Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - June 15, 2007
June 15, 2007
House’s EPA Budget Bill Blocks Permit Fee Proposal, Boosts SRF Funding
Representing an important victory for NACWA, the House Appropriations Committee’s budget bill for EPA, Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R.2643), includes a provision that would block implementation of EPA’s proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit fee rule. The rule, first proposed by EPA in early January, would provide financial incentives in the form of additional federal money from the Section 106 grant program to states that fund at least 75% of their NPDES permitting program through user fees. NACWA strongly opposed the proposal, submitting comments (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-02cmts.pdf) in early March objecting to the rule. NACWA also joined in a coalition of key stakeholder groups allied against the proposal, holding meetings at EPA, on Capitol Hill, and at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to jointly express opposition to the proposal. These efforts helped lead to House’s action to prevent implementation of the proposed rule.
The bill’s permit fee provision reads, “. . . from unobligated balances to carry out projects and activities authorized under section 206(a) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, $5,000,000 are hereby rescinded (emphasis added).” For it to become law, this language still needs to remain in the final House version of the budget bill, the conference package with the Senate (where the proposed rule has also been opposed on a bipartisan basis), and finally must be signed off on by the President. NACWA believes this language will survive this legislative process and thanks all of the members who submitted comments to EPA on this issue. NACWA will keep members informed of any further developments.
The House Appropriations Committee’s budget bill also contained some positive news. It recommended $8.085 billion for EPA, an increase of $865.5 million above the President’s request and $360.7 million above the fiscal year 2007 enacted level. Some of these increased funds would go to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The bill’s requested $1.125 billion for the CWSRF is $437.4 million above the President’s request and would be $41.18 million above last year’s enacted level. The Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF) would receive $842.16 million, which is $4.67 million more than last year’s enacted level. Additionally, the bill includes $140 million in State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) for wastewater, drinking water and stormwater infrastructure projects. The specific projects were not included in the bill or accompanying report language and negotiations in the House continue regarding when and how to reveal the specific details of these earmark projects. The bill is available on NACWA’s Bill Tracker webpage (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legreg/legupdate/leg_tracker.cfm#1).
Appropriations Committee Touts Green Infrastructure Statement of Support
Report language that accompanied H.R. 2643 (see preceding article), and which provides additional detail about the Committee’s legislative intentions regarding the bill, strongly touts the green infrastructure effort spearheaded by NACWA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Specifically, the language reads “The [House Appropriations] Committee is supportive of the Agency’s efforts to foster work in the area of green infrastructure and approaches to control combined sewer overflows and storm water pollution. The Committee is aware of and supports the Agency’s April 19, 2007 partnership agreement to promote this type of infrastructure and supports Agency efforts to provide technical assistance, training, and resource materials to Federal, State, and local partners who want to implement green infrastructure projects.” NACWA will continue to support EPA’s implementation of this statement of support and the Association will be sending out a more detailed analysis of the budget bill and accompanying report language next week. The full Committee report is available on the Government Printing Office’s (GPO) website at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_reports&docid=f:hr187.110.pdf.
NACWA, Coalition Build on Momentum in Farm Bill Advocacy Efforts
NACWA continues to press members of Congress to keep water quality and funding for the Conservation Title a top priority in Farm Bill negotiations. This week the water sector coalition working on the Farm Bill sent a letter (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-06-13wscl.pdf) to key leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, thanking them for “including cooperative opportunities to improve water quality and quantity in the Conservation Title of the 2007 Farm Bill,” and adding that their “leadership in developing multi-stakeholder programs to implement regional, watershed-based conservation projects is greatly appreciated”. Specifically, the letter noted that the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill as proposed includes two key programs — the Regional Surface and Groundwater Enhancement Program and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative — which allow farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to work with their water and wastewater utilities to achieve shared environmental goals in their watersheds.
The letter also asks these key House leaders to ensure that, while the Conservation Title as introduced constitutes a critical first step, they continue throughout the legislative process to “make clear that both public and privately owned drinking water and wastewater utilities are eligible to enter into these partnerships.” The coalition includes: NACWA, the American Public Works Association (APWA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), Coachella Valley Water District, Inland Empire Utilities District, National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), National Water Resources Association (NWRA), the U.S. Conference of Mayors, WateReuse Association, and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).
Legal Issues Conference Call Examines Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
A large number of members joined the NACWA Legal Affairs Committee this week for a Late Breaking Legal Issues call that focused on recent legislative and regulatory developments that could significantly affect the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The call featured a roundtable discussion on the recently introduced Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421) and the new joint guidance from EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on wetlands jurisdiction. Featured speakers as part of the roundtable included representatives from environmental groups, industry groups, and the House’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, all of whom addressed the intent of the new legislation and debated its potential impacts. Participants on the call then had an opportunity to ask questions of the speakers, and a lively discussion ensued. One of the main issues raised on the call was whether H.R. 2421 will incorporate the same “waste treatment exception” that currently exists in EPA and Corps regulations. There were differing opinions among the speakers as to whether the exception would apply. Additionally, the potential impact of the proposed legislation on stormwater retention initiatives was also discussed. Handouts from the call are available at http://www.nacwa.org/private/legal/confcalls.cfm.
Summer Conference Hotel Deadline Is Just Ten Days Away!
The June 26 deadline for conference rate hotel rooms for NACWA’s 2007 Summer Conference, Sustainable Infrastructure Choices…Gray, Green, & Everything In Between, is June 26 so be sure to make your hotel reservations today by calling the Renaissance Cleveland 1-800-468-3571. Reference NACWA to receive the special rate. The agenda for the July 17-20 conference has been fashioned to help utilities navigate the new and evolving definition of what it means to “go green”. In order for green infrastructure approaches to become more widely used, they must be viable from both technical and regulatory viewpoints. Two panels in particular will explore these complex issues. Costs and Benefits: Quantifying the Impact of Green Infrastructure, will discuss measuring the environmental benefits of green infrastructure and evaluating costs relative to traditional approaches. Another panel, Putting Green Infrastructure into Practice… Building Support and Resolving Regulatory Challenges, will examine how green infrastructure can achieve greater regulatory acceptance – and result in credit for environmental benefits. Please visit NACWA’s website (http://www.nacwa.org/meetings/07summer/) for information on hotel reservations, as well as a detailed conference agenda and online conference registration.
PBS Nightly Business Report to Air Story on Water Infrastructure Featuring NACWA
Be sure to tune in next Wednesday, June 20, to Nightly Business Report, which airs weeknights on most Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television stations nationwide. A series running during the week will address a range of the nation’s infrastructure problems. The show on Wednesday will focus on water infrastructure and the challenges the nation faces to ensure its continued viability and long-term sustainability. NACWA’s Executive Director, Ken Kirk, was interviewed at length for the series and is expected to appear in the Wednesday segment. Be sure to check your local listings for the time and tune in.
New Asset Management Guide Garners Significant Interest – Ordering Process Improved
NACWA, and its collaborating partners the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), have been gratified with the positive response to the new publication, Implementing Asset Management – A Practical Guide. Regrettably, Association members who tried to order the new guide may have experienced difficulty in accessing NACWA’s special discount pricing ($95) and completing the process. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience. We are currently working to both improve and streamline the ordering process. Interim improvements to the ordering system are currently online with more to follow next week. Please note that when you select “order now” on the NACWA bookstore webpage, you will be redirected to WEF’s website. Once you’ve added the book to your cart, proceed directly to “Checkout”. Do not click on “Login for Member Pricing”. As you proceed through the checkout process, you will be prompted for a “Discount Code”. It is then that you should enter the Discount Code: COPUB1.
If you have difficulties ordering the new publication, please contact Robin Davis at 202/533-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would welcome your input on the ordering process and will be happy to assist you. This new publication provides a common sense, risk-based approach that will undoubtedly prove valuable to you as you manage your infrastructure assets. To begin the ordering process – and access the NACWA member discount – simply click on the Implementing Asset Management icon on the right side of the Association’s home page at www.nacwa.org.