Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Stimulus Bill to Fund Water, Other Projects
The Senate Appropriations Committee Jan. 27 approved $6 billion
to upgrade the nation's sewer, wastewater, and drinking water
systems and $1.4 billion for environmental cleanup programs as part
of an economic stimulus bill (S. 1) aimed at boosting the economy
and providing jobs.
The committee approved by a 21-9 vote more than $350 billion in
appropriations as part of the overall $825 billion American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act. The Senate Finance Committee was taking up the
tax portions of the stimulus package, and that markup session
continued late into the evening.
Other provisions approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee
would include $6.4 billion for the cleanup of former weapons
production and energy research sites and $1.4 billion for loans and
grants for water and wastewater facilities in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to vote Jan. 28 on its version of
the stimulus bill. The House Appropriations committee approved the
stimulus package Jan. 21 (13 DEN A-18, 1/23/09).
The Senate version would provide $6 billion for local clean and
drinking water infrastructure improvements, composed of $4 billion
for the clean water state revolving fund and $2 billion for the
drinking water state revolving fund. Revolving fund provisions would
allow broad eligibility for these funds and would include authority
for states to offer negative interest loans and principal
forgiveness for up to 100 percent of the cost of projects.
In addition, the Senate version would require that at least 15
percent of both revolving loan funds to be designated for “green
infrastructure, water efficiency improvements, or other
environmentally innovative projects.”
The clean water state revolving funds provide low-interest loans
to help municipalities build and upgrade infrastructure to keep
sewage, toxic chemicals, and other pollution out of lakes, rivers,
streams, and coastal waters. Safe drinking water loan funds are
intended to ensure that water consumed is clean and safe.
The House version would include $2 billion for the drinking water
revolving fund, but it calls for $6 billion for the clean water
revolving fund—$2 billion more than the Senate version for the clean
water revolving fund.
In addition, the House version would require 50 percent of state
revolving loan funds to be in the form of grants. States receive
federal revolving funds based on an Environmental Protection Agency
formula that takes into account such factors as infrastructure needs
Dan Hartnett, director of legislative affairs for the Association
of Metropolitan Water Agencies, told BNA the mandatory grant
allocation will help states get immediate funds, but AMWA would have
preferred that 100 percent be allocated as grants rather than loans.
The Senate version would give states the flexibility to allow more
grant funding for water systems.
Associations Call for More Funding.
Sewage treatment and drinking water treatment associations have
called for an additional $10 billion each for each revolving loan
fund in the stimulus package, which they say is needed for “shovel
In a letter to Senate leaders Jan. 23, the National Association of
Clean Water Agencies said its members have identified more than $17
billion in wastewater projects “ready-to-go that can have shovels in
the ground within 120 days of receiving the go ahead from their
The letter, signed by Ken Kirk, the association's executive
director, said that while NACWA is pleased the House proposal
requires states to distribute 50 percent of funds allocated to the
clean water state revolving fund as grants, “we strongly urge that
100 percent of the funds be available as grants or principal
Kirk assured Senate leaders the funds would be distributed on a
timely basis. “In recent days, there have been questions raised
about the timely distribution of infrastructure funding contained in
the American Recovery and Investment Act,” he wrote.
“We are confident that water infrastructure funding can be put to
work in short order, and we strongly recommend that provisions
requiring the timely distribution of water infrastructure funding be
included in the Senate economic stimulus package.”
The bill also would include $1.4 billion for loans and grants for
water and wastewater facilities in rural areas. Funding for loans
and grants for water and waste disposal facilities in rural areas
are intended to tackle a substantial and long-standing backlog of
approved applications for clean water and waste disposal projects in
these areas, the Senate Appropriations Committee said.
In addition, the committee said estimates show that these funds
could create 87,000 private sector jobs.
Waste, Cleanup Provisions.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved $6.4 billion for
cleaning up former weapons production and energy research sites to
fund limited duration projects “aimed at decreasing the overall site
footprint and reducing recurring annual costs.” The work will move
toward “decreasing the footprint” at some sites by 90 percent, the
This would free up these lands for other economic purposes. The
majority of the funding would go out through existing contracts at
sites nationwide to assure a timely impact, according to the
Appropriations Committee's summary of the bill.
The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee includes
$1 billion more than the Senate version for loans and grants for
water and grants for rural water and waste disposal facilities.
Under the current rural water program, 75 percent of these funds are
offered as grants and 25 percent are loans targeted to poor rural
Both the Senate Appropriations Committee-approved bill and the
House bill would include $800 million for EPA's superfund program
and $200 million to clean up leaking underground storage tanks.
Both versions also include $100 million for brownfields grants to
help local governments assess and clean up abandoned or potentially
contaminated former industrial sites.
Ready-to-go habitat restoration projects under the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $300 million
under the Senate version of the bill. The House Appropriations
Committee calls for $400 million for those restoration projects
The Senate bill also would include $1.9 billion for operation,
maintenance, and related activities at water resources projects
operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Also included is $1.4
billion for the development, management, and restoration of water
and related natural resources in the 17 Western states.
The Senate bill includes $500 million for studies, construction, and
maintenance of projects along the Mississippi River and its
tributaries; $100 million to accelerate cleanups at some of the
nation's early atomic energy facilities; and $25 million to
accelerate high-priority flood control, navigation, and storm damage
The Senate legislation also includes $275 million for the Department
of Agriculture's watershed and flood prevention operations and $120
million for the department's watershed rehabilitation program.
By Linda Roeder