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House Passes First Minibus Spending Bill and Prepares to Debate and Pass Second Spending Package

With legislative days to conduct business slipping away before the House of Representatives adjourns for its August recess, voting on fiscal year 2020 spending bills has taken center stage to meet the Democratic leadership’s commitment to approve spending bills by the July 4th Recess.  To this end, this week, the House debated and voted on a minibus (H.R.2740) that included the Energy-Water Development spending bill.  The House voted 226-203 to approve the measure.  H.R. 2470 provides $982 billion for the FY 2020 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Defense, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development spending bills.

It also began floor debate on a second minibus, H.R. 3055 that would appropriate $383.3 billion to federal agencies funded under the Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bills.

As passed, H.R. 2740, rejects the Administration’s proposed budget reduction and instead supports the following  programs’ levels in FY 2020.

Energy and Water Development

  • $1.65 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, an increase of $82.8 million above the fiscal year 2019 level.
  • WaterSmart Program would receive $63 million for water recycling project assistance under the Title XVI program and $60 million for WaterSmart.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding increased by $357 million for programs and projects including studies, construction, operation, and maintenance.
  • USDOE technical assistance to support reduced energy consumption and $20 million to support the demonstration of wastewater energy efficient technologies.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

  • $189.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $11.8 billion over the 2019 enacted level providing increased funding for Early Head Start, public health and substance abuse programs, museum and library services, and health care research initiatives.

Senate Committee Approves Bipartisan PFAS Package

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee Environment and Public Works approved and reported to the full Senate for debate and a vote the PFAS Release Disclosure Act (S.1507), as amended, by voice vote.  The approved bill mirrors an amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sponsored by Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Ranking Democrat Tom Carper (D-DE) .  Prior to Wednesday’s committee vote, the Committee on Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), whose committee has jurisdiction over the NDAA, said that he would consider including the Committee on Environment and Public Works’ PFAS measure in the NDAA.  The NDDA is being debated on the Senate floor.

As approved, S.1507 contains the following provisions:

  • Sets a deadline for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to develop a drinking water cleanup standard for water utilities and create a federal task force to address the threats posed by contaminants like PFAS. The drinking water standard would initially apply to PFOA and PFOS but could include other PFAS chemicals as EPA finalizes expected toxicity reviews.
  • Adds PFAS to the list of contaminants tracked by a national water-quality monitoring network run by the U.S. Geological Survey and require drinking water utilities to test for PFAS chemicals.
  • Provide $100,000,000 annually to the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund Program to provide grants to communities to respond to PFAS/PFOS threats.
  • Require manufacturers to report, through the Toxic Release Inventory, air and water discharges of many PFAS chemicals.
  • Require monitoring of contaminants of emerging concern with a focus on PFAS/PFOA.

Ranking Member Tom Carper noted in his opening remarks that the amended S. 1507 does not include provisions from a bill he introduced in February that would designate PFAS/PFOA as a hazardous chemicals under Superfund law and require the Department of Defense (DOD) to clean up PFAS contamination caused by previous DOD activities.  Carper asked for support from the committee to work to have his bill included in any final NDAA package.

The NDAA bill already contains a provision to require the military to phase out, by 2023, its use of firefighting foam containing PFAS and require DOD facilities to meet state cleanup standards. 

The committee also reported out S. 1689, a bill that would allow for one year a state to transfer clean water SRF capitalization grants assistance to its drinking water SRF to address lead in drinking water needs.  Consultation with USEPA would be required to demonstrate need to address lead in drinking water threat needs. The legislation now proceeds to the Senate floor to for debate and a vote.

Bipartisan Drought Legislation Introduced in Senate

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation this week to address drought resiliency and water supply reliability in the Western U.S.  Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), introduced the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act (S. 1902).  The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Key water provisions of the bill include:

  • Extends funding under the WIIN Act for an additional five years, including:
    • $670 million for surface and groundwater storage projects, and supporting conveyance.
    • $100 million for water recycling projects.
    • $60 million for desalination projects.
    • Creates a new loan program for water agencies at 30-year Treasury rates (currently about 2.6 percent) to spur investment in new water supply projects. Repayment can be deferred until five years after completion of the project.
    • Authorizes $140 million for habitat restoration and environmental compliance projects, including forest, meadow and watershed restoration and projects that benefit threatened and endangered species.
  • The legislation includes two offsets:
    • Extends existing WIIN Act provisions allowing water districts to prepay their outstanding capital debts and convert to indefinite length water supply contracts to bring in additional revenue within the next 10 years.
    • Creates a process to deauthorize inactive water recycling project authorizations.

Key Watershed/Forest Health Provisions (Section 7. Restoration and Environmental Compliance):

  • Supports forest, meadow, or watershed restoration activities on federally-owned lands that improves the quality, timing or other attributes of runoff to a Bureau of Reclamation facility or project (or operated in conjunction with a Bureau facility or project).
  • Authorizes $20 million for FY 2020-2021 to carry out forest, meadow, or watershed restoration activities on federal land.
  • Authorizes $120 million for FY 2022-2024 to carry out section 7 of the legislation.

Further information about S. 1902 is provided below.

Senate Committee Advances Homeland Security Nominees

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reported out the nominations of Jeffrey Byard to be Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Troy Edgar to be Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by voice vote.  Byard and Edgar’s nominations now go to the Senate floor for final confirmation.  A date for a floor vote on the nomination has yet to be scheduled.

New Legislation

H.R. 3203, Marine Energy Research and Development Act of 2019. – Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL)

S. 1932, A bill to support water infrastructure in Reclamation States, and for other purposes.- Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)

H.R. 3363, To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to ensure that publicly owned treatment works monitor for and report sewer overflows, and for other purposes. – Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

H.R. 3361, To amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to reauthorize hydroelectric production incentives and hydroelectric efficiency improvement incentives, and for other purposes. – Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

Reports and Regulation

Port Infrastructure Development Program – U.S. Department of Transportation announced the availability of $92,730,000 under the Port Infrastructure Development Program for projects that will improve the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods into, out of, around, or within a coastal seaport, as well as the unloading and loading of cargo at a coastal seaport. Applications must be submitted by 16 September.

Weather-Risk Transfer Report – Report on a new way of insuring infrastructure systems that addresses risks in a changing climate and weather systems.

Union of Concerned Scientists Costs of Climate Change for Coastal Communities – Report on the financial impacts to existing infrastructure systems from climate change and new investments in infrastructure to meet the realities of a changing climate.

NOAA Fisheries Adopts New Plan for West Coast Ecosystem Science and Management – Steps for West Coast fishermen and fisheries managers to use to make decisions that support fisheries and their ecosystems.

Congress Next Week

June 25, 2019

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Protecting and Restoring America’s Iconic Waters

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – Oversight of the Department of Energy’s Research and Development Enterprise