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House Partakes In America’s Pastime Before Recess

Before the House of Representatives left for the week-long July 4 recess, Members partook in the annual Congressional Baseball Game.  Each year Members take part in a lighthearted game of baseball at Nationals Stadium as Democrats and Republicans play each other for the winning title and all game proceeds go to charity.  Democrats continued their winning streak, beating the Republicans 14-7.

This year the game raised $1.3 million for the Congressional Sports for Charity, which supports charities for families and children in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

A full roster of the Democrat and Republican teams can be found here.

House Passes Second Minibus Before Recess

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a second minibus (H.R. 3055) on a vote of 227-194.  The second minibus, comprised of five spending bills, included the FY2020 Interior-Environment spending bill.  By passing H.R. 3055, the House has approved ten out of the twelve total spending bills before the Members left for the July 4 recess.  The FY2020 Homeland Security appropriations bill is the final remaining bill the House has to pass.

The Interior-Environment bill funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the agency’s key water infrastructure programs.  In addition, the bill includes funding for key forest management programs.  Below is a summary of the Interior-Environment funding allocations.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)

  • Provides total of $9.53 billion for USEPA, representing $677 million above FY2019 enacted level.
  • Provides $3.43 billion for Agency’s science and environmental program work, of which:
    • $502 million for Geographic Programs;
    • $511 million for compliance monitoring and enforcement activities; and,
    • $18 million in additional funding for scientific and regulatory work on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), representing more than double current spending levels for this work.
  • Provides $4.62 billion for State and Tribal Assistance Grants, of which:
    • $3.08 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds; and,
    • $70 million for targeted grants for drinking water contaminants, such as lead, nutrients, and other health hazards.
  • Provides $50 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program.
  • $10.2 million for Environmental Justice activities.

U.S. Department of the Interior

  • Provides $13.79 billion in discretionary appropriations for Agency, representing a $833 million above 2019 enacted level.
  • Provides $5.21 billion for Wildland Fire Management and includes $2.25 billion in cap adjusted fire suppression funding.
  • $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, of which $244 million for the federal program and $280 million for state programs.
  • $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, $74 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $324 million above the President’s budget request.

House Committee Action on SRF Reauthorization Delayed Until July

Hopes that the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure would take action on the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497) before the July Independence Day Recess evaporated when the committee decided that a handful of outstanding issues need to be resolved.  The priority to find common ground is crucial to ensure that the legislation would garner the support of the Big Four; the Chairs and Ranking Republicans for the full committee and Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment to ensure that the legislation carries bipartisan support as it progresses to the House floor for debate and a vote later this year.  According to staff, the hope is to move the legislation by the end of July before Congress recesses for the summer.

Senate Passes NDAA and PFAS Provisions; House Begins NDAA PFAS Amendment Consideration

Before Senators left for the July 4 recess, they passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (S. 1790) on a vote of 86-8.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration.  Along with passing the NDAA, the Senate also passed amendments to the bill that focused on addressing PFAS contamination, including the bipartisan PFAS package from the Committee on Environment and Public Works.  The bipartisan package addresses a host of issues related to PFAS contamination in drinking water, including:

  • 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.
  • Provides $100,000,000 annually to the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund Program to provide grants to communities to respond to PFAS/PFOS threats.
  • Requires manufacturers to report, through the Toxic Release Inventory, air and water discharges of many PFAS chemicals.
  • Requires monitoring of contaminants of emerging concern with a focus on PFAS/PFOA.

In addition to the committee’s bipartisan package, the Senate adopted other PFAS-related measures.  The measures address contamination at military facilities and directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a cooperative agreement with states and the local water utilities to establish testing, removal and remedial actions for contamination that stems from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) activities, requires DOD to conduct routine physicals of firefighters exposed to PFAS, calls for the military to phase out the use PFAS-firefighting foam within three years, and provides $10 million for continued health research on the issue.

However, the NDAA did not include a PFAS amendment from Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) that would require PFAS substances to be listed as hazardous substances under Superfund Law that would require DOD to clean up PFAS-contaminated sites due to previous DOD activities.  Carper had tried to include his amendment in the final package.

In the House, the House Committee on Rules started accepting amendments for the House NDAA (H.R. 2500) and a number of the filed amendments focus on PFAS.  Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) has filed a similar amendment to Carper’s failed amendment.  Dingell’s amendment requires the USEPA to list PFAS as hazardous under Superfund Law.  The House will continue consideration of the bill when Congress returns from the July 4th recess.

House Subcommittee Focuses on Iconic Water Bodies and Systems

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing focusing on the importance of protecting and restoring the nation’s water bodies and water systems this week.  The subcommittee heard from stakeholders whose organizations focus on protecting and restoring water systems across the nation, ranging from the Great Lakes to the San Francisco Bay.

During the hearing, there was broad, bipartisan support for the National Estuary Program (NEP) and a desire from Members to do more with the program to enhance protection and restoration of water systems.  Witnesses provided suggestions for how to enhance restoration efforts that included reliable federal support for NEP and restoration activities, collaboration and cooperation between local and federal stakeholders, and gaining the public’s trust and support for restoration efforts before the activities begin.  The suggestion that received the most emphasis was supporting and enhancing green infrastructure.  Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR) asked the panel their thoughts on designing man-made infrastructure that compliments the existing natural infrastructure.  The witnesses stressed the need to utilize natural, green infrastructure in conjunction with man-made infrastructure.

Testifying at the hearing were, Preston Cole, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dave Pine, Supervisor, District 1, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Chair of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority Governing Board, Laura Blackmore, Executive Director, Puget Sound Partnership, William Baker, President, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Kristi Trail, Executive Director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, and Tom Ford, Director, Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Program, The Bay Foundation.

Legislative Activity This Week

H.R. 2548, Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects Act. – Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX).  House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure favorably reported out legislation by voice vote.

New Legislation

H.R. 3521, To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to wastewater infrastructure workforce development, and for other purposes. – Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ) 

H.R. 3510, To amend the Water Resources Research Act of 1984 to reauthorize grants for and require applied water supply research regarding the water resources research and technology institutes established under that Act. – Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA) 

H.R. XXXX, To prohibit the imposition of duties on the importation of goods under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. – Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) 

Reports and Regulation

Proposed Rule – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Perchlorate.  The USEPA is proposing a drinking water regulation for perchlorate and a health-based Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The USEPA is proposing to set both the enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for the perchlorate regulation and the perchlorate MCLG at 0.056 mg/L.

Congress Next Week

Congress is on July 4th recess next week.