Supporting Integrated Planning Principles and Affordable Clean Water Solutions
Over the last 45 years, communities have been responding to a growing list of Clean Water Act (CWA) regulatory mandates to improve the nation's water quality. Often taking on compounded wastewater and stormwater responsibilities, many communities are struggling to adequately allocate strained financial resources to these clean water needs.
Thanks to advocacy efforts by NACWA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and others, EPA recognized the regulated community’s need for flexibility, and developed its Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework (IP Framework) in 2012. NACWA and its members have been working with EPA and state water regulators ever since to ensure the Framework can be utilized by communities when appropriate.
A key element of the IP Framework is an assessment of what level of spending is affordable for the citizens of a particular community. NACWA has been pushing for changes to how EPA assesses a community’s ability to pay for its CWA mandates. In response, EPA released a companion document to the IP Framework in 2014 on affordability, which outlines additional factors that can be considered when evaluating financial capability.
Much progress has been made on Integrated Planning in the enforcement context, with utilities negotiating and renegotiating EPA consent decrees based on the concepts of Integrated Planning. Less progress has been made on the use of Integrated Planning in the context of permitting. Between 2012 and 2016, NACWA hosted a series of workshops across the country to highlight the opportunities that the IP Framework provides, and the Association continues to work with EPA, pushing for more technical assistance and funding to support communities that wish to pursue Integrated Planning, especially through CWA permits.
Legislative Efforts to Codify Integrated Planning
What You Can Do: Contact your Members of Congress about the value of addressing the affordability challenge, and providing municipalities with flexibility in meeting Clean Water Act obligations through Integrated Planning.
NACWA is advocating for Congress to codify the use of Integrated Planning and make progress on the challenge of water infrastructure affordability.
In October 2017, the Senate passed, with unanimous support, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (S.692). The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Rob Portman (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The legislation is very similar to language that passed the full Senate in the previous Congress as part of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act package. The bill would codify Integrated Planning, establish an Office of the Municipal Ombudsman at EPA to advocate for municipal concerns, promote green infrastructure, and require the revision of financial capability guidance.
In the House, several proposals related to Integrated Planning have been introduced including:
- H.R. 465, the Water Quality Improvement Act led by Rep. Gibbs (R-OH)
- H.R. 1971, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, a companion to S.692 led by Rep. Smucker (R-PA)
- H.R. 2355, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, bipartisan companion legislation to S.692 led by Reps. Latta (R-OH), Bustos (D-IL), Fudge (D-OH), Joyce (R-OH), Napolitano (D-CA) and Smucker (R-PA)
The House bills have been referred to the Transportation & Infrastructure and Energy & Commerce Committees. The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held an oversight hearing focused on Integrated Planning and affordability in May 2017. NACWA submitted written testimony for the hearing. The Committee also held a hearing on water sector stakeholder priorities for infrastructure investment in September 2017, at which NACWA testified and raised these issues. NACWA would like to see the Committee pass bipartisan legislation in hopes that the 115th Congress can send a final bill to the President to sign into law.