Member Pipeline - Legislative - April 2007 Update
|To:||Members & Affiliates,
Legislative Policy Committee,
Legal Affairs Committee, Clean Water Funding Task Force
|Date:||April 11, 2007|
This edition of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ (NACWA) Legislative Update, current through April 11, 2007, provides information on the activities of the 110th Congress of interest to the nation’s clean water agencies. For more detailed information regarding NACWA activities related to specific legislation, click on the web links in selected news items, or contact Susan Bruninga in NACWA’s Government Affairs Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/833-3280.
NACWA’s Bill Tracker (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legreg/legupdate/leg_tracker.cfm) provides a direct link to congressional websites where bill texts and summaries are 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).
CLEAN WATER FUNDING
$14 Billion for Clean Water Funding Approved
Legislation strongly supported by NACWA that would authorize $14 billion over fiscal years 2008-2011 for the clean water state revolving loan fund (CWSRF) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives March 9 in a bipartisan vote of 303-108. Significantly, The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720) also includes provisions calling for a study by the Government Accountability Office of potential revenue sources for a clean water trust fund. The House debated the bill for more than an hour with much of the discussion focusing on the inclusion of the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions. An amendment was offered that would have stripped the Davis-Bacon provisions from the bill, but it was defeated 280-140.
Several other amendments were included in the legislation. One directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with the Canadian government on a study of clean water facilities that discharge into the Great Lakes and recommend ways to improve monitoring, information sharing, and cooperation between the two countries. Another calls on states to consider, in determining CWSRF priorities, whether proposed projects would first address the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure. Other amendments include provisions that require projects to be subject to competitive bidding rules under the Clean Water Act and authorize technical assistance and grants for the development of integrated water resources plans.
NACWA worked hard on behalf of the bill, first testifying January 19 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment and then teaming up with the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) to both advertise in Roll Call — Capitol Hill’s newspaper — urging House members to support the bill when it came to the floor for a vote (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-rcadd.pdf) and via a press conference on Capitol Hill the morning of March 9, attended by the Chair of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.). NACWA members also successfully sent letters of support for the legislation to Congress as did over 1,000 individuals via the Clean Water America website (http://www.cleanwateramerica.org/).
NACWA is currently working with the Senate to ensure introduction of similar legislation as soon as possible. A March 2 letter from Environment & Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to the leadership of the Senate Budget Committee (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-02conradgregg.pdf), expressed their support for increased CWSRF funding and noted that the “national need for investment in water and wastewater infrastructure through the CWSRF and DWSRF continues to far outpace the amount of funding that is available from all levels of government.”
NACWA will work with the Senate to get funding legislation introduced and passed, while recognizing that increased CWSRF funds is only the first step toward a long-term funding solution. With that in mind, NACWA will continue to work with Congress, and with the key finance committees, such as the Ways and Means Committee, to ensure the federal government moves in the direction of providing a sustainable revenue source via a trust fund to help municipalities meet the costly mandates of the Clean Water Act over the long-term.
Administration Voices Potential Veto of SRF
Bill Citing Full-Cost Pricing, Privatization
Despite the progress made on H.R. 720, however, was the Bush administration’s opposition to these bills and its focus on full-cost pricing and private activity bonds. In its March 8 Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 720, the document stated unequivocally that:
“The Administration strongly opposes [the bill], which authorizes excessive Federal funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). For the reasons described below, if H.R. 720 were presented to the President in its current form his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill. . . . This excessive authorization will distort market signals by discouraging utilities and their consumers from moving toward full cost pricing, as they have elsewhere. Instead, this bill may encourage municipalities to delay undertaking needed infrastructure projects to wait for Federal subsidies, potentially diminishing reliability and increasing the eventual costs to the public [emphasis from original document].” (The Statement of Administration Policy is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/legislative/sap/110-1/hr720sap-h.pdf.)
The Administration’s statement also referenced the need for increasing the cap on private activity bonds as a measure to address the water infrastructure funding gap and seemed once again to move toward privatization as a preferred approach.
NACWA Presentation at EPA Conference Seeks
With these events as a backdrop, EPA was holding its multi-stakeholder Paying for Sustainable Water Infrastructure conference in Atlanta, March 20-23. NACWA, a sponsor of the meeting, sought to ensure that attendees understood that private activity bonds (PABs) and the Agency’s “Four Pillars” approach to sustainable infrastructure would not alone resolve the huge water infrastructure funding crisis facing the nation’s municipal clean water agencies. NACWA’s presentation at the meeting documented that the Agency’s approach would cover only about 18 percent of the $300 - $500 billion funding gap. In addition, the PABs being pushed by EPA would require Congress to change the tax code and would further drain resources from the U.S. Treasury.
NACWA emphasized the importance of water as a public trust and the need to keep operations of its facilities in public hands. NACWA supports EPA’s other efforts to promote water efficiency, asset management, and additional measures to foster sustainability in the nation’s clean water infrastructure, noting, however, these measures, while helpful, will do little to cover the cost of replacing aging pipes and other critical infrastructure. NACWA’s PowerPoint presentation from the EPA conference is available on NACWA’s Correspondence and Outreach webpage at http://www.nacwa.org/private/leg_outreach.cfm.
At the conference, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin discussed the variety of measures her city has used to address its water and wastewater infrastructure problems, including raising rates so that Atlanta’s water and sewer fees are the highest in the country. Mayor Franklin reiterated NACWA’s point that, despite a $4 billion municipal investment in its water infrastructure generated through rate increases and enhanced efficiencies, these funds are still not enough. “The federal government needs to step up and make sufficient federal funding available so cities can fix their water infrastructure,” Mayor Franklin said.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Ben Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, both touted NACWA’s activities on green infrastructure, including the Green Infrastructure Statement of Support the Association drafted with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that now has nearly 25 other groups signed on. Johnson also highlighted NACWA’s work to refine a list of attributes of effectively managed utilities. Grumbles pointed to the work of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Wisconsin, a NACWA member agency, applauding its “Green Seams” program to reduce the impacts from nonpoint source pollution.
Several NACWA members made presentations on innovative approaches they are using to meet the water quality challenges of the 21st century, including discussions about a clean water trust fund and green infrastructure initiatives. Copies of presentations from the conference will be made available on EPA’s website, and NACWA will provide the link when it is available.
Sewer Overflow Control Grants Bill Gets House
Vote; Companion Bill Offered in Senate
The House approved another important NACWA-backed bill March 7 – the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 (H.R. 569) (http://www.nacwa.org/private/legreg/legupdate/leg_tracker.cfm), which would authorize $1.7 billion in grants from fiscal year 2008-2011 to address sewer overflows. This bill would provide grants directly to cities in the first year based on priority, and then direct EPA to administer the grants in the subsequent years. NACWA sent letters to all U.S. House of Representatives’ offices urging passage of this legislation and worked strategically with the staff of Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) to garner broad support for this legislation.
Similar legislation (S. 836) has already been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). S. 836 would authorize $1.8 billion in wet weather grants, the same amount that was sought in the original House bill before it was amended. No hearings have been scheduled, but NACWA is working with Senate staff members to ensure its swift passage.
NACWA, Water Sector Coalition Seek More Money
for Utilities in Farm Bill
NACWA has been working with key water sector organizations, including the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and other water sector groups to push for more money for municipalities in the upcoming Farm Bill. The groups met with staff for Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) on his recently introduced H.R. 1551, The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2007. Kind’s bill would direct 20 percent of all Farm Bill conservation funds toward the “Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative.” This means billions of dollars in grants would be used for cooperative partnerships with 50 percent of these funds being required to be spent on water quality improvement projects. According to Kind’s staff, municipalities would be eligible to receive these funds though the eligibility language in the current bill is not ideal. NACWA is working to ensure this provision makes it into the final Farm Bill reauthorization with eligibility language that specifically identifies municipal entities as eligible for these funds. Kind’s bill has 86 co-sponsors and that number is expected to increase.
NACWA and the water sector also sent a letter to the House and Senate Budget Committees in March urging them to significantly boost Farm Bill conservation funding in an effort to ensure that programs such as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership have sufficient funding levels. Additionally, the water sector coalition is working on drafting a joint Farm Bill position statement which should be available to members in the next week or two.
NACWA Offers Input on Upcoming Chlorine Gas
NACWA met on March 19 with the staff of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) to discuss upcoming legislation chlorine gas that the Senator intends to introduce soon with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chair of the Environment & Public Works Committee. The bill would be similar to legislation, The Community Water Treatment Hazards Reduction Act (S. 2920), that Sen. Biden introduced in 2006 calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify high-risk wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities that use chlorine gas in their disinfection process. Under S. 2920, these facilities would be classified within three tiers, with Tier 1 — the highest classification of concern — including utilities that “cover” a population of greater than 100,000 people. Tier 2 includes utilities that cover a population of greater than 25,000 people but less than 100,000 people, and Tier 3 utilities, which cover a population with greater than 10,000 but less than 25,000 people. Once operators of these facilities are notified of their classification, they must conduct a feasibility assessment within 90 days on the viability of using inherently safer technologies, such as sodium hypochlorite.
As part of this meeting Sen. Biden’s staff asked NACWA to provide comments on S. 2920 very quickly because the staff was going to redraft the legislation in early April. NACWA reached to its members, which provided the Association with detailed comments to use in its own comment effort. Many of the members also agreed to send their comments directly to Senate staff to increase the likelihood that their concerns would be addressed in the draft legislation.
NACWA’s comments stated, “first and foremost, the decision about whether to switch from chlorine gas to an alternative treatment technique must remain up to the municipality itself. The factors in making the switch are complex, and include but are not limited to meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, ensuring public health, affordability/cost concerns and the availability of alternative treatment options.” Instead of the mandatory approach taken in S.2920, NACWA recommended an incentives-based approach that recognizes the often complex, site-specific considerations that must go into a decision regarding switching from chlorine gas.
NACWA applauded the fact that S.2920 sought to provide $125,000,000 per year for five years in grant funding. The comments, however, questioned whether this funding level would suffice to help make the upgrades that would be required by this legislation at the thousands of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities potentially covered by it. The Association also sought an explanation as to whether the grants were intended to cover 100% of the capital costs to switch. Finally, the comments urged changes to the many unrealistic (90-day) timeframes contained in S.2920 because they simply would go unmet by both municipalities and the federal government and would open the door to unnecessary enforcement activity. NACWA expects the legislation will be introduced within the next several weeks and additional details will me made available in upcoming Alerts and Updates. The comments are available at http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-04-05s2920cmts.pdf.
Pelosi Establishes House Select Committee to
Address Climate Change
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) convened a new panel, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, comprised of 15 House members to study the climate change issue. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will be chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and will serve to coordinate information on the cross-jurisdictional issues of energy, economic stimulation, and the environment. Congress in general has intensified its focus on climate change since the Democrats gained control, and several targeted bills have been introduced. Meanwhile, EPA’s Office of Research and Development is conducting a study to determine whether precipitation patterns are changing as a result of climate change, and if these altered weather patterns will affect ongoing efforts to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs). NACWA will stay involved with the climate change issue through both its Legislative Policy Committee and recently renamed Air Quality and Climate Change Committee to ensure the clean water community’s interests are represented as these bills and related regulatory/technical issues come up and are debated.