Congress and the Trump Administration have reached agreement on an Omnibus spending bill to keep the Federal Government funded through the end of September. It includes funding for many of NACWA’s key priorities. NACWA has reviewed sections of the bill and is pleased to report that funding levels for many important clean water priorities have been maintained, and in some cases even increased, relative to levels enacted in Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16). These levels reflect the rigorous advocacy of NACWA, its members, and stakeholder partners to ensure robust funding for key clean water programs.
Specifically, the Omnibus would provide $1.394 B for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (equal to FY16), $171 M for nonpoint source control grants (increase of $6 M compared to FY16), and $231 M for state clean water grants (equal to FY16). The bill also funds each of EPA’s geographic programs at or above the FY16 levels, including the two largest: the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which would be funded at $300 M, and the Chesapeake Bay Program, at $73 M. Two geographic programs received increases compared to FY16 — a near-doubling — to roughly $8 M each for the Long Island Sound and Gulf of Mexico programs. The Title XVI Water Reclamation & Reuse Program would also receive increased funding, totaling $34.4 M.
One notable reduction in funding is to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) pilot program. The $10 M allocated for WIFIA in the Omnibus is well below the fully authorized level of $35 M, and only half the level that the House originally proposed. The Omnibus also does not specifically call out funding for Integrated Planning, though it does include a statement strongly supporting integrated planning efforts, and urging EPA to work with communities to develop integrated plans.
The Omnibus bill also includes a directive related to the Great Lakes CSO [combined sewer overflow] notification – a controversial requirement that originally arose in the FY16 spending bill. The Omnibus includes language reminding EPA that the CSO notification language was to be specifically limited to the Great Lakes for purposes of public notice requirements, and did not require immediate public notice. The bill recommends EPA give utilities flexibility to ensure that ratepayers are not severely impacted by the cost of implementing the CSO public notice requirement.
Considering the significant FY 18 cuts which have been proposed for EPA by the Trump Administration and supported by some in Congress, this nearly level support for EPA through the second half of FY17 is a good sign for clean water funding as we move toward FY18 negotiations. The hard work of NACWA and its members in advocating for strong funding for the SRFs and geographic programs – as well as concerns over the Great Lakes CSO notification requirement – are reflected in this spending package.
The full Congress and Administration must still approve the Omnibus spending bill this week. Statements from leadership in both parties suggest passage is likely. NACWA will keep membership informed of the final outcome of this FY17 Omnibus effort, as well as advocacy on FY18 appropriations. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA Legislative Director, with any questions.