(May 29, 2019) – Important bipartisan legislation was introduced by US House Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Darin LaHood (R-IL) on May 15 to extend the authorization of the Clean Water Act, Section 221 Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Control Grants, which provides grants to states and municipal entities for treatment works to intercept, transport, control, treat, or reuse municipal combined sewer overflows; sanitary sewer overflows; and/or stormwater.
The new legislation, H.R. 2776, would extend the bill’s authorization through Fiscal Year (FY) 2029 (versus FY2020 in current law), increase the annual funding authorization to $500 million per year (versus $225 Million in current law), and amend the program to reduce the required non-federal cost-share based on the burden of sewer service bills on households in the lowest 20 percent of a community’s income bracket.
In drafting the provision to provide a reduced cost-share based on affordability concerns, Reps. Trahan and LaHood looked to a report evaluating affordability and financial capability in the water sector, which was completed by NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) earlier this month.
Supporting this Sec. 221 grant program is a top priority for NACWA. The Association worked closely with Congress to facilitate its inclusion in the 2018 America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA). AWIA authorized new funding for the program, which had been on the books but not funded since the 1990s. The AWIA legislation authorized the program at $225 million for two years, and expanded its potential uses to include stormwater. The House is proposing $90 million this coming fiscal year. While not the fully authorized level, $90 million would be an important start, setting a precedent for future funding.
Extending the authorization for this program was also included in the Water Quality Protection and Jobs Creation Act (H.R. 1497), introduced by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK) and John Katko (R-NY) earlier this year. That bill, which additionally reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and other core clean water programs, would authorize the Sec. 221 Sewer/Stormwater grants through FY2024 at the current level of $225 Million per year.
NACWA greatly appreciates all the congressional attention given to this program so far, and will continue engaging with Hill staff to advance the program. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Legislative Director, with any questions or to discuss further.