On Jan. 11, the House passed a $35.9 billion Interior-EPA measure, HR 266 (116), that would fund the agencies through Sept. 30, 2019. This is part of a House plan to pass each of the remaining appropriations piecemeal until Congressional leaders and President Trump can come to an agreement on the wall.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already stated that he plans to adjourn the Senate for the week without bringing up any of the individual appropriations bills, as the President has vowed not to sign any of them.

While full effects of the government shutdown may not have been felt yet, more energy and environment-related disruptions may begin to show.  EPA-subsidized loans to install pipes, dig wells, capture rain, and build other types of water infrastructure are currently still going out, but could run into trouble over time.  Though states and cities do not necessarily rely on EPA grants to make loans—but the grants can help states and cities keep their interest rates low.  The real issue may be if interest rates spike if the government is shutdown for months. 

The recipients of water infrastructure loans through a state’s revolving fund (SRF) can typically get an interest rate between 1.5 percent and 2 percent, compared to around 4 percent for the municipal bond market, said Rudy Chow, head of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works.  Because of the low interest rates, Baltimore has been able to use these loans to finance water infrastructure upgrades in the state. 

Higher interest rates could eventually make that more difficult.  But he said right now that scenario is a long way from becoming a reality. Chow said he’s been in regular contact since the shutdown began with state officials in Annapolis who run Maryland’s Revolving Fund program and “according to them, everything is OK. We should just continue to conduct business as usual.”  (Bloomberg BNA, 1/10/19)

If you are a WEF Member and have a specific concern regarding payment during the U.S. Government Shutdown, please note that WEF is, of course, ready to work with any federal employees on membership renewals, conference registrations, or other costs affiliated with our organization.

In addition, on Dec. 31, 2018,  EPA put out a contingency plan for  shutdown of the agency due to a funding hiatus, which as stated in the plan, provides general guidelines for the orderly handling of EPA operations in the event of a funding hiatus caused by the lack of appropriations.

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