Industry to Get Bushwhacked?

April 10, 2007

Remember when you were a kid and you looked forward to April Fool’s Day with the same amount of anticipation and excitement as Christmas? For that one day, you could get away with playing pranks and making practical jokes with the approval of modern society, and essentially no consequences.

Unfortunately, Washington D.C. has reserved the right to play practical jokes on our industry, pretty much of their own accord. Often, the joke centers around the critical issue of funding.

Recently, reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund was set to take place for the first time in 20 years. The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720), sponsored by Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.), has the potential to bring in close to $14 billion to help fix the nation’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Funds from this bill could potentially be used to construct new wastewater facilities, which would help to eliminate sewer overflows into waterways during heavy rains.

Established in 1987 to help state and local governments get low-interest loans in order to repair aging water infrastructure, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund requires states to match the funds used by at least 20%.

Since 1987, the federal government has distributed more than $20 billion, while states have accounted for an additional $47 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects.

When the Clean Water State Revolving Fund expired in 1994, Republican leaders prevented legislation to reauthorize the loan fund from reaching the House floor.

However, signs of change are surfacing of late, since the Democratic-heavy House passed H.R. 720 in late March by a vote of 303-108.

“So far, H.R. 720 has as good a chance as ever for passage in the 110th Congress, as opposed to prior congressional sessions, given the Democrats’ strong commitment to the environment and support of public works projects,” said Dawn Kristof Champney, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, Inc. “There remain some significant obstacles in its way, however, with the White House being the biggest one.”

A tough hurdle lies in the White House with their ability to veto any bill the House approves. According to a variety of sources in Washington, D.C., H.R. 720 is opposed by the Bush administration, a reflection of their hard-line stance that supports the phasing-out of federal funding for clean water projects.

Despite the overall good H.R. 720 could have on the industry, municipalities and manufacturers by bringing an influx of badly needed funds, the industry can only hope for the best at this point.

According to Kristof Champney, “I would be surprised if Bush were to sign this bill, given the administration’s adamant position of phasing out the federal capitalization of state revolving funds for clean water by 2011. But when it comes to politics—and the presidential election season—anything is possible.”

Looks like the industry could very well be the victim of another cruel April Fool’s joke.

About the Author

Tim Gregorski

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