On Oct. 29, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a mark up session on H.R. 1497, the Water Quality and Job Creation Act of 2019. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the legislation, which would empower Congress to appropriate $16.68 billion over 5 years to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which provides low-interest wastewater infrastructure loans to utilities.

The CWSRF loan program currently receives, on average, $1.3 billion from Congress in a typical year, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that for communities to remain in compliance with the Clean Water Act will require close to $300 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.

H.R. 1497 would more than double the size of the CWSRF program, which will create thousands of new, domestic jobs in the construction and wastewater sectors through increased investment in wastewater infrastructure. It will reduce the cost of constructing and maintaining that infrastructure, promote energy efficiency and water efficiency, and reduce the potential long-term operation and maintenance costs of water resource recovery facilities.

 

Water-Sector Testimony

During a hearing in March, Andrew Kricun, Executive Director of the Municipal Utilities Authority in Camden County, N.J., emphasized that utilities like his can’t afford major capital projects without the low-cost financing available through CWSRF. Others providing testimony from rural communities echoed his point. 

DeFazio said Kricun's testimony shows why the U.S. Congress should allocate more dollars for water infrastructure rather than trying to boost public–private partnerships.

H.R. 1497 would authorize $1.125 billion for grants to municipalities to capture, treat, or reuse combined and sanitary sewer overflows or stormwater, as well as $1.295 billion over 5 years for grants for state water pollution control agencies to implement state water pollution control programs.

 

Funding Workforce Programs

The legislation also authorizes states to set aside 1% of their CWSRF funds to promote workforce development and utility worker training and education programs. This equates to $140 million over 5 years. WEF continues to champion this provision.

The municipal drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management sector is facing a massive workforce replacement need and offers significant job growth potential. The high rate of retirements and aging workforce in the sector are placing pressure on utilities to find the next generation of workers to replace them. An estimated 30% to 50% of utility workers will retire during the next decade, taking with them tremendous professional knowledge and experience (WRF/AWWA, “Water Sector Workforce Sustainability Initiative,” 2010). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 jobs available within utilities over the next 6 years.  The promotion of workforce development is a necessity and the funds made available by H.R. 1497 can make a difference.

On Oct. 28, WEF sent a letter of support to the committee leadership, emphasizing the tremendous national need for increased funding and financing resources to help communities and utilities to assess, repair, replace, and maintain the aging wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that protects public health and the environment.  This legislation provides a significant boost in resources to help tackle our national infrastructure needs, as well as make significant headway towards future challenges, such as climate change resilience and workforce shortages.

The bipartisan bill currently has 50 cosponsors.

About This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington is an online news portal from the Water Environment Federation that provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. It provides concise reports of related bills, regulations, legal decisions, congressional hearings, and other federal government actions, following key issues from introduction to final determination.

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This Week in Washington is compiled by the WEF Government Affairs department. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Claudio Ternieden
Senior Director of Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships

Steve Dye
Legislative Director

Amy Kathman
Government Affairs Specialist