Mar 28, 2003

Washington News

Mixed Response on Water Funding Plan

The Bush administration's proposal to cut federal funding
for Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) in the 2003-04 fiscal year has
encountered a mixed reception from Congress.

As officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
appeared before congressional subcommittees in defense of the spending
proposals, the proposal to reduce Clean Water SRF funding to $850 million from
the current fiscal year level of $1.3 billion was challenged.

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, cited expected costs of $400
billion over the next 20 years for replacement of aging water infrastructure.
"To meet that need, we need to double the amount of money we are investing
in wastewater infrastructure each year," he declared.

At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and
Public Works, Chairman James J. Inhofe, R-Okla., endorsed the overall budget.
He said it "stresses results over bureaucratic mandates and
processes--cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner land over more paperwork and
more lawsuits."

Duncan, an influential figure in setting water policies,
also said, "I do not expect federal assistance alone will close this gap.
However, it is not credible to cut federal assistance by $500 million at a time
when needs are increasing." Other subcommittee member expressed similar

At the Senate hearing, Sen. James M. Jeffords, I-Vt., senior
minority member of the environment committee, told EPA officials that the
administration's budget request is "inadequate to the tasks at hand."

"How can the agency justify a $500 million cut in
funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund?" Jeffords asked.

In support of her agency's proposal on the Clean Water SRFs,
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said that while the annual funding was being
reduced, the administration was extending the federal commitment to the program
to 2011, with the goal of an annual revolving total of $2.8 billion. She
compared that with the goal of $2 billion set by the previous administration.
The extension, she said, would mean funding for an additional 15,000 projects.

The EPA budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1 also
calls for $850 million for the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Funds, the same
amount provided for the current year.

EPA Will Measure SRF Impact

The Safe Drinking Water SRF program was cited in the EPA
budget plan as having clear purpose, effective design and strong management
practices, but the program has been unable to demonstrate the degree to which
its infrastructure investments protect public health, "a primary
purpose" for the creation of the SRFs, EPA said.

The agency said that it will develop outcome-based
performance measures that better demonstrate the impact of the program.

Inhofe Challenges Mercury Report

EPA states it remains concerned about potential prenatal
exposure of children to mercury. About eight percent of women of childbearing
age have mercury concentrations that could cause this concern, the agency said.
It reported that it had adopted a multimedia integrated approach to reducing
mercury levels caused by water and air discharges.

The agency's statement was sharply criticized by Chairman
Inhofe of the Senate environment committee, who said he found "the
alarming snapshot of information about mercury levels to be vague and
potentially misleading." Inhofe said the report, while citing risks,
"failed to specify how much risk and which women this would impact.
Apparently the risks were overstated. As such, it needlessly scared
women." He asked EPA Administrator Whitman for a clarification "of
what appears to be ambiguous information."

Final Rule Issued on CAFOs

A final EPA rule tightening regulatory requirements for
concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) takes effect April 14.

It requires all such operations to apply for permits under the
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and to implement a
nutrient-management plan. The plan must identify site-specific actions the CAFO
plans to take to ensure proper and effective management of manure and
wastewater, including compliance with Effluent Limitation Guidelines.

EPA said in the final-rule notice published in The Federal
Register that "improperly managed manure has caused serious acute and
chronic wastewater quality problems throughout the United States."

Details on the rule are available at

Another recently issued final rule covers pollution from an
estimated 2,400 businesses in the fields of metal products and machinery. The
agency said compliance with the regulation will keep 500,000 pounds a year of
pollutants, primarily oil, grease and total suspended solids from entering
waterways. Industry sectors affected include aerospace, motor vehicles,
hardware, household equipment and office machines. Further details are
available at

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U.S. Court Upholds Radionuclides Rule

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia has rejected claims that existing standards for radionuclides in
drinking water are not based on the best available science.

The court decision applies to the rules on radium-226,
radium-228, and some beta/photon emitters. The same regulation established
uranium standards for the first time.

Two trade associations and several municipal water systems
had sought to have the rule overturned in the courts.

Response Team Established for West

The EPA's Environmental Response Team-West has been
established with headquarters in Las Vegas, Nev., to respond to environmental
emergencies in the western part of the country. Its duties will include water
monitoring and sampling, assessing chemical, biological and radiological
threats, on-site analysis of contaminated materials, risk assessments,
oil-spill cleanup and hazardous waste cleanups at extremely complex and
sensitive sites.

An Environmental Response Team-East previously was formed with
headquarters in Edison, N.J.

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