Proposal to rescind $166 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
Source: 
Water & Wastes Disgest

Recent news has shed light upon an administrative proposal put before Congress to rescind $166 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in order to subsidize costs relating to hurricane relief efforts.

The new proposal requests that congress revisit Clean Water funding set by the FY06 Interior and Environment appropriations bill (Public Law 109-54).

Water & Wastes Digest supports the concerned industry associations such as WWEMA (Water and Waste Water Equipment Manufacturers Association, Inc.) who have been putting forth an effort to inform those in the water industry, as well as consumers, of this impending proposal in order to raise awareness of issues that surround it as well as its effects on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund established to maintain water quality, safety, and public health.

Water & Wastes Digest maintains that the issue of water quality and the social and economic benefits safe water programs provide are important to the water industry and to the general welfare of the nation.

below is the text of a draft letter provided to us by WWEMA to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. It concisely provides arguments against as put forth by the involved and concerned associations against the proposal.

According to WWEMA President Dawn Kristof, "This threat is real and could be acted upon by Congress before Thanksgiving!"

In a partnered interest with other associations you are urged to contact your Congressman today to convey your objections to this proposal and its negative effect on the nations clean water.

The phone numbers of your congressional delegates can be found at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.

Letter from WWEMA:
American Society of Civil Engineers
Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators
American Council of Engineering Companies
Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities
National Utility Contractors Association
Water Environment Federation
Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association

November 8, 2005

Chairman Thad Cochran
Senate Appropriations Committee
S-128, the Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Chairman Conrad Burns
Interior and Related
Agencies Subcommittee
Senate Appropriations Committee
132 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Ranking Member Robert C. Byrd
Senate Appropriations Committee
S-125A, the Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Ranking Member Byron Dorgan
Interior and Related
Agencies Subcommittee
Senate Appropriations Committee
123 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

Our organizations represent municipal authorities, community drinking water and wastewater utilities, engineers, state water pollution control regulators, financial officers, labor organizations, consumers, contractors, manufacturers, and environmental groups dedicated to improving America’s water and wastewater infrastructure. We write because we are alarmed by a recent Administration proposal that included the rescission of $166 million in funding from an already depleted FY06 Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). If these cuts are enacted, there will be drastic consequences for water quality financing, public health and the economy. We strongly urge you to ensure that there are no more cuts to the Clean Water SRF this year.

According to EPA’s 1998 Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress, 44% of assessed estuaries and 35% of assessed rivers and streams have impaired water quality due to a variety of sources, including inadequately treated wastewater. One of the most critical issues facing Americans is how to improve and maintain our water infrastructure to ensure that we fully enjoy the health, economic and social benefits that clean and safe water provide. Infrastructure problems associated with aging pipes, out-dated systems, and inadequate capacity to meet growing population demands are requiring many communities to make huge investments in upgrades to their water and wastewater infrastructure systems. If this challenge is not met, EPA estimates that by 2016 water pollution levels could be similar to levels observed in the mid-1970s.

Since FY04, the Clean Water SRF federal capitalization grants to the states have been cut by more than $450 million. With the 20% state match combined with the leveraging power of the SRF, that figure grows to more than $1 billion in projects on the ground. A majority of states (twenty-seven) leverage their Clean Water State Revolving Fund capitalization grants through bond issuance. This allows those states to increase the amount of upfront loan capacity by two to three times. Any further reduction in the level of federal capitalization grants will have a two-or-three fold negative impact in terms of funds available for projects. Furthermore, cuts to the SRF curtail future benefits since as SRF project dollars revolve, they multiply through the economy at a rate of 4 to 1, creating jobs and revitalizing communities.

The Administration’s proposed rescission requests Congress to revisit the already approved FY06 Interior and Environment appropriations bill (Public Law 109-54), which set funding for the Clean Water SRF at $900 million. In every state, badly needed clean water infrastructure projects listed on Project Priority Lists already have been delayed or deferred in the last two years. In fact, it is estimated that there are projects worth billions of dollars ready to move forward in less than ninety days nationwide if funding is made available.

America’s clean water infrastructure is in a state of crisis and the federal government must not divert resources from this growing problem. The EPA’s 2000 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS) details $181.2 billion in total current needs for clean water infrastructure nationwide. The EPA’s 2003 Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis found that there will be a $271 billion gap between current spending and projected needs for clean water infrastructure if the federal investment remains level; however, the federal investment has not remained level, it has sustained dramatic cuts. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nearly $20 billion is needed annually to protect our clean water. This is far more than $3.4 billion that the Administration has set as the long-term annual revolving target by 2011.

When the Clean Water Act was passed more than 30 years ago, the federal government made a commitment to clean up the nation’s waters. Since that time the federal government’s funding to maintain wastewater infrastructure in America has decreased by 70%; today the federal government funds a mere 10% of national infrastructure costs. In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act expanded the federal government’s role in assuring clean and safe water for every citizen, but the additional funds that were appropriated to help insure safe drinking water were offset by a simultaneous decrease in clean water funding that furthered the decline in federal share going to clean water needs in the states and local communities throughout the nation.

We understand the need for fiscal restraint in light of hurricane-relief efforts in the Gulf Coast. However, targeting the successful Clean Water SRF program is a shortsighted solution that only exacerbates America’s clean water infrastructure crisis. Once again, we strongly urge you to ensure that there are no further cuts to the Clean Water SRF this year.

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