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House Appropriators Advance Energy and Water FY2020 Bills

This week, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved their respective FY 2020 spending bills, by voice vote.  Full committee action on the Energy and Water Development bill is scheduled for March 21.  A summary of the spending bills is provided below.

Energy and Water Development

Provides $46.4 billion in Energy and Water Development programs, an increase of $1.8 billion from fiscal year 2019.

U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers:

  • $135 million for Investigations.
  • $2.34 billion to fund Construction.
  • $3.92 billion to for Operation and Maintenance.
  • $1.697 billion for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects.
  • Provides for six new study starts and six new construction projects.

Interior – Environment

Provides $37.28 billion, an increase of $1.73 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $7.24 billion over the President’s 2020 request.

U.S. Department of the Interior

  • $13.79 billion for Interior programs, $833 million above the 2019 enacted level and $2.41 billion above the President’s budget request. Of this amount, the bill provides:
  • $1.63 billion for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, including $400 million for water infrastructure projects assistance, including WIIN Act water recycling and desalination, and $121 million to support rural water supply.
  • $5.21 billion for Wildland Fire Management, which includes $2.25 billion in cap adjusted fire suppression (wildfire fix) funding, this is $1.6 billion above the 2019 enacted level.
  • $3.68 billion for the non-wildfire Forest Service programs, this is an increase of $257 million above the 2019 enacted level and $895 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $523.9 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund, including $244 million for the federal program and $280 million for state programs. The total is $85 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $491 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $1.4 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, $66 million above the 2019 enacted level and $224 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $1.7 billion for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $79 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $329 million above the President’s budget request.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Provides a total of $9.52 billion, $672 million above the 2019 enacted level and $3.42 billion above the President’s budget request. Of this amount, the bill provides:
  • $3.41 billion for science and environmental program work that includes:
    • $476 million for Geographic Programs
    • $511 million for compliance monitoring and enforcement activities
    • $18 million in additional funding for scientific and regulatory work on PFAS to establish a drinking water standard and cleanup standard(s)
  • $45 million for the WIFIA Program
  • $4.64 billion for State and Tribal Grants
    • $3.11 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF ($345 million above the FY2019 level)
    • $105 million to support cleanup of contaminated industrial sites (Brownfields)
  • $1.21 billion for Superfund cleanup needs

Senate Committee Opposes Proposed Cuts to Forest Service Budget

On May 15, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies held a hearing to “Review the FY2020 Budget Request for the U.S. Forest Service.”  U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen testified that the fiscal year 2020 budget focuses on three primary areas: reducing wildland fire risk, improving forest and grassland conditions through shared stewardship, and contributing to rural economic prosperity.

Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-NM) in opposing the Administration’s proposed $948 million cut in the U.S. Forest Service budget. Udall stated, that “despite all we know about a changing climate and degradation of our public lands, despite the tools we gave you in the 2018 Omnibus bill and the 2018 Farm Bill, this proposed budget fails to make the investments needed to improve the conditions of our forests and watersheds or prevent pests, disease and fire causing widespread havoc across the landscape.”

Udall questioned Christiansen if the proposed funds can help restore forests and reduce the need for fire suppression.  Christiansen responded that the U.S. Forest Service is focusing on treating the specific acres that show the highest risk of fire, rather than focusing on the most acres possible, to reduce risk.  She explained that this requires working collaboratively with state officials and putting the focus on supporting the conditions and resiliency of the forests.  She stressed the importance of working with the U.S. Forest Service’s state and local partners.  To see Christiansen’s full response, you can access the C-SPAN clip here.

House Committee Examines FY2020 Budget Request for USGS and USBR

The Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife held a hearing this week examining the Administration’s FY2020 budget request for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  Chairman Jared Huffman (D-CA) opened the hearing stating how important the two agencies are for supporting and managing the nation’s water resources and water infrastructure.  However, he cautioned that the agencies will face growing challenges in the future due to failing infrastructure, increasing funding needs, and a changing climate and environment.  Huffman emphasized that the Administration’s budget request for USBR and USGS vastly under funds both of these crucial agencies.

Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) asked USBR Commissioner, Brenda Burman, about the budget request’s cut to the WaterSMART Program and questioned Burman on how the request’s 83% cut to the program’s budget will help address the West’s water infrastructure needs.  Burman agreed with Lowenthal that the WaterSMART Program is important, but she explained that “in times of limited budgets, which is what we find ourselves in, we have to do what is mandatory first,” and for USBR it means focusing on existing projects and infrastructure and fulfilling operation management responsibilities.  The WaterSMART Program, she concluded with, is a discretionary program.

Don Cline, Associate Director, USGS, also testified.

Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats Introduce Infrastructure Legislation

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, led by Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), introduced the LIFT America Act (H.R. 2471) focusing on the nation’s energy and water infrastructure needs.  The majority of the legislation focuses on energy infrastructure needs, but the bill does include sections addressing PFAS contamination in the nation’s drinking water and the energy -water nexus.  The Committee on Energy and Commerce will consider the bill next week.

The legislation creates a PFAS infrastructure grant program to help affected community water systems pay for upgrading treatment technologies to remove PFAS contaminants.  The legislation authorizes $500 million in funding for each of the fiscal years from 2020 to 2024 for the program.  Under the program, priority funding would be given to water systems that serve disadvantaged communities, communities that provide at least 10% cost-share for the implementation costs, and communities that demonstrate the capacity to maintain eligible treatment technologies that would be implemented under the program.

The LIFT Act also establishes a Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Program that would award grants to municipalities, water districts, or other entities that provide water, wastewater, or water reuse services to carry out projects that implement advanced and innovative technology-based solutions that improve energy or water efficiencies of water, wastewater, or water reuse systems.  The legislation authorizes $15 million for the program.

House Committee Hearing Continues PFAS Focus in Congress

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a legislative hearing to consider a host of PFAS related bills and continue the conversation on how to best address and treat PFAS contamination.  During opening statements, committee Democrats emphasized the complexity involved in finding solutions to address PFAS contamination and agreed it is paramount to develop and deploy flexible solutions.

Committee Republicans cautioned rushing to implement solutions that are overly broad in nature when there is much scientific research that still needs to be conducted on the matter. Ranking Member of the full committee, Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), stated his concern that the bills before the subcommittee were too sweeping and could cause unforeseen outcomes that may result in litigation that prolongs the current contamination crisis.

Brian Steglitz, P.E. Manager, Water Treatment Services of the City of Ann Arbor (MI) testified to the challenges PFAS pose to water and wastewater utilities.  He explained that it is critical to remove PFAS contaminants and for a utility, the Water Treatment Services of the City of Ann Arbor is responsible for the treatment of the public’s water resources to protect public health. Steglitz stressed that addressing the issue at “the end of the pipe is not the most cost-effective approach.”  Instead, the contamination treatment and removal process must start at the source – industries that use and discharge PFAS.  Steglitz also emphasized that the treatment of PFAS will require significant capital investment and emphasized the concern over how utilities can be confident that short-term treatment costs will provide long-term solutions when the science of PFAS contaminants is under developed.  Finally, Steglitz highlighted the need for a stringent national contaminant standard and treatment and enforcement standards, in order to have clarity from state to state on what best practices should be.

The subcommittee received testimony from Erik Olson, Health Program Director, Natural Resources Defense Council, Jamie DeWitt, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Emily Marpe, Mother and Community Member, Petersburgh, NY, Tracy Mehan, Execuitive Director, Government Affairs, American Water Works Association, and Jane Luxton, Partner, Co-Chair of the Environmental and Administrative Law Practice, Lewis Brisbois.

Legislative Activity This Week

H.R. 2041, Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act. – Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY).  Reported out of Subcommittee on Energy by a voice vote.

H.R. 2119, A bill to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to reauthorize grants for improving the energy efficiency of public buildings. – Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL).  Reported out of Subcommittee on Energy by a voice vote.

H.R. 2665, Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act of 2019. – Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA).  Reported out of Subcommittee on Energy by a voice vote.

H.R. 359, Enhancing Grid Security through Private-Public Partnerships Act. – Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA). Reported out of Subcommittee on Energy by a voice vote.

New Legislation

S. 1535, A bill to facilitate efficient investments and financing of infrastructure projects and new, long-term job creation through the establishment of an Infrastructure Financing Authority, and for other purposes. – Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

H.R. 2705, To establish a Water Infrastructure Trust Fund, and for other purposes. – Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

H.R. 2755, To standardize and extend certain Buy America provisions. – Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA)

S. 1473, A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to set maximum contaminant levels for certain chemicals, and for other purposes. – Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY)

S. 1482, A bill to establish an integrated national approach to respond to ongoing and expected effects of extreme weather and climate change by protecting, managing, and conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of the United States, and to maximize Government efficiency and reduce costs, in cooperation with State, local, and Tribal governments and other entities, and for other purposes. – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

H.R. 2776, To make certain municipalities eligible for grants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and for other purposes. – Rep. Lori Trahan

H.R. 2800, To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require continued and expanded monitoring of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water, and for other purposes. – Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI)

S, 1507, A bill to include certain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the toxics release inventory, and for other purposes. – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)

Reports and Regulations

Committee on Environment and Public Works Press Release on Brief Sent to the U.S. Supreme Court – Republican Senators explain the congressional intent of the Clean Water Act’s requirements for federal discharge permits in the case of the groundwater case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Brief is hyperlinked in the press release.

Congress Next Week

May 21, 2019

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources – Hearing on Examining Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Efforts in the U.S.

May 22, 2019

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – Hearing on Examining Legislation to Address the Risks Associated with PFAS

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Hearing on Policies, Recommendations, and Impacts of the President’s FY 2020 Budget Request

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Hearing on Disaster Preparedness: DRRA Implementation and FEMA Readiness

House Committee on Energy and Commerce – Hearing on LIFT America: Modernizing Our Infrastructure for the Future