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Legislative Affairs

WEF's Interest in U.S. Legislative Priorities

Under the leadership of the Legislative Subcommittee of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, WEF tracks, reviews and actively comments on legislation impacting clean water issues. WEF works closely with its membership to educate Congress on clean water issues impacting their districts and States, and disseminates information on Congressional activities to WEF membership via meetings, webcasts and emails.  WEF also collaborates with other organizations to provide support, or comment on pending legislation affecting the clean water community.

WEF Legislative Activities

Final FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Restores Funding  

In mid-December, the U.S. Congress reached a final agreement for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget for the federal government, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. The bill provides $1.067 trillion in base funding, which includes $73.7 billion for overseas contingency operations, $7.1 billion in disaster aid, $1.5 billion for program integrity, and $700 million in emergency funding. Read the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 at https://rules.house.gov/bill/114/hr-2029-sa.    

Funding to all federal agencies is included in the bill, and it retains or increases the funding amounts for the agencies from FY 2015. The bill holds the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) at the FY 2015 enacted level of $8.139 billion. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.394 billion and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $863 million, restoring severe cuts proposed in 2015 in the draft House and Senate committee bills. The bill did not include funding for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans and loan guarantees, but it did include language directing EPA to continue to use administrative monies to establish the program.  The bill was free of many of the policy riders that had been hotly debated in Congress, including any restrictions on EPA in proceeding with the implementation of the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Rule.   

In 2016, WEF will be advocating before Congress and the Administration for full funding for the SRF programs, as well as funding for the WIFIA program to provide low interest loans for infrastructure projects. 

Rider That Banned CSO and Wet Weather Bypassing Excluded  

Also, in the FY16 Omnibus bill, a major effort to strip an unfunded mandate was successful. The Senate version of the appropriations bill that funds EPA included a rider that would have forbidden wet weather bypassing and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the Great Lakes watershed. The compromise language in the final bill will require some additional reporting for CSO events only, but it makes no changes to the Clean Water Act requirements or additional fines.  

The Senate's FY16 appropriations bill contained a policy rider (Sec. 428 of S. 1645) requiring all combined sewer overflows (CSO) in the Great Lakes watershed to be eliminated, including overflows discharged in compliance with a CSO Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) or consent decrees. The rider would have also required water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) to eliminate discharges of blended effluent that otherwise meet standards established in a WRRF's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit during peak wet weather events.   

A recently completed survey of Great Lakes WRRFs estimated the cost-of-compliance to the policy rider exceeded $72 billion in the region. A coalition of cities, counties, and associations is aggressively lobbying Congress in opposition to this policy rider because it has the potential to be extremely costly, requiring massive infrastructure expansion, ratepayer increases, and reopening of consent decrees and/or LTCPs. More than 45 letters were sent to Congress from public agencies and organizations opposed to the policy rider, including WEF; the Water Environment Associations of Indiana, Michigan, New England, New York, and Ohio; and WEF members at agencies throughout the Great Lakes region.  

WIFIA Fix and Better Highway Stormwater Management   

The highway reauthorization bill, known as the Fixing American Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) that was enacted into law in December, included a fix to the WIFIA program that WEF helped create and a stormwater management provision that WEF helped draft.  

The fix removed a restriction on the use of tax-exempt financing on WIFIA-financed projects. WEF and other water associations have been advocating for the provision since the program was enacted in 2014. The WIFIA program required that WIFIA can finance only up to 49% of a total project cost, and the remaining 51% could not come from a tax-exempt source, such as tax-exempt municipal bonds or private activity bonds. This was limited by Congress in 2014 to keep the cost of creating WIFIA budgets neutral, with the intent of fixing it later. The restriction on tax-exempt financing was removed by the provision in the FAST Act that WEF and other water associations strongly advocated.   

Also included in the FAST Act was a stormwater management provision that WEF helped draft that directs metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, and statewide transportation planning agencies to “improve the resiliency and reliability of the transportation system and reduce or mitigate stormwater impacts of surface transportation,” among the list of items to be included when agencies are planning surface transportation projects that use federal funding.  

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who was a member of the conference committee negotiating the final bill, included the provision. Language similar to the provision was originally developed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) with WEF staff assistance and was introduced as the Highway Stormwater Management Act as stand-alone legislation in 2014 and 2015 (S. 518). On behalf of WEF, Dr. Dan Medina of Atkins Global (Epsom, U.K.) and Jim Gibson of Sanitation District #1 in Fort Wright, Ky., participated in a hearing in May 2014 before the Senate Water & Wildlife Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Cardin. During the hearing, the WEF members testified on the importance of better stormwater runoff management during the surface transportation planning process. Sen. Cardin introduced his legislation shortly after the hearing.  

The provision that Rep. Edwards included in the bill is a significant step toward better stormwater management included early in the planning process of surface transportation bills. Currently, planning agencies that use federal dollars for projects are given eight criteria to consider during the planning process, such as increased safety, economic growth, and intermodal connectivity. The Edwards provision amends U.S. Code 23, Section 134(h)(1) and 135(D)(1), and will urge planning agencies to “reduce and mitigate stormwater impacts of surface transportation.” Planning agencies are not required to include these criteria in projects, but projects that meet more criteria will score higher.   

In 2016, WEF will be working closely with EPA to help complete the formation of the WIFIA program and establish another federally backed source of low-interest financing. WEF will also be working with the Federal Highway Administration to incorporate the stormwater management provisions into the project planning process so that stormwater management costs are built into the federally funded highway projects and are not left to local agencies to address after a project is completed.  

WEF, Others Urge Funding for WIFIA, SRF, and No Changes to Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds

In early November 2014, WEF and other leading water organizations sent letters to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan and the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, requesting that Congress and the Administration provide full funding to the newly authorized Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and include it in EPA’s FY15 and FY16 budgets. Along with American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), WEF also requested that the funding level for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving funds (SRFS) be maintained and no changes be made to the tax benefits of tax-exempt municipal bonds. WIFIA FY15 Funding Letter to Senate and FY16 Funding Letter to OMB.
 

WEF, AWWA and AMWA Raise Concerns on Possible Buy American Provisions for State SRFs 

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies is considering adding Buy American provisions for state revolving funds (SRF) to the FY2013 EPA appropriations.  These provisions would be similar to those included in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or Stimulus Bill, in 2009.  

Given potential impacts on State Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and WEF sent a June 19 joint letter to the House Subcommittee urging careful consideration of the ramifications on local utilities including delays in initiating much-needed water infrastructure projects and related impacts on job creation.  WEF, AWWA and AMWA recommended an independent review before Congress proceeds with such provisions.  The group also suggested that a more reasonable approach to promoting American manufacturing may be through incentives, such as loan discounts, for utilities that utilize U.S. manufactured goods.

WEF, Other Water Leaders Urge Passage of New Water Infrastructure Financing Legislation  (February 28, 2012) 

WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger joined with other industry leaders February 28 on Capitol Hill to urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass new legislation that would fund water infrastructure needs. Eger’s testimony, presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, highlighted the financial challenges facing water facilities around the country and the importance of providing support for these essential services. During the first of a two-part hearing titled, Review of Innovative Financing Approaches for Community Water Infrastructure Projects, Eger and other water industry leaders helped educate the Subcommittee about the critical need for water infrastructure funding and potential financing tools to help local communities pay for the rising costs of providing clean and safe water. 

Specifically, WEF and the American Water Works Association voiced support for draft legislation to create the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a funding mechanism modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. WIFIA would assist local governments with water infrastructure needs and leverage available federal dollars through low-interest funding that complements the already established State Revolving Fund. The second of the two-part hearing is expected sometime in March. 

 WEF Commends Introduction of Water Quality Protection & Job Creation Act (Updated October 12, 2011) 

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has submitted a letter of support to Congressmen Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Tim Bishop (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment, for the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2011, H.R. 3145—a new bill that was introduced yesterday on Capitol Hill.

The new legislation proposes a Federal investment of $13.8 billion in wastewater infrastructure over five years through the renewal of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). This much needed funding would also help create thousands of new domestic jobs in the engineering, construction and clean water sectors while providing financial assistance for communities to address wet weather overflows and create incentives for innovation including green infrastructure, energy efficiency and watershed approaches.

Click here to read the official press release from the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. 


WEF Testimony

WEF provides testimony for Congressional hearings on various clean water legislative issues though the direct involvement of the water professionals that make up the WEF membership.

WEF Vice-President Jeanette Brown provides Congressional testimony on Energy Efficiency and Energy Independence for Sustainable Wastewater Treatment (Updated April, 2009)

Review her blog on the issue and read the press release.
 

Congressional Visits

2012 WEF/AWWA Water Matters Fly-In (March 7-8, 2012)

Water leaders from WEF and AWWA gathered in Arlington, Virginia, on March 7 at the AWWA/WEF Water Matters! Fly In event to show their support for draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). Following a morning briefing on WIFIA and the comments from Rep. Gibbs, utility representatives visited Capitol Hill for more than 400 meetings with their national legislators and staff. The draft legislation would lower the cost of large water projects for consumers at a time when infrastructure is aging and in need of replacement.  “The time for new thinking is now,” said AWWA President Jerry Stevens, who is also general manager for West Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works. “The WIFIA proposal strikes just the right balance between federal assistance and local responsibility.” “If we are going to continue to provide essential services and make progress in water quality, we need to re-imagine the way we provide local water services,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. “We need to encourage innovation—innovative technologies, innovative management approaches, and innovative financing.”

Congressional Briefings

From time to time WEF co-sponsors briefings with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment Program for congressional staff and other interested organizations on clean water topics. Below is information about recent and upcoming Congressional Briefings.

WEF Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing on Green Infrastructure

October 25, 2011
Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 215

WEF and American Rivers (AR), in association with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), co-sponsored a congressional briefing, “Reducing Costs and Spurring Job Growth: Using Green Infrastructure Practices to Protect and Restore Clean Water for Communities” on October 25 at the U.S Capitol Visitor Center. The briefing highlighted the multiple economic benefits of green infrastructure practices as an integral component of stormwater management to protect clean water, and was indeed a great success. Attendees included congressional staffers, water sector professionals, and environmental policy specialists. 

The event was moderated by WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. Speakers included Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Manager of Watershed Programs, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Chair, NACWA Stormwater Management Committee; Theodore E. Scott, Executive Vice President and Founder, Stormwater Maintenance, LLC., and Tricia Martin, Principal, WE Design, NY Chapter President, American Society of Landscape Architects. The briefing provided information on the problem of stormwater and its management using the traditional approach, the growing paradigm shift towards green infrastructure (from the small business perspective) and its economic benefits, in addition to showcasing some successful case studies. Presentation Slides  PDF Slides     

 

WEF Hosts Congressional Briefing on Updated USGS Nutrient Tool

October 28, 2011
Room 2167 Rayburn House Office Building
 

WEF, along with the Notheast Midwest Institute, hosted a briefing this week on Capitol Hill to inform Congressional staffers and other interested parties on an updated web-based decision support system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program.  The event, which took place on Friday, October 28, was moderated by WEF Government Affairs Vice-Chair, Alan Vicory, who is the executive director for the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission. 

Sparrow Video Link 

The USGS presented updates of the SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) watershed modeling tool with other presentations from by state officials from Minnesota and Tennessee on how their respective state programs utilize this tool.  The USGS described the ability of the SPARROW platform to provide online snapshots in time of nutrient loads, yields and sources for areas covered by the tool, which includes all areas of the contiguous 48-state with the exception of California and portions of the Southwest region. A real-time demonstration was also provided by USGS to illustrate the modeling and forecasting ability of the tool.  The online tool can be accessed at this link

Upcoming Briefings:

There are currently no upcoming briefings at this point in time. Please check back later.

Congressional Briefings Archive 

Legislative News Updates

House Holds Hydraulic Fracturing Hearing (Updated Nov 18, 2011)

The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), held a hearing on November 16 to consider potential new regulations by EPA on the hydraulic fracturing of shale beds to produce natural gas.  Read more >> 

Congressional Supercommittee Struggles to Meet November 23 deadline; Continuing Resolution Passed (Updated Nov 18, 2011) 

The congressional bipartisan supercommittee continues to struggle with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by a deadline. Read more >> 

House T&I Committee Debating Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (Updated Nov 11, 2011)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will resume debate next week on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2838), a bill that would require both EPA and Coast Guard to establish a national technology-based standard to treat ballast water discharges from commercial ships that preempts individual state standards. Read more >> 

Senate Committee Adopts Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011 (Updated Nov 4, 2011)

On November 2, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011 (S. 1701). Read more >> 

WEF Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing on Green Infrastructure (Updated Oct 28, 2011)  

WEF and American Rivers (AR), in association with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), co-sponsored a congressional briefing, “Reducing Costs and Spurring Job Growth: Using Green Infrastructure Practices to Protect and Restore Clean Water for Communities” on October 25 at the U.S Capitol Visitor Center. Read more >> 

WEF Hosts Congressional Briefing on Updated USGS Nutrient Tool  (Updated Oct 28, 2011)  

WEF, along with the Notheast Midwest Institute, hosted a briefing this week on Capitol Hill to inform Congressional staffers and other interested parties on an updated web-based decision support system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. Read more >> 

Congressional Deficit Reduction Supercommittee Urged to Support Increased Water Funding (Updated Oct 14, 2011)

A number of letters submitted from House Democrats are urging the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to increase EPA funding for drinking water and wastewater state revolving funds (SRFs).  Read more >> 

House Committee Introduces Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011 (Updated Oct 14, 2011)

(H.R. 2840), the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011, was approved by voice vote on October 13 by the House by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), amends the Clean Water Act to set a single nationwide performance standard, which conforms to the standard set by the International Maritime Organization, for the treatment of vessel ballast water.  Read more >> 

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Nutrient Reduction Approaches (Updated Oct 7, 2011)

A hearing was convened by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife on October 4 - Nutrient Pollution: An Overview of Nutrient Reduction Approaches - to document nutrient pollution as a national threat and discuss the causes and impacts of nutrient pollution, in addition to the various mitigation approaches.  Read more >> 

Legislative Archives

Please click on the below link to read more Legislative News. 

More Legislative Archives >> 

For more information, contact: Claudio Ternieden, Director, Government Affairs, 703-684-2400 or cternieden@wef.org.