Full Senate Poised to Consider WRDA & Advance NACWA Strategic Priorities
Looking ahead to the post-Labor Day return of Congress to Washington, NACWA last week urged Senate leadership to finish work on S.2848, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016. The Association has been closely monitoring developments regarding the legislation and anticipates the full Senate will consider the bill as soon as September 6. Passage by the Senate could occur by the end of the week.
S.2848 authorizes critical projects that will protect communities from flooding, maintain economic prosperity, and restore the environment. It will also help communities meet Clean Water Act (CWA) and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) mandates through common sense reforms and investments. The bill includes many of the key legislative clean water priorities that NACWA has been advocating in recent years and would fulfill critical elements of the Association’s current Strategic Plan.
In April, the Senate the Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) approved the bill on a near-unanimous 19-1 vote. While the Senate was unable to debate the measure prior to the July recess, EPW leadership worked hard over recess to prepare for floor debate in September. If the Senate considers the bill this week as expected, NACWA will alert its members to coordinate outreach in support of the package. The Association previously spearheaded a broad water sector and municipal group letter in support of WRDA.
Consideration of WRDA in the House of Representatives remains uncertain, though should the Senate take up debate this month, the House may do so as well. NACWA will be tracking developments with WRDA closely and will keep the membership updated. Questions about WRDA can be directed to Kristina Surfus, Legislative Affairs Manager.
NACWA Advocates on Energy Bill
The Association sent a letter last week to Senate and House Energy bill conferees advocating in support of several key clean water provisions in a final conference package. These provisions include an authorization for a pilot program to promote energy efficiency at water and wastewater treatment facilities, support for greater technical assistance to water and wastewater utilities by the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Centers, and the establishment of an interagency coordination committee to oversee federal research and development funding for projects related to the energy-water nexus. The letter also urges support for a provision to ensure that appliances receiving endorsement under the popular WaterSense program do not have adverse impacts on water quality.
Conferees are expected to negotiate a final package over the coming months, with the expectation that Congress could enact a conference report during the lame duck session in December. NACWA will continue to monitor the progress of the bill and update members. Questions about this legislation can be directed can be directed to Kristina Surfus, Legislative Affairs Manager.
State/ Regional Call Addresses Key Legal Topics
NACWA hosted a conference call August 31 with the Association’s State & Regional Exchange Network where representatives from 20 state and regional clean water organizations received an update on a number of critical ongoing clean water legal issues. Amanda Waters and Erica Spitzig, NACWA’s General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel, outlined litigation in West Virginia and Illinois undermining the Clean Water Act permit shield. An environmental activist group challenge to the Montana nutrient variance and how the groundwater conduit theory is having its day in court in Hawaii were also discussed (see slides from the call here).
The Hawaii groundwater case, in particular, struck a chord with the call participants who supported a vigorous defense against hydrologic connectivity determinations and a possible extension to sewer system exfiltration – as cases have come up in other states, as well. NACWA’s legal team is involved in cases coast to coast, and it is critical to have state and regional partners as they provide an irreplaceable pipeline for emerging legal issues at the local level.
The Association regularly convenes its Exchange Network of state and regional clean water and stormwater organizations, providing an opportunity for these groups to inform NACWA’s efforts while also boosting its national advocacy agenda through more local engagement. Those involved in a state or regional group interested in joining this coalition are invited to contact
Brenna Mannion, Director, Regulatory Affairs & Outreach.
FDA Bans Triclosan in Consumer Soaps
In an important victory for NACWA's Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign, the Food & Drug Administration published a final rule today banning triclosan and 19 other antibacterial ingredients from consumer soaps. NACWA supported this ban in 2014 comments, after working for many years with other organizations to eliminate or reduce the use of triclosan and other ingredients in consumer products that are washed down the drain and may be harmful to the wastewater treatment process and the environment.
The FDA ban applies to products that are intended to be washed off with water, and does not apply to consumer hand sanitizers or wipes, or to products intended for use in health care settings. Other products will be considered by the FDA in the future and NACWA will keep members informed about these actions.
NACWA Brings National Perspective to Kansas & Colorado
The Association was on the road last week, providing the national perspective on low income affordability challenges and the top water quality regulatory drivers impacting clean water utilities. NACWA CEO Adam Krantz highlighted the challenges of funding necessary infrastructure improvements, while ensuring that water and wastewater services do not become unaffordable for low income customers, during remarks at the 2016 Water Finance Conference in Denver, Colorado. Krantz’s remarks also focused on the need for additional support from the federal government to address low income affordability issues. Keven Shafer, Executive Director of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, former NACWA President and current Chair of the U.S. Water Alliance, also moderated a panel looking at effective ways to communicate the need for increased rates to the public. It was clear from a number of utility speakers at the conference, especially those from Western states, that rate setting is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge as water conservation efforts are decreasing revenue.
Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Chief Technical Officer, provided an update on the latest clean water regulatory developments during the Kansas Water Environment Association and American Water Works Association Kansas Section’s 8th Annual Joint Water and Wastewater Conference in Topeka, August 30 – September 1. Nutrient issues were front and center throughout the conference and Hornback highlighted the continued pressure being applied by EPA Headquarters on states to make progress in controlling nitrogen and phosphorus discharges. In his remarks, Hornback also discussed a long list of regulatory and non-regulatory activities in which EPA is currently engaged, many of which the Agency hopes to complete before the end of this Administration. NACWA and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) tag-teamed on an update from the federal level, while Kansas water regulators provided the state perspective and utility representatives reflected on how they are trying to meet the grown list of water quality requirements.
EPA Session on Great Lakes CSO Notification Set for September 14
EPA will hold a public listening session on September 14 in Chicago to obtain information for the development of its public notification requirements for combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Great Lakes. The Agency is also accepting written comments. NACWA plans to submit comments by the September 23 deadline and encourages utilities to send their own comments, as well. More details about the public listening session and how to provide written comments are contained in an August 1 Federal Register notice.
EPA is required under its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill to develop public notice requirements for CSOs into the Great Lakes, with implementation of the new requirements by December 2017. NACWA previously hosted a conference call with EPA and Great Lakes utilities to provide input on the notification requirements, and the Association encourages all utilities that have CSOs discharging into the Great Lakes to participate in the public listening session. Please contact Cynthia Finley, Director, Regulatory Affairs, if you plan to attend the session.
September 21 Legal Webinar to Provide Law Seminar Preview
Mark your calendars now for NACWA’s next Hot Topics in Clean Water Law webinar on September 21, 2016, at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. The webinar will provide a preview of the upcoming National Clean Water Law Seminar and Consent Decree Workshop, as well as feature a roundtable style discussion of the latest enforcement topics with a panel of expert attorneys. Don’t miss this opportunity to engage in a lively Q&A session with some of the top experts on enforcement issues – and get an early view of what to expect in November! Hot Topics in Clean Water Law webinars are a benefit of NACWA membership and registration will be opening soon.
As the summer winds down, NACWA invites you to share any exciting developments or perspectives on NACWA’s online community EngageTM. The open forum allows for members to gain insight on emerging issues from utilities across the nation. Trending this week are discussions centered on reforming interceptor requirements and utilizing Integrated Planning approaches in stormwater/wastewater management. NACWA also invites member feedback on its revised Consent Decree Handbook. Share your experiences and get engaged today!