Washington News

March 26, 2002

Committees Review Water Budgets

Congressional committees that deal with water issues are considering a proposed administration budget that calls for total spending of $3.2 billion for “clean and safe water” in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

This amount is $524 million under the same allocations for the current fiscal year, with most of the reduction coming from the recommended elimination of so-called congressional “earmarks” through which funds are channeled to specific projects in states and localities.

The budget also calls for a reduction of $138 million in federal funds for Clean Water Act State Revolving Funds, or a proposed total of $1.2 billion in the new fiscal year. The appropriation for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would remain unchanged at $850 million.

In other recommended changes, State Nonpoint Source grants will rise slightly to $238.4 million, while Section 106 pollution-control grants would drop to $180.3 million from $192.4 million.

Funds for protecting facilities from terrorist attack were listed for the largest percentage increase—from $3.7 million this year to nearly $17 million in the new budget. Money for protection of water supplies also is budgeted in broader measures under the heading of “homeland security.”

Funding Levels Hit

The budget for water programs came under fire almost immediately.

Sen. James J. Jeffords, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, said he was concerned that “the proposed budget does not provide adequate funding for the replacement and maintenance of our nation’s aging water infrastructure.” He also said that no new funds were proposed to help communities comply in a timely manner with the new arsenic standards and that Clean Water Revolving Funds were being cut 10 percent “at a time when water systems are coping with the additional costs of security.”

Jeffords said that most of the budget savings come from “the rather naive expectation that there will be no Congressional earmarks in the next budget.” He said he would let the Environmental Protection Agency and members of the appropriations’ committees resolve that issue but that he would fight to preserve sufficient core program funds against any efforts to shift them to earmarks. (Jeffords authorization committee deals with policies and sets spending limits but a separate appropriations committee sets actual spending levels.)

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, said in his comment on the EPA budget that while increased federal assistance was needed to meet water quality goals, “we need to develop innovative, cost-effective approaches to managing all of our water quality problems.”

Bipartisan Senate Group Backs Infrastructure Plan

Senior members from both the majority and minority sides of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have introduced legislation calling for a $35-billion, five-year program to improve the water infrastructure and improve the financial management of water programs.

The measure would authorize a total of $20 billion over five years for clean water programs and $15 billion over the same period for safe drinking water projects.

The sponsors are Chairman Jeffords, Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H., senior Republican on the committee; Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho. Graham and Crapo are the chairman and senior minority member, respectively, on the environmental panel’s subcommittee on water issues.

Jeffords said as the bill was introduced that its provisions would “help water utilities better manage their capital investments using asset management plans, rate structures that account for capital replacement costs and other financial management techniques. . . . [It would] encourage utilities to seek innovative solutions by asking them to review options for consolidation, public-private partnerships and low-impact technologies before proceeding with a project.”

The stated purposes of the act include the modernization of state water pollution control revolving funds and the allocation of those funds to ensure they reflect water quality needs and the streamlining of water pollution control and state drinking water treatment assistance programs to maximize the use of federal funds.

The Water Environment Federation said in reporting on introduction of the bill that “there is support for the increased funding, but municipal groups are concerned the bill goes too far in mandating local actions such as asset management, full-cost rate structures and consideration of public-private partnerships as a condition of obtaining a loan.”

Jefford’s committee began hearings on the bill shortly after its introduction. A water-infrastructure measure also was being prepared for introduction in the House.

EPA to Implement CSO Mandate

EPA said it will begin implementing the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) “shall conform” provision relating to combined sewer overflow (CSO) projects. The CWA section requires that future permits or other enforceable mechanisms for CSOs conform to the agency’s basic CSO control policy.

The agency gave that notice in a status report it recently submitted to Congress on progress in dealing with CSOs.

While a broad range of activities to regulate and control the overflows is underway at all levels of government, EPA said, “CSOs continue to pose a serious environmental and health threat.” The report noted estimates that set annual CSO discharges nationally at 1.2 trillion gallons per year.

EPA said challenges to CSO control included financial constraints on systems facing mounting water and wastewater infrastructure costs on one hand and “the resource-intensive nature of CSO controls” on the other.

In addition to enforcement of the “shall conform” provision, EPA said other actions to make more progress on CSO problems would be to ensure that all CSOs are covered by a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit “or other enforceable mechanism” and to advocate CSO control on a watershed basis. The agency said it also would work with states to speed the water quality review and revision process.

For more Washington News, go to our website at www.waterinfocenter.com.         .

Download: Here

About the Author

Robert Gray

Sponsored Recommendations

Get Utility Project Solutions

June 13, 2024
Lightweight, durable fiberglass conduit provides engineering benefits, performance and drives savings for successful utility project outcomes.

Energy Efficient System Design for WWTPs

May 24, 2024
System splitting with adaptive control reduces electrical, maintenance, and initial investment costs.

Meeting the Demands of Wastewater Treatment Plants

May 24, 2024
KAESER understands the important requirements wastewater treatment plant designers and operators consider when evaluating and selecting blowers and compressed air equipment. In...

Modernize OT Cybersecurity to Mitigate Risk

April 25, 2024
Rockwell Automation supports industry-leading Consumer Packaged Goods company, Church & Dwight, along their industrial cybersecurity journey.