House Advances Key Clean Water Funding Legislation as Infrastructure Talks Stumble
The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee took another important step today towards passing a comprehensive water infrastructure bill as it marked up and advanced H.R. 1915, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, on a bipartisan vote. The bill, which NACWA strongly supports, authorizes tens of billions of dollars of new federal investment for clean water.
H.R. 1915, which builds on the Senate’s recent overwhelming passage of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA), S. 914, serves as the House’s counterpart clean water legislation. House Leadership hopes to bring the bill before the full House for a vote prior to July 4th and subsequently begin conference negotiations with the Senate.
NACWA sent Congress a letter of support upon introduction of H.R. 1915 back in March. Today’s committee passage of the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (ANS) to H.R. 1915 largely reflects the bill as it was originally introduced, especially as it relates to funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and other authorized funding levels for core programs. As passed by the committee, H.R. 1915:
- Reauthorizes the CWSRF for the first time since its establishment over 30 years ago and at a level of $40 billion over five years, a dramatic increase over the current level.
- Also included is a provision advocated by NACWA that allows states the ability to provide up to 50% of their CWSRF capitalization grant for additional subsidization, up from the current cap of 30%.
- The bill also expands CWSRF eligibility to allow funding to be used to identify and address cybersecurity vulnerabilities at POTWs.
- Reauthorizes the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program at $2 billion over five years.
- Reauthorizes the Watershed Pilot Project Program (renamed in H.R. 1915 as Watershed, Wet Weather, and Resiliency Projects) at $1 billion over five years.
- Authorizes $1 billion in grants over five years for pretreatment of PFAS and other emerging contaminants.
- Reauthorizes State Management Assistance for water pollution control programs at $2.5 billion over five years.
- Reauthorizes the Alternative Water Source Projects Program at $1 billion over five years.
- Authorizes a smart wastewater infrastructure technology grant program.
- Requires EPA to conduct and publish within 18 months an updated Clean Watersheds Needs Survey and expands the criteria the Agency must include (NACWA is still reviewing these expanded criteria under Sec. 12).
H.R. 1915 and S. 914 both provide important steps towards reauthorization of the CWSRF and other important clean water programs at substantially increased funding levels and demonstrate Congress’s strong commitment to increased clean water funding, which lays the groundwork for inclusion of clean water funding in any potential comprehensive infrastructure bill this year.
NACWA members can help continue to position the water sector for success as part of the next infrastructure bill by advocating to their Senators and Representatives about the importance of including the highest level of water funding possible, especially in the form of direct grants.
In a related development, talks broke down this week between the White House and a group of Republican Senators over a comprehensive infrastructure investment bill. The White House has indicated that President Biden will now turn to discussions with a bipartisan group of Senators that have also been working to secure a bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
While the path forward on a comprehensive infrastructure bill remains very uncertain right now, the recent actions in both the Senate and House on water issues shows that water can be an area within the infrastructure arena where compromise and agreement are possible.