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House Democrats Unveil Five Year Infrastructure Plan

This week, House Democrats unveiled an outline of a five-year infrastructure assistance package.  The proposal would invest $760 billion to address the nation’s most pressing infrastructure needs, spanning from transit, highways, rail, airport, and water resources.  It is an aspirational plan that represents how Democrats would address national infrastructure needs.  Next steps for the plan will involve House committees developing and advancing transit, rail, airport, highway, and water bills that can be packaged together for floor action.

The plan includes a ‘clean water’ title to address the water infrastructure and water quality challenges facing communities.  Below is a summary of how the plan addresses these matters.

  • Invests $40 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)
  • Invests $270 billion to address backlog of identified state and local critical clean water infrastructure and water quality needs
  • Provides Clean Water Act Grant Program $5.6 billion
  • Provides $1.5 billion over five years to help states implement clean water act programs
  • Makes permanent program to aid municipalities in addressing innovative wet weather, stormwater, and nonpoint source management projects and authorizes program at $1 billion
  • Creates new USEPA program to help communities and municipalities address ongoing PFAS contamination and authorizes program at $1 billion
  • Reauthorizes federal investment in alternative water source projects to address critical water supply needs at $600 million
  • Reauthorizes and increases federal assistance of sewer overflow and stormwater grants to $2 billion over five years
  • Increases annual federal investment for nonpoint source management programs to $1 billion over five years
  • Directs states to provide minimum of 10% and maximum of 30% of annual CWSRF to communities with wastewater services affordability concerns
  • Establishes new grant authority for communities to assess and address vulnerabilities to wastewater utilities to manmade or natural disasters
  • Requires states and localities to include estimate of necessary costs to address resiliency and sustainability of wastewater utilities to manmade or natural disasters as part of biennial water infrastructure needs assessment
  • Encourages utilities to adopt water and energy efficient practices
  • Codifies “Green Reserve” for critical energy and water efficiency and green infrastructure projects and establishes requirement within CWSRF that states must utilize minimum of 15% of funds to invest in such projects
  • Directs EPA to report to Congress ways to address urgent water infrastructure needs, including environmental justice concerns, through enhanced technical and financial assistance
  • Establishes new minimum allocations for rural and small communities.  Directs USEPA Municipal Ombudsman provide technical, financial, and planning assistance for rural and small communities
  • Provides funds to support workforce and apprenticeship development programs for water utility careers
  • Reaffirms existing Buy America iron and steel requirements

Committee Democrats Announce New Climate Legislation Discussion Draft

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Democrats released the text of the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act Discussion Draft.  Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) unveiled the text along with Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Subcommittee on Energy Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL).  The draft outlines how to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution emitted by the U.S. no later than 2050.  The draft also includes provisions to address water and energy efficiency and water quality issues pertaining to PFAS contamination in drinking water.  The committee is taking public comments from stakeholders on the draft throughout the year.

Below is a summary of the key water resources provisions of the discussion draft.

Sec. 324. Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Program.

Directs the U.S. Department of Energy to establish the Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Program to award eligible entities, via a competitive application process, grants to carry out projects that implement advanced and innovative technology-based solutions that will improve the energy or water efficiency of water, wastewater, or water reuse systems.  The program is authorized $15 million until expended.  Solutions may include:

  • Significant progress in conserving water, energy or reducing operating costs of systems;
  • Support implementation of innovative processes or installation of advanced automated systems that provide real-time data on energy and water; and,
  • Improve predictive maintenance of water, wastewater, or water reuse systems through use of internet-connected technologies – e.g. sensors, intelligent gateways, or security embedded hardware.

The section defines eligible entities as municipalities, water districts, or any other entities that provides water, wastewater, or water reuse services, including a joint water and power authority.

Sec. 623. Drinking Water SRF Funding.

Increases the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to:

  • $4,140,000,000 for fiscal year 2022
  • $4,800,000,000 for fiscal year 2023
  • $5,500,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2024-2030

Sec. 624. Drinking Water System Resiliency Funding.

Increases the authorization for the Drinking Water System Resiliency Funding Program to $50 million for fiscal years 2021-2030.

Sec. 625. PFAS Treatment Grants.

Directs USEPA to establish grants program under the Safe Drinking Water Act to assist affected community water systems to pay for capital costs associated with the implementation of eligible PFAS treatment technologies. Program is authorized at $500 million for each of the fiscal years 2021-2030.

Funding priorities will be given to disadvantaged communities, systems that can provide at least 10% cost share, or systems that demonstrate capacity to maintain implemented treatment technologies.

House Democrats Move to Nullify Administration ESA Rulemakings

On January 29, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act of 2019 (H.R. 4348).  The legislation now goes to the House floor for consideration.  H.R. 4348 would repeal three final rules promulgated by the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce that:

  • Permit the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to create species-specific regulations.
  • Allow the FWS to reference economic analyses in listing decisions.
  • Increase the standard for designating unoccupied critical habitat giving additional flexibility to not designate critical habitat.

White House Adds Third NEPA Public Comment Session

The White House announced this week that there will be a third public comment session on the Administration’s proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule.  The session will occur on February 11 in Denver, CO.  A 60-day public comment period on the proposed rulemaking began on January 27.

New Legislation

S. 3227, Prevent Future American Sickness Act of 2020. – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

H.R. 5694, Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act of 2020. – Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

Reports and Regulation  

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Request for Information – OMB information request on improving and, or, reforming regulatory enforcement and adjudication in order to ensure adequate due process.  Comments are due by March 16, 2020.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report – Report provides status of current efforts to address homelessness, including emergency shelter bed counts, rehousing programs, and estimates of the total number of veterans and civilians experiencing homelessness.

Congress Next Week

February 5, 2020

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – Hearing on the Management and Spending Challenges Within The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy