at the Renaissance Cleveland is June 26, so make your plans to attend today!