CBO Finds Senate WRDA Bill Will Reduce Federal Deficit, NACWA Ramps Up Advocacy
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score for the 2016 Senate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) on June 17, finding that the bill, as written, has no budgetary impact and would not increase the federal deficit. In fact, it would slightly reduce the deficit over the next decade. This score is fantastic news for the bill’s advocates, including NACWA.
Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Chair Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released astatement following the score’s release urging the Senate to move forward on the bill. The bill has now been placed on the legislative calendar and the Senate leadership is free to take it up. Time may be a limiting factor, however, as the Senate is in session just three more weeks before recessing until September 6. The bill could also be brought to the floor in September, but given election-year uncertainties NACWA and other advocates would prefer it move before the summer recess.
With the score in hand, NACWA took to the Hill last week with a dozen meetings including with key Republican offices from states such as Iowa, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and New Hampshire. The Association’s message emphasized that the bill would help alleviate the affordability challenges clean water utilities face, would spur investment in critical infrastructure projects around the country, has strong bipartisan support and is positioned to move quickly provided a small window of time on the floor. NACWA is also organizing letters to the Senate in support of the bill from utilities in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Colorado.
NACWA is also collaborating on these efforts with the Water Infrastructure Network and other key groups representing infrastructure and related sectors. The promising news is that, to date, about 20 Republican Senate offices have signed on to a letter requesting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) advance the bill quickly.
NACWA thanks those in targeted states who have assisted in this outreach effort! Utility support conveyed to each and every Senator will only help the cause. If your state has not yet been engaged and you would like to reach out to your Senator regarding WRDA, we encourage you to do so. Please contact Kristina Surfus, Manager, Legislative Affairs if you would like a template letter, Senate contact information, or to simply discuss the issue further.
Senate EPA Appropriations Bill Addresses Great Lakes CSO Notification Issue
As reported in the June 20th Clean Water Current, Senate Interior & Environmental Appropriators recently unveiled their Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 spending proposal for EPA. Associated report language for the bill was made public last week, and contains a provision requiring EPA to provide an update on its progress and timeline for implementation of the reporting and notification requirement for CSO dischargers to the Great Lakes that was included in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations' package. The report language was included at the request of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who spearheaded the effort last year's effort.
One potential concern is that the FY 2017 Senate appropriations report language also suggests that EPA’s notification requirements must include “immediate” notification, while the actual statutory language passed in the FY 2016 Omnibus does not include the term “immediate.” NACWA is already communicating with key congressional members and staff to ensure the word “immediate” is not included in any final appropriations package, and has also been in contact with EPA as the Agency works on developing the relevant notifications provisions. The membership will be updated on any developments.
President Signs Toxic Substances Control Reform Law, NACWA to Track Implementation
President Obama signed into law H.R.2576, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act last week – named for the late New Jersey Senator who long-championed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform.
The final bill increases Federal preemption of State authority to regulate chemicals in certain situations – a key sticking point during negotiations. The Federal preemption was scaled back from what was initially proposed, which allowed the bill to garner broad support. Nonetheless, States and other stakeholders – including NACWA, which weighed in on the bill’s preemption language – will monitor how USEPA implements the bill. The Association will remain alert for any issues POTWs encounter.
The previous TSCA legislation, which dated to 1976, has been widely viewed as ineffectual at regulating new chemicals for many years. The new law provides EPA wider-ranging authority to test and regulate chemicals, and no longer requires the Agency to prove that regulation of a particular chemical for public health or environmental reasons is cost-effective – a requirement that had prevented EPA from bringing even highly-toxic substances under regulation. Questions on TSCA may be directed to Kristina Surfus, Manger, Legislative Affairs or Cynthia Finley, Director, Regulatory Affairs.
EPA Requests NACWA Input on Industrial User Manual
EPA has been working on revising the 1994 Industrial User Sampling & Inspection Manual for POTWs and has requested input from NACWA Member Agencies on its current draft. NACWA’s Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee is currently reviewing the manual and will provide feedback to EPA from the utility perspective. EPA is also getting feedback from state regulators on the manual. Please contact
, Director, Regulatory Affairs if you are interested in reviewing this manual or if you would like to join the NACWA Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee.
Agricultural Conservation Practices Reduce Nitrogen Loads
A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study demonstrates that agricultural conservation practices in the Upper Mississippi River have reduced nitrogen loads in the basin. The study combined USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) data with the USGS SPARROW watershed model to measure the potential effects of voluntary conservation practices.
According to the study, the watershed model can detect influences of nonpoint sources and natural processes to quantify the environmental benefits of agricultural conservation practices. The nutrient reductions, ranging from five to 34 percent for nitrogen and from one to 10 percent for phosphorus, reveal that voluntary conservation on agricultural lands is making small improvements in water quality.
Despite investment in conservation measures, the 2015 nitrogen levels in the Gulf of Mexico were the highest they have been since monitoring began in 1997, indicating that current approaches to addressing agricultural contributions do not appear to be enough to address the Gulf of Mexico’s nutrient problem. Clean water utilities are also investing, with greater success, in nutrient reduction strategies.
POTWs Racing Ahead of Agriculture in Making Needed Nutrient Reductions
EPA recently announced that POTWs in the Chesapeake Bay are making fantastic progress in reducing their nutrient discharges, noting that the municipal clean water sector has met its targets 10 years early. At the same time, new reports are showing that agricultural sources in both the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River Basin are struggling to reduce their nutrient loading.
This week, The Water Voice explores the implications of these developments, what it means for both the utility and agriculture sectors, and what might come next. Read on to learn more!