House Passes Sandy Aid Bill and Senate Likely to Approve Next Week [-]
On Jan. 15, the House passes an Emergency Supplemental Aid Bill to help states affected by Superstorm Sandy. The $50.5 billion package for disaster relief will provide new aid heading to communities hit by the storm. In late 2012, the Senate passed a similar package for $60.4 billion, which later expired at the end of the 112th Congress. That bill is largely reflected in both the package passed in House on Jan.15 and in the $9.7 billion measure expanding borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program (HR 41) that was cleared on Jan. 4 by the House and has been signed into law by the President. The two House-passed bills combined are equal to the $60.4 billion requested by the President.
Due to resistance from fiscally conservative Republican members of the House, the initial aid package offered in the House was for $17 billion, and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) pledged to provide additional funding through the regular annual appropriations bills. However, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also took steps to allow the House to vote Jan. 15 on a $33.67 billion amendment by House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) that provided many of the other funds requested by Obama and backed by the Senate. Ultimately, the amendment offered passed and was incorporated into Rogers's bill. But the amendment and the overall bill only managed to clear the House with heavy Democratic support. Minus that, there was not enough Republican support to pass either one. On final passage, the tally was 241-180, with 192 Democrats and only 49 Republicans voting in favor. Voting against the measure were 179 Republicans and 1 Democrat.
The Frelinghuysen amendment contains line-item funding to aid water and wastewater facilities recover and design for possible future natural disasters. In areas impacted by the storm in EPA Region 2 there is $500 million in capitalization grants through the Clean Water State Revolving Funds for wastewater facilities and $100 million for capitalization grants through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The aid package will require states that use the funding to use not less than 20 percent but not more than 30 percent of the amount of its capitalization grants to provide additional subsidization to eligible recipients in the form of forgiveness of principal, negative interest loans or grants or any combination of these. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) attempted to offer an amendment to lift the 30 percent cap, but the House Rules Committee restricted the total number of amendments offered to the bill to three. The aid package requires that funding be used for “projects whose purpose is to reduce flood damage risk and vulnerability or to enhance resiliency to rapid hydrologic change or a natural disaster at treatment works” in EPA Region 2.
The Senate is expected to consider the House aid package next week and comments out of Senate Democratic leaders suggest that the package will be cleared fairly quickly because the bill is relatively similar to the package previously passed by the Senate. “It's great news for families, communities, and small businesses in our region that the House—after weeks of delay—finally passed an emergency relief bill for Superstorm Sandy,” said Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “Our region extends a helping hand any time another community suffers from a major disaster, and we're pleased that the House voted to provide this emergency relief for New Jersey and New York.”
In a separate statement, Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said the House bill is “close enough” to what officials from the region need. He said he will urge his colleagues to pass it quickly.
EPA Releases Financial Capability Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements [+]
Over the last several months, EPA has engaged in a dialogue with local governments, led by the US Conference of Mayors, to clarify how the financial capability of a community will be considered when developing schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet Clean Water Act obligations. As a result of this dialogue, Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, and Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, transmitted today to EPA Regional Offices a Financial Capability Framework. This Framework identifies various implementation issues as well as some more robust ways to present community-specific information as part of a financial capability analysis. These issues are a key concern as localities pursue EPA’s integrated planning approach for municipal wastewater and stormwater.
WEF supports clarifying how communities can assess and present their financial capabilities and will continue to work with EPA, US Conference of Mayors and other partners to help advance this Financial Capability Framework.
ASCE Releases Final Report in Failure to Act Series, Detailing Comprehensive Impacts of Failing to Invest in America’s Infrastructure [+]
The health of our nation’s roads, power lines, sewer systems, waterways and other infrastructure elements are vital for ensuring U.S. businesses are competitive and prosperous. On January 15, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled a new, economic study on quantifying exactly how much these assets impact our economic well-being.The final study in the first-of-its-kind series, the analysis provides a comprehensive evaluation of the long-term impacts to jobs, gross domestic product (GDP) and other economic indicators if the nation fails to meet the investment needs of key infrastructure sectors.
The fifth and final report in ASCE’s Failure to Act series, Failure to Act: The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Growth, presents an overall picture of the economic opportunity associated with infrastructure investment and the cost of failing to fill the investment gap. The new report quantifies the interactive effect between investment gaps in the infrastructure sectors addressed in each of the preceding studies. Previous Failure to Act reports addressed surface transportation, energy, water and wastewater, and airport and waterborne transportation.
The comprehensive impact of a failure to invest cannot be estimated by simply adding the impacts found in each previous report because the degradation of surface transportation, water delivery and wastewater treatment, energy, inland waterways and marine ports each affect business productivity differently. For example, regardless of how quickly goods can be offloaded at our nation’s ports, if the highway and rail infrastructure needed to transport those goods to market is congested, traffic will slow and increase costs to businesses and households, creating a drag on the economy ultimately reflected in lower GDP.
Integrated Planning Workshops Scheduled [+]
Last October, WEF staff participated in an Integrated Planning workshop sponsored by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) in Washington, DC. This workshop included States and localities from EPA’s Region III along with key EPA managers from both Headquarters [Deborah Nagle and Mark Pollins] and EPA Region III. All participants were able to share their current approaches to implementing an integrated planning approach consistent with EPA’s Framework and discuss best ways forward.
WEF will now be partnering with NACWA and ACWA in sponsoring similar workshops in other EPA Regions. A workshop for EPA Region I states and localities is being planned for this spring. A workshop will be held April 3 in Portland, OR, for EPA Region X. Tentatively, a workshop for EPA Region VII is being planned for March 12 in the Kansas City
area. More information will be provided when available.
Secretary Salazar, USGS Director McNutt Both Leaving Interior [+]
On January 16, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced he will leave the Obama administration by the end of March and return to his home state of Colorado, saying he had fulfilled his promise to serve four years as Secretary. An acting Secretary has not been named at this time.
Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey and science advisor to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has also recently announced her resignation. She will be leaving USGS on February 15, indicating she had timed her departure so that she can witness the launching of the Landsat 8 satellite on February 11. Deputy Director Suzette Kimball will become Acting USGS Director. Press reports speculate that Ms. McNutt may be heading back to San Diego to join the faculty and perhaps succeed Mr. Tony
Haymet as director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Continue Service in Obama Administration [+]
On January 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement regarding the announcement that he will continue his service in the Obama Administration. “President Obama and I share a deep appreciation for rural America and its unlimited potential in the years ahead to feed a growing world population, revolutionize America’s energy, further protect our natural resources and create more jobs here at home. We will continue to urge Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will help us continue USDA’s wide range of efforts to support this work. As we look ahead to a promising future in our small towns and rural communities, I am pleased to continue working alongside President Obama to grow more opportunity in rural America.”
EPA’s 2011 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline [+]
According to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report published on January 16, total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row. The annual TRI provides citizens with vital information about their communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
Among the HAPs showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.. Releases into surface water decreased 3 percent and releases to land increased 19 percent since 2010, with the latter again due primarily to the metal mining sector. The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010. The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined - which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases - can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally. Other industry sectors also saw smaller increases in releases, including the hazardous waste management sector. For more information on the 2011 TRI analysis and TRI web-based tools, click here.
EPA January 30 Webinar on New Recreational Criteria [+]
EPA will host a free Watershed Academy webinar to learn about EPA's new recreational water quality criteria on January 30, 2013, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST. EPA recently recommended new recreational water quality criteria for states that will help protect peoples' health during visits to beaches and other recreational waters year-round. The science-based criteria provide information to help states improve public health protection by providing similarly protective recommendations for both marine and fresh waters, encouraging early alerts to beachgoers and promoting rapid water testing. To register, click here.
Register for WEF-AWWA Fly-In, April 17-18 [+]
WEF and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) are again hosting the third annual WEF-AWWA “Water Matters” Fly-In, April 17-18. Free to WEF and AWWA members, the event will begin on Wednesday, April 17th, with briefings and discussions of current clean water and drinking water issues currently before Congress followed the next day by scheduled visits with Congressional representatives. The Fly-In will also include a reception for participants and invited congressional guests. A breakfast and a concluding luncheon to share information and lessons learned will take place on Thursday, April 18th.
Hotel Information: A block of rooms has been reserved at the Arlington Hilton, located at 950 North Stafford Street, Arlington, VA, for event participants. This hotel is convenient to Washington METRO for easy access to Capitol Hill. To reserve a room, contact the Arlington Hilton at (703) 528-6000.
To register for the Fly-In, please contact Mr. Tommy Holmes, AWWA Legislative Director, by email at email@example.com. If you have other questions, please contact Mr. Tim Williams at WEF, firstname.lastname@example.org.