Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Budget Deadline Looming

As of late Friday, the Senate was in the midst of voting on a second Continuing Resolution (CR) after the House refused to act on the CR that the Senate approved by voice vote earlier this week, a six-weeks long “clean” CR (H.R. 695), because it did not include funding of the Border Wall.  On Thursday, the president declared that he would veto any spending bill that failed to provide $5 billion for the wall.

The Senate remains at loggerheads over the wall funding sought by the president, so the second CR that the Senate is considering, which contains $5 billion for the wall, will not secure the required sixty votes to pass the Senate.  Therefore, with just hours before the expiration of the existing stopgap spending bill, the prospect of a limited governmental shutdown looms as a distinct possibility.  However, in an effort to find a compromise, House Freedom Caucus members announced late Thursday that full funding of the wall ($5 billion) is not a requirement, suggesting that a compromise amount of approximately $1.3 billion might be possible.  Earlier in the year, Democrats in the Senate had intimated that such a funding might be acceptable as part of a spending deal.

If the government does shutdown, among the agencies impacted will be USEPA and its ability to support water infrastructure assistance programs will be suspended until a final resolution is achieved either in the coming days before Christmas or during the first weeks of January.

Integrated Planning Legislation Passes House and Senate, Moves to President’s Desk

This week, the House and Senate water committees came to an agreement to move a final Integrated Plan (IP) and swiftly passed the Senate (Unanimous Consent) and House (351-10). The Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (H.R. 7279), strips funding assistance of earlier versions to support development of IP’s.  It provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), with authority to develop an integrated permitting approach that is consistent with USEPA’s permitting framework.  The final legislation tossed efforts to require USEPA to update its affordability policy.

Below is a summary of the key elements of the legislation:

  • Define IP to be a plan developed consistent with USEPA’s Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach’’
  • Require USEPA to inform agencies of the opportunity to develop IP’s that would result in a permit relating to
    • CSO’s
    • Capacity management plans for collection systems
    • Stormwater discharges
  • Wasteload allocations related to TMDL’s
  • Define IP to be a plan developed consistent with USEPA’s Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach’’
  • Require USEPA to inform agencies of the opportunity to develop IP’s that would result in a permit relating to
    • CSO’s
    • Capacity management plans for collection systems
    • Stormwater discharges
  • Wasteload allocations related to TMDL’s
  • Projects that are eligible for an IP include:
    • Reclaiming, recycling or reusing water
    • Green infrastructure defined to be projects that include plant and soil systems, permeable pavement, stormwater harvesting, reuse, or landscaping to store, infiltrate, ore evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to sewer systems or to surface waters (USEPA tasked with promoting such projects, including at the regional office level)
  • An IP could include compliance schedules beyond any five-year permit
    • Ability to rely on compliance schedules not part of an IP remains available to a discharger as part of an NPDES permit
    • All IP compliance schedules must be authorized by state water quality standards and meet the requirements of CWA permitting reporting and other mandates
  • USEPA is directed to establish a Municipal Omnibus Office to provide technical assistance to comply with CWA

National Drought Program Legislation Sent to President’s Desk

This week, the House passed the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018, S. 2200, by a vote of 379-9.  The Senate unanimously passed S. 2200 earlier this month.  The legislation now goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation reauthorizes the National Drought Information System program, which monitors drought across the country, and the lead research program for harmful algae blooms.  Additionally, a provision within the bill approves changes to satellite and weather monitoring programs that key for monitoring and tracking impacts of climate change and managing water supplies.

Inspector General Faults USEPA WIFIA Program Controls Recommends Revisions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Office of Inspector General (OIG) published  a comprehensive report on detailing a limited number of programmatic management shortfalls in the WIFIA Program this week  The report concluded that USEPA did not prepare a comprehensive risk assessment of the program before the program’s establishment, the Agency did not develop program performance measures to identify and capture financial data and the public health benefits towards communities that the program has affected, and that USEPA needs to strengthen its SharePoint access controls for WIFIA.

The IG recommends that USEPA undertake actions to enhance WIFIA efficiency.  Among the recommendations are to: finalize a comprehensive program risk assessment to address all areas of risk, develop program performance measures that identify and capture financial and public health benefits for affected communities, and develop “SharePoint” (cyber security) access controls that the Assistant Administrator for Mission Support tests and assesses.

The full USEPA OIG report can be found here.

Public Comment Period on WRDA 2018 Begins

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a 60-day public comment period, seeking public input on its proposed implementation of r Title I of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, commonly known as the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA).  The comment period concludes February 12, 2019.  The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA(CW)) is seeking public comment on: (1) the development of implementation guidance for various WRDA 2018 provisions, (2) the development and revision of guidance on two provisions contained in WRDA 2014, and (3) input on three WRDA 2016 provisions.

A list of the provisions that ASA(CW) is seeking public comment on can be found here.

Environmental Council of the States Announces New Executive Director

Donald Welsh has been named as Executive Director for the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS).  ECOS is the national nonprofit, nonpartisan association of state and territorial environmental agency officials.  As Executive Director, Welsh will “direct the Environmental Research Institute of the States, which connects state environmental agencies to education and research resources to support current and emerging environmental policies.”

From 2001 to 2009, Welsh served as Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3.

New Legislation

S. 3760, A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify the definition of navigable waters, and for other purposes. – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

H.R. 7315, To protect American communities from wildfire, and for other purposes. – Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Reports and Regulation

Updated USEPA Criteria – Aquatic life criteria for aluminum in freshwater.

Department of Transportation issued a notice announcing a funding opportunity for Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) grants for FY 2019. Applications must be received by 4 March 2019.  – Federal Register Notice Publication