Clean Water Current
Senate Appropriators Release FY23 Spending Bills
Last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee released their Fiscal Year (FY23) spending bills, including the Interior and Environment bill (text and report), which provides annual federal appropriations for U.S. EPA and its clean water programs. NACWA advocates for strong funding and policy provisions in this package each year.
These annual appropriations are in addition to the billions in mandatory clean water appropriations over the next five years that were provided for under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that was enacted into law last November. For the most part, the Senate’s FY23 appropriation levels are roughly in line with or slightly below the levels provided for clean water in the recently passed House appropriations bill.
As with the House bill, unfortunately, the Senate bill does not include FY23 funding for two new programs that NACWA worked hard to secure authorization for in BIL– an EPA Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Pilot Program and an EPA Clean Water Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability grants program. But the Senate did include $3 million for EPA to implement its low-income water community water assistance needs assessment authorized under BIL, which NACWA advocated for as an important data set that will support the case for a permanent program.
Overall, the FY23 Senate bill provides:
- $1.69 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a $113 million increase over the current level of $1.639 billion but below the House level of $1.75 billion
- $335.6 million of this amount is dedicated for Congressionally Directed Spending (also known as earmarks or Community Project Funding). NACWA continues to support the return of the earmarks process and is pleased to see several NACWA member project requests included for FY23; however, the Association remains concerned that these are coming at the expense of annual base SRF funding. The Senate devoted a smaller share of total SRF funding to earmarks than did the House, something which will need to be reconciled in a final FY23 deal.
- $51 million for EPA’s Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program, $8 million above the current level but frustratingly far below the $280 million that was provided in the House bill and authorized in BIL.
- $74.5 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, including $5 million for the state WIFIA (SWIFIA) program, an increase of $5 million over FY22 funding but below the $80.3 million provided for in the House bill.
- $2 million to further EPA’s Integrated Planning (IP) activities, the same level provided for in the House bill. This is the first time each chamber has provided funding for IP in their respective base appropriations bills. NACWA urged this inclusion to encourage EPA and the states to push ahead on working with interested communities to leverage IP to balance their obligations and affordability concerns.
- $6 million for EPA’s Water Workforce Infrastructure grants program, up $2 million from the current level and up from the $5 million level provided in the House.
- $5 million for EPA’s Alternative Water Source Projects Program, a newly authorized under BIL at $25 million annually, but below the $10 million level provided by the House.
- $617 million for EPA’s Geographic Programs, including among others the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound, up $30 million over the current level but below the $680 million provided in the House;
- Report language supporting EPA’s implementation of funding for PFAS and emerging contaminants under BIL and encouraging the Agency to prioritize support to communities including technical assistance, information sessions, grant workshops, and extensive outreach to ensure States and local entities are aware of and can fully participate in opportunities to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants; and
- Report language championed by NACWA and Earth & Water Law directing EPA to reaffirm that communities may use the CWSRF for innovative technologies to optimize water delivery performance, reduce energy consumption, and limit water waste in distribution systems.
In other bills (beyond Interior & Environment) which NACWA follows, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill included Report Language highlighting the important role wastewater surveillance has played in tracking COVID-19 trends. The language encourages CDC to continue working with States and localities to broaden the scope of wastewater surveillance capabilities to track COVID–19 and additional pathogens and to assist with public health data analysis. This bill would also have included additional monies for the temporary Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) established at U.S. Health and Human Services during the pandemic; however, no new funds were proposed. The initial tranches of $1.138 billion are still being spent down, required to be expended by the end of 2023.
With all of these funding levels being proposed, and the start of the federal fiscal year quickly approaching, what’s next? While the House quickly passed its bills, at this point the Senate is not likely to take up and vote on their version of the FY23 appropriations bills. Both chambers instead will move to begin conferencing a final FY23 Omnibus Appropriations package over the coming months with the hopes of passing it into law prior to the start of FY23 on October 1, 2022. But given competing legislative priorities and election year politics, we will likely see a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the federal government at current levels through sometime into the fall or early winter.
In the meantime, NACWA will continue advocating with both the House and Senate the importance of fully funding current and newly created clean water programs under the BIL and urge the higher level of each water program be realized. NACWA encourages all of its members to do the same and to utilize NACWA’s FY23 appropriations testimony that outlines the key funding requests, as well as a coalition letter NACWA recently led advocating for full funding of water programs authorized under BIL.
Please contact Jason Isakovic, NACWA Director of Legislative Affairs, with any questions or to discuss further.