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Administration Releases FY2021 Budget Request 

This week, the White House released its budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.  The request outlines the Administration’s spending priorities for the upcoming FY2021 that begins on October 1, 2020.  Traditionally, Congress acknowledges budget requests, but ultimately determines spending levels, independent of the budget request.

The $4.8 trillion budget request would reduce all non-defense discretionary spending by 5% over enacted FY2020 levels and increase defense spending by 0.5% over enacted FY2020 spending levels.  However, in a sign of ultimate rejection of the cuts, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), stated that Congress will abide by last year’s overall budget agreement that increased spending.  Below, is a summary of the budget request’s allocations for key environmental and infrastructure agencies.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)

  • Clean Water SRF: $1.1 Billion compared with $1.6 billion in current year
  • Drinking Water SRF: $863 Million compared with $1.1 billion
  • Workforce Training:  $1 Million which is identical
  • CSO/SSO/Stormwater: $61 Million compared with $60 Million
  • Maintains up to 20% for subsidies under the SRF program for disadvantaged community assistance
  • $6 million to support PFAS research under USEPA PFAS Action Plan

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)

  • WaterSMART Program drops from $134.2 million to $18 million. The justification is grounded in the fact that Congress provided $60 plus million in 2020.  (Title XVI: $3 Million compared with $63 million in current year.)
  • Bay Delta Program would receive $33 million is identical to current year
  • Focus of USBR’s California budget request is implementation of WIIN Storage program, streamline Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act compliance process while protecting environment under “existing” BIOPs
  • Compliance with Federal court order for providing drainage services to Sn Luis Unit
  • $677 Million to support ESA compliance with 2019 BIOPs for Coordinated Long Term Operation of CVP/SWP
  • Complete negotiations on all repayment contracts for 70 contracts within FY 20, but notes that deadline is December 16, 2021
  • Plans to complete ROD and EIS re: 2019 BIOPS in February 2020

U.S. Forest Service (USFS):

  • Provides $5.3 billion for the USFS, a decrease of $155.6 million from the fiscal year 2020 enacted amount
  • $2.4 billion for Wildland Fire Management, an increase of $58.8 million
  • $2 billion for the management of National Forest System lands, an increase of $47.6 million.  Of which, $20 million may be used by the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into procurement contracts or cooperative agreements or to issue grants for hazardous fuels management activities.
  • $453.2 million for Capital Improvement and Maintenance, a decrease of $1.9 million.
  • $249.3 million for Forest and Rangeland Research, a decrease of $55.7 million.
  • $217.4 million for State and Private Forestry, a decrease of $129.5 million  Of which, $14 million is available for competitive grants that carry out science-based restoration of priority forest landscapes by reducing wildfire risk; improving fish and wildlife habitat; maintaining or improving water quality and watershed function; mitigating invasive species, insect infestation, and disease; improving important forest ecosystems; and measuring economic and ecological benefits, including air quality and soil quality and productivity.
  • $2.04 billion for the Wildfire Suppression Cap Adjustment (“fire funding fix”), an increase of $90 million.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

  • Provides $971.2 million for the USGS, a reduction of $300 million from FY 2020.  Includes $180.8 million for water resource programs (Water Availability and Use Science, Groundwater and Streamflow Information, and National Water Quality programs), which is $53 million less than FY 2020.

Legislation to Address Plastics’ Pollution Introduced

This week, Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 (H.R. 5845/S. 3263).  Lowenthal stated at a press event that pollution from plastics has become global pollution crisis, and the bills aim to address the issue at the source, by “apply[ing] one of the core principles of environmental law: ‘the polluter pays.’”  Senator Udall highlighted that the bills’ “solutions are not only possible – they are practical and are already being implemented” across the country and what is needed now is “a comprehensive, national strategy to tackle” the problem.

The bills would address the failings of the nation’s waste and recycling collection systems by shifting the responsibility of plastics waste clean-up onto the corporations producing the plastics.  The recycling provisions include:

  • Incentivizing big corporations of plastics manufacturing to make reusable products and items that can be recycled
  • Creating a nationwide beverage container refund program
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products
  • Standardize recycling and composting labeling
  • Incentivize investment in domestic recycling and composting infrastructure and pause the development of new plastics manufacturing facilities until environment and health projections are established.

The legislation also includes provisions to address the issue of non-flushable wipes that wreak havoc on wastewater facilities’ infrastructure.  The legislation would impose the following standards for the manufacturing and disposal of wet wipes:

  • For wet wipe products sold in the U.S., that is intended to be disposed of in the solid waste stream, the labeling would require a:
    • “Do Not Flush” statement on the front of the package or near the dispensing point
    • “Do Not Flush” statement presented in a high contrast font and color moniker and symbol in accordance with the voluntary guidelines for labeling practices of the nonwoven fabrics industry contained in the Cod of Practice of the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry and the European Disposables and Nonwovens Association

The bill would also impose other conditions to protect against the indiscriminate disposal of wipes.

Legislation Introduced to Address Microplastics

Legislation was introduced this week in the House and Senate to address pollution caused by microplastics by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced S. 3306 and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced H.R. 5902.  As Mast explained, H.R. 5902 directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to develop “innovative ways to remove microplastics and prevent them from entering our waterways.”

H.R. 5902 would establish a pilot program, within USEPA, to determine the effectiveness and cost of tools, technologies and techniques to remove microplastics from the environment and prevent the release of microplastics into the environment.  USEPA Administrator would be required to test the effectiveness of:

  • Natural infrastructure;
  • Green infrastructure; and
  • Mechanical removal systems, such as pumps and filtration technologies.

The pilot program would carry out testing of tools, technologies, and techniques used by stormwater systems, wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water systems, and ports, harbors, inland waterways, estuaries, and marine environments.

Senate Prepares to Vote on Interior Number Two

When the Senate returns from the Presidents’ Day Recess, it is expected to debate and vote on the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be the next Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.  The position has been vacant since Secretary David Bernhardt assumed the leadership role of the department.  MacGregor was approved by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this past week.  Her nomination vote in the Senate is expected to be approved, putting her in the official role of managing the department’s day-to-day activities.

USEPA Announces New Region IX Administrator

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced the appointment of John Busterud to be the new Region IX Administrator, that manages programs in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, U.S. territories, and 148 federally recognized tribes.  Previously, Busterud served as Senior Director and Managing Counsel at Pacific Gas and Electric Company.  Busterud will take over as USEPA Region IX Administrator on February 18.

New Legislation

H.R. 5859, To establish forest management, reforestation, and utilization practices which lead to the sequestration of greenhouse gases, and for other purposes. – Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

S. 3306, A bill to establish a microplastics pilot program, and for other purposes. – Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

H.R. 5902, To establish a mircoplastics pilot program, and for other purposes. – Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL)

H.R. 5906, To require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a consumer recycling education and outreach grant program, and for other purposes. – Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN)

H.R. 5856, To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to establish a decentralized wastewater grant program, and for other purposes. – Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)

S. 3274, A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to establish a decentralized wastewater grant program, and for other purposes. – Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Reports and Regulation

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation: A Joint Commitment to the Nation’s Water Infrastructure – Challenge Identified in Report: Water storage capacity in some reservoirs has decreased due to sediment accumulation, requiring evaluation of sediment removal and management options to reduce risk to water supply, power generation, and other uses.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Sends PFAS Letter To USEPA – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to USEPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting an updated timeline on what the agency’s plan is to addressing PFAS contamination.

Congress Next Week

Congress is on recess next week.