EPA Affordability Listening Session Brings Diverse Array of Interests Together
EPA recently hosted a Listening Session with a broad array of stakeholders from the water sector, including NACWA. Approximately twenty groups were represented, including environmental NGOs as well as community and environmental justice (EJ)/community advocate organizations to discuss water affordability issues. Radhika Fox, EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of Water, hosted the session with other senior EPA staff present as well.
NACWA focused its brief remarks on ensuring the success of the newly created Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) at the U.S. Department Health Human Services (HHS) and ultimately ensuring there is a permanent LIHWAP program, with discussion focusing on whether that permanent home should ultimately be at EPA or HHS. NACWA also urged finalization of EPA’s Financial Capability Assessment (FCA) guidance and there was general agreement to get this done. Some of the groups agreed to discuss the FCA and hammer out any remaining differences in a follow-up call with EPA.
Discussion also centered on the need to build trust between the EJ and community advocate groups and the public water utility sector, but many agreed that this was trending in a positive direction, especially with the new Administration’s leadership. Perhaps most important, was a desire by the array of groups to work toward a National Water Affordability Plan that could better address both national assistance-based policies but also local community affordability efforts across-the-board for urban and rural communities alike as well as Indian Tribes and other groups often left out of the policy discussions. NACWA plans to play a vital role in these efforts as they progress and in further deepening our collaborative efforts with the array of NGOs that took part in the discussion.