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NDAA Compromise Reached

After months of negotiations, the House and Senate Conference Committee on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week agreed to a compromise NDAA bill (S. 1790).  The House passed the bill on a vote of 377-48.  The Senate is expected to vote and pass the bill next week with presidential signing shortly after.  The compromise bill does not include a provision that would have designated PFOA and PFOS as hazardous under Superfund law or language that would have established a maximum contaminant limit (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Negotiations to include the provision designating PFOS and PFOA as hazardous substances under Superfund fell apart last week, when House Democrats, led by Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Committee on Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), pulled their support for the provision over concerns that the language was not stringent enough.  Upon the release of the NDAA conference report, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will vote on its comprehensive PFAS package in January when Congress returns for its second session.

The NDAA conference report includes a provision that will impact wastewater treatment operations.  Section 7361 of the bill directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to issue interim guidance on the management and disposal of substances that contain PFAS. Under the provision, USEPA must issue the guidance within one year of enactment and update the guidance every three years. This language is identical to the provision that the House  adopted in its version.

House and Senate Reach Budget Agreement With One Week To Go

This week, congressional appropriators announced that “a deal in principle” has been reached for fiscal year 2020 appropriations that increases domestic and defense funding by $49 billion. The House will vote on the measure Tuesday and the Senate is expected to give final approval by Friday, avoiding any governmental shutdown or the need for a short-term CR.

House Approves Coastal Resiliency Legislation

Earlier this week, the House approved H.R. 729, the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act on a vote of 262-151.  H.R. 729 is a package of several bills introduced earlier this year to protect coastal and Great Lakes communities from the impacts of climate change.  It includes provisions that create programs to support tribal, state, and local community projects that protect coastal zones and increases data collection to address coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes management.  During House floor debate, amendments to increase research into harmful algal blooms and to direct the US Fish and Wildlife Service to research the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other contaminants on fisheries and ecosystems were adopted. Select bill provisions are highlighted below:

Living Shorelines Grant Program

  • Authorizes the appropriation of $50 million a year (2020-2025) for NOAA to make grants available to state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes to design and implement projects that restore or stabilize shorelines. Such projects would use natural materials to create buffers to lessen shoreline erosion by minimizing the impact of storms, currents, and flooding.

Coastal State Climate Preparedness

  • Authorizes the appropriation of whatever amounts are necessary for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide grants to coastal states participating in the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program to develop and implement plans to adapt to climate change.
  • Creates a voluntary program in which coastal states create plans and prepare for the negative effects of climate change.

Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization

  • Authorizes the appropriation of $17.5 million (2020-2029) for the United States Geological Survey to conduct research activities in support of the binational fisheries within the Great Lakes Basin. The bill supports additional monitoring, assessment, science, and research to enhance fisheries management.

Digital Coast Partnership

  • Establishes Digital Coast Partnership as a NOAA program.
  • Digital Coast is currently an activity managed and funded through the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.
  • Digital Coast, a web-based platform, integrates geospatial data to enhance coastal resiliency management through a state, county, and local governments and the private and non-profit sector partnership.
  • Authorizes NOAA to collect and spend fees, without further appropriation, for training, workshops and conferences related to the Digital Coast program.

House Committee Advances SALT Legislation 

The House Committee on Ways and Means reported out the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377) by a vote of 24-17.  The bill would suspend the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deduction for two years.  In 2017, a $10,000 cap was placed on SALT deductions for individuals as part of the tax bill (H.R. 1) passed under a Republican House majority.  During the hearing, Democrat members argued that removing the $10,000 SALT cap would allow for states and localities to provide better public and municipal services.  H.R. 5377 may be brought up for debate on the House floor next week.

Senate Confirms U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director 

The Senate confirmed Aurelia Skipwith to the next Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a vote of 52-39.   Skipwith worked  previously at Monsanto on agricultural issues.

Prospects Uncertain For Passage Of Tax Extenders

In what has become an end-of-year tradition, Congress is working to pass legislation to extend expired and expiring tax credits (tax extenders). The current list of tax extenders includes provisions that expired in 2017 or 2018 and ranges from credits for the wind energy industry to reduced excise taxes for brewers and winemakers.  Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have voiced cautious optimism that a limited package of tax extenders could be attached to the passage of a fiscal year 2020 spending deal.

Expired and Expiring Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”) Congressional Research Service – October 16, 2019

Legislative Activity This Week

H.R. 537, Bureau of Reclamation Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act. – Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO).  Reported out of the House Committee on Natural Resources as amended by unanimous consent.

New Legislation

H.R. 5341, To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to citizen suits and the specification of disposal sites, and for other purposes. – Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC)

H.R. 5347, To require the Secretary of the Interior to establish a grant program to close gaps in access to safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities, and for other purposes. – Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA)

Reports and Regulation

Report on USACE new project starts – Congressional Research Service report on Section 70001 of the Water Resources Development Act.

Congress Next Week

December 19, 2019

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources – Hearing to Examine the Impacts of Wildfire on Electric Grid Reliability