House and Senate Take Up Numerous Clean Water Bills
Building on the momentum of last week’s passage of H.R. 1915, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021 by the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, the focus shifted this week to the Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee where the Environment Subcommittee marked up and advanced several pieces of water legislation, including H.R. 3293, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021, which NACWA has continued to champion. This legislation would help financially struggling households maintain continued access to essential public drinking water and wastewater services by establishing a permanent customer affordability program within U.S. EPA.
H.R. 3293 advanced through the subcommittee and is expected to be further marked up and advanced by the full E&C Committee in the coming weeks, along with H.R. 3291, the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability (AQUA) Act of 2021. The AQUA Act is a drinking water package which also advanced through the subcommittee on Wednesday, and which is opposed by several key drinking water associations in its final form.
NACWA will continue working to ensure that H.R. 3293 advances through the committee and to the full House for a vote with as much bipartisan support as possible.
As the path forward on a comprehensive bipartisan infrastructure bill between the White House and Congress remains in limbo this week, the T&I and E&C packages are expected to continue to serve as the House’s basis for clean water infrastructure legislation. House Leadership hopes to bring the bills to the floor for a vote prior to July 4th, when they plan to begin conference negotiations with the Senate on their water legislation, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA), S. 914.
Unfortunately, the Environment Subcommittee also recently marked up and advanced H.R. 2467, the PFAS Action Act of 2021. The legislation is nearly identical to the legislation the House passed last Congress, which NACWA also strongly opposed as it could potentially have major unintended consequences on public clean water utilities, , including preemptively requiring EPA to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA within one year with no drinking water or clean water utility exemptions.
This legislation will likely be brought to the House Floor in the coming weeks for a vote, while the path in the Senate is less clear as the Democratic Majority has indicated they are working to gain clear direction from EPA on the agency’s ongoing PFAS regulatory work before looking to move any PFAS legislation forward.
NACWA will continue to inform Congress on the problematic nature of this legislation, including the need for POTWs to receive an exemption under CERCLA, and will also continue focusing on regulatory efforts with EPA
Finally, this week the House took up and passed numerous bipartisan pieces of legislation that would reauthorize several geographic and water quality protection programs, including H.R. 2008, the Local Water Protection Act, which reauthorizes EPA Section 319 grants that provide funds for states to develop and implement programs for managing nonpoint source water pollution.