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House and Senate Appropriations Deliberations Continue

This week, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations continued to advance FY 2019 (FY19) agency spending bills out of committee and to their respective chambers before the July 4th recess with the goal of enacting a final FY19 budget by October 1.  Below are summaries of Committee efforts this week.

House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal 2019 Energy and Water Spending Bill

On May 16, the House Committee on Appropriations approved its FY 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill on a vote of 29-20. The $44.7 billion bill is $1.5 billion above the FY 2018 enacted level.  Committee Democrats failed in their efforts to remove a Republican policy rider that would repeal the Waters of the U.S. Rule until the issuance of a final rule. No date has been announced for floor action on the bill.  Below are summaries of the funding allocations for key agencies.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • Provides $7.28 billion, which is an increase of $451 million above the FY 2018 enacted level;
  • $128 million for surveys and detailed studies and plans, and specifications of projects prior to construction;
  • Six new studies and five new construction starts during FY 2019;
  • $2.323 billion for construction of river and harbor, flood and storm damage reduction, shore protection, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and related projects; and
  • $1.6 billion in funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Bureau of Reclamation

  • Provides $1.56 billion, which is $75 million above the FY 2018 enacted level;
  • $35 million for the California Bay-Delta Restoration program;
  • $134 million for water storage projects authorized under WIIN; and
  • $60 million to support water recycling.

Department of Energy

  • Provides $35.5 billion, which is $1 billion above the FY 2018 enacted level.
  • $2.1 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a $200 million decrease from FY 2018 enacted level.

House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

On May 15, the Subcommittee marked up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies FY19 appropriations bill.  The $35.25 billion dollar spending bill was approved by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.  The bill is scheduled to be marked-up by the full Committee on May 22.  The bill provides funding for key programs and activities:

  • Provides $7.958 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is a $100 million reduction from FY 2018 spending enacted level;
  • Provides $1.6 billion for the Clean Water and $1 billion Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds;
  • Provides $75 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program;
  • Provides $1.1 billion for Superfund site cleanup activities;
  • Provides $6.1 billion for the U.S. Forest Service allocating $3 billion for wildland fire prevention and suppression and $655 million for hazardous fuels management operations, and
  • $1.2 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), including a $13 million increase for streamgage networking needs and related monitoring networking programs.

Senate Committee on Appropriations

On May 16, the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies reviewed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) FY 2019 (FY19) budget request.  USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testified.

In his testimony, Pruitt explained that the FY19 budget maintains a focus on addressing the nation’s critical water infrastructure needs and includes funding for programs that help address these needs.  The budget request allocates $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Fund and $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program that could provide up to $2 billion in credit assistance.  Pruitt highlighted that WIFIA can help finance a wide range of water infrastructure projects, such as wastewater, water recycling, drinking water, and stormwater projects.  Additionally, Pruitt said that USEPA will continue to provide scientific water quality criteria information and, in FY19, the agency will work with states and partners on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) as mandated by the Clean Water Act.

During the hearing’s discussion, Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) asked Pruitt about the agency’s focus on water infrastructure and WIFIA program.  Pruitt said that the agency believes in the program and that they are working with states to help states recognize the benefits and opportunities WIFIA offers.  Pruitt also said that the agency has pushed back the deadline for interested applicants to submit letters of interest to WIFIA to July 31.  The deadline had originally been July 6.

Water Resources Legislation Gains Momentum

Prospects for renewal of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) increased significantly this week when the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works completed legislative hearings on the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S. 2800) and announced that a markup is tentatively scheduled for May 24.  At the same time, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s leadership released its bipartisan WRDA rewrite with the intention of proceeding to committee review and approval on May 23.  Assuming these schedules, Congress should be in a good position to vote on final approval of the WRDA rewrite later this year.

The Senate bill, S. 2800, is notable for its expansive effort to address water resources needs beyond USACE matters.  As of this writing, a revised S. 2800, that would serve as the markup vehicle next week, has not been released.  However, the outlines of the measure beyond S. 2800, as introduced, have been noted by committee members.  Specifically, S. 2800 will provide for a new water infrastructure assistance program for state managed State Revolving Loan Funds (SRF).  A two-year $100 million WIFIA-like low interest loan program to facilitate billions of dollars for new water and wastewater projects that have been unable to receive SRF assistance because of the insufficient level of available SRF assistance would be authorized.  In addition to doubling down on the federal support for water infrastructure assistance, the bill also provides $25 million for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to address climate resiliency needs, including legislative provisions to support grant assistance to communities to mitigate impacts from sea level rise, stormwater flows and overflows and the relocation of facilities impacted by climate conditions.

The House WRDA bill meets Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) priority to limit the measure to the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) core mission areas.  Under this approach, a study into beneficial uses of dredged materials and a report on the success of Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations projects would be required.  In an effort to reduce project backlogs and clarify the status of feasible projects, USACE would be required to identify all authorized projects and to identify $3 billion in project deauthorizations deemed no longer feasible.  Other project authorizations under the legislation would be subject to a ten-year sunset provision.  In response to the management of USACE programs and the persistent concerns with the current management practices of USACE, the bill requires the National Academy of Sciences to convene an expert panel to consider whether USACE activities would be enhanced if placed within another federal agency rather the Department of Defense.  The Academy would also be tasked with a review of the economic principles and analytical methodologies relied upon to formulate and budget for water resources.  Potential changes to such principles and methodologies could improve project development transparency, increase return on federal investments, increase cost-savings, and other improvements in the conduct of developing and constructing projects would also be reviewed.

Farm Bill Uprooted

Earlier today, the House rejected the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, H.R. 2 (Farm Bill) by a vote of 213-198.  The bill went down because of a decision by the House Freedom Caucus. The Caucus voted no because of the House’s failure to secure a vote on immigration policy.  House Democrats opposed the Farm Bill because of controversial work requirements the bill would impose on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadow (R-NC) explained the Caucus’ position, stating, “For us, immigration and farm bill go together. It is critically important to our farmers, it is critical important to our ag-timber industry and more importantly it’s critically important to every American that we finally get something and address this problem.”

Earlier, the House debated a series of amendments related to SNAP, farm subsidies and forest management.  House Democrats and Republicans agreed on an amendment to expand the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) to allow the U.S. Forest Service to enter into cooperative forest management agreements with counties.

House Committee Examines Species Management Issues

On May 17, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing entitled, Federal Impediments to Commerce and Innovative Injurious Species Management.  The hearing focused on issues specific to the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.

The hearing now allows for mark-up of the Public Water Supply Invasive Species Compliance Act of 2017, H.R. 1807.  Introduced by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), H.R. 1807 would allow for the “transport of water across Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana if a species listed under the Lacey Act is present in both public water supplies between which the water is transferred or if the water is conveyed through a closed barrier conveyance system to treatment facilities where invasive species will be removed.”  The legislation does not include language specific to water transfers involving the State of California or other Western States.  Quagga mussels, a major concern for western water agencies, are not a species listed under the Lacey Act.

Testifying at the hearing were Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, Mike Freeze, Vice-President of the Keo Fish Farm, Inc., and Mike Rikcman, Deputy Director, Operations and Maintenance at the North Texas Municipal Water District.

USEPA Administrator Provides WOTUS Update

At the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) FY 2019 budget request, USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt contradicted the White House’s Unified Agenda’s timeline for the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule repeal and replace process.  Last week, the Unified Agenda changed the issue date for the final WOTUS Rule to September 2019.  Previously, the issue date was scheduled for the end of 2018.

At the hearing, Pruitt reiterated his previous statements that he plans to issue a final replacement rule by the end of 2018.  He also said that he anticipates the proposed rule will be made available for public comment late this month or early next month.

Legislative Activity This Week

H.R. 4419, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs Water Project Streamlining Act – Reported out of the House Committee on Natural Resources as amended on a recorded vote of 21-14.

H.R. 497, Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act. – Reported out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a voice vote.

H.R. 2786, A bill to amend the Federal Power Act with respect to the criteria and process to qualify as a qualifying conduit hydropower facility. – Reported out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a voice vote.

S. 1030, A bill to require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to submit to Congress a report on certain hydropower projects. – Reported out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a voice vote.

New Legislation

S. 2866, A bill to require the Secretary of the Army to expedite the completion of certain feasibility studies and reports and to amend the Coastal Barrier Resources Act to ensure public safety, and for other purposes. – Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

S. 2869, A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Amendments of 1977 to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to report certain hiring to carry out the Safe Drinking Water Act. – Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

H.R. 5837, To amend the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to modify provisions relating to the household water well system grant program. – Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)

H.R. 5827, To extend the authorization for the National Dam Safety Program, and for other purposes. – Rep. Patrick Maloney (D-NY)

H.R. 5817, To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project. – Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA)

H.R. XXXX, Water Resources Development Act of 2018. – Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) (bill introduction after markup May 23)

Reports and Regulation

WIFIA Deadline Extension – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release announcing a new extended deadline for WIFIA Program letters of interest from interested borrowers.

NRDC Issue Paper on Water Infrastructure Funding – Natural Resources Defense Council’s issue paper discussing the need for federal funding for water infrastructure and the need for increased federal financial support for the state revolving fund.

New White House Executive Order – White House Executive Order Regarding Efficient Federal Operations instructing that “agencies shall meet such statutory requirements in a manner that increases efficiency, optimizes performance, eliminates unnecessary use of resources, and protects the environment.”

Congress Next Week

May 22,2018

Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies – Markup of FY19 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development – Markup of FY19 Energy-Water Appropriations Bill

House Committee on Appropriations – Full Committee Markup of the FY19 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

May 23, 2018

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Full Committee Markup of WRDA 2018

May 24, 2018

Senate Committee on Appropriations – Markup of FY19 Agriculture and FY19 Energy-Water Appropriations Bills

The House plans to vote on H.R. 5515, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 next week.