On Dec. 12, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced legislation to provide necessary resources to water resource recovery facilities — frequently the largest energy user in municipalities — to upgrade their energy and water efficiency. The Water Environment Federation worked closely with Merkley's office to help create the bill. The infrastructure updates sought would curb emissions from wasted energy and reduce facility costs.

The Wastewater Efficiency & Treatment Act of 2019 would enable the nearly 17,000 municipal U.S. WRRFs — small and large — to apply for grants or loan guarantees for energy and water efficiency upgrades to reduce those costs.

“WEF is pleased to endorse the Wastewater Efficiency and Treatment Act of 2019 because it will move our nation toward a circular economy for wastewater treatment, where recovered energy will help power the treatment process and reduce our use of fossil fuels while cleaning the water and air in our communities,” said Walter Marlowe, P.E., CAE, Executive Director of the Water Environment Federation.

The legislation also is endorsed by the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies.

“Wastewater treatment facilities run equipment around the clock so that Oregonians’ rivers and streams are safe and clean,” Merkley said. “If we can make that equipment cleaner and more efficient, we’ll stop wasting energy unnecessarily and save ratepayers money.”

American WRRFs spend about $2 billion in electric costs every year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These costs often make up between 25% and 40% of a facility's annual operating budget. These costs, in turn, are a significant share of each municipality’s total energy costs.

What's Included

This legislation would enable small for communities to apply for grants up to $25,000 to pay for the installation of power generation technology, such as biogas recovery and other innovative equipment.

Larger communities would be able to apply for millions of dollars of loan guarantees administered by DOE. These loan guarantees could be valued at up to 80% of the loaned amounts, enabling municipalities to leverage the guarantees into millions more in wastewater infrastructure improvements.

Read the text of the bill.

Click here to read Sen. Merkley's press release.


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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