Jackson Backs Revolving Funds Over Grants,
Will Review Plight of Smaller Communities
From BNA Daily Environment Report
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a
House subcommittee May 19 that she favors using revolving fund loans
to grants for state and local sewage treatment and drinking water
projects because they provide an ongoing source of revenue.
Providing loans, instead of grants, for water infrastructure
programs under the state revolving fund (SRF) forces “tough
decisions” in a program that is largely administered by states,
Jackson told members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
But she said in written testimony that “because repayments and
interest are recycled back into the program, these state revolving
funds generate funding for loans, even without federal
Jackson was testifying on the Obama administration's $10.5 billion
fiscal year 2010 budget request for EPA.
The administration proposed $2.4 billion for the clean water
revolving fund and $1.5 billion for the drinking water revolving
fund. Jackson said that amount would finance 1,000 clean water and
700 drinking water projects, and generate many new jobs.
Members Concerned About Small Communities
Jackson also told the panel's chairman, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.),
that she would “personally take a look at [the grants] issue.” Dicks
and Rep. Michael Simpson (R-Idaho), the subcommittee's ranking
Republican, expressed concern that small towns with small revenues
would be unable to undertake water projects.
“Small communities simply cannot afford these loans,” Simpson said.
The 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act replaced the federal
construction grants program with revolving loan funds. Under the
revolving loan program, for example, states can establish low- or
no-interest loans for small and disadvantaged communities, according
to the EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund website.
A Senate measure would authorize clean water funds of $3.2 billion
for each of fiscal years 2010 and 2011 (88 DEN A-12, 5/11/09).
Panel members also questioned the EPA chief on issues such as the
proposed $475 million for Great Lakes restoration program; plans for
reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including a cap-and-trade system;
rulemaking on coal waste; the superfund program; and funds for
Great Lakes Issues Aired
The Great Lakes project would target some of the region's most
significant problems, Jackson said. Those problems include invasive
aquatic species, such as the zebra mussel; nonpoint source
pollution; toxics in sediment; and the loss of habitats and species.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said the proposed funding is “not
enough to get the job done” and asked why nearly half of the funds
would remain with EPA under the budget, given that they are designed
to be shared with other federal agencies.
“These are initial allocations” based on discussions among the
agencies, Jackson said.
Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) urged the EPA
administrator to ensure a “substantial, coordinated, detailed, and
disciplined plan” for the Great Lakes program. He also suggested
forming an independent scientific review panel to make sure the plan
is based on “sound science.”
Cap and Trade Could be Distorted
Subcommittee members raised several concerns about greenhouse gas
control, including whether a cap-and-trade program is the best way
to control carbon dioxide emissions.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he is a “tremendous skeptic of cap and
trade” because some investors could distort the program.
“A lot of people are going to get very rich and the markets will get
manipulated,” Cole said, adding that he supports a carbon tax to
The EPA budget seeks $19 million for projects such as designing,
developing, and testing a greenhouse gas emissions data management
system; and developing source measurement technologies for
greenhouse gases to support President Obama's “effort to develop a
comprehensive energy and climate change plan,” Jackson said in her
The House Energy and Commerce Committee began consideration May 18
of a climate bill that includes a cap-and-trade program.
Superfund Budget, Tax Renewal
On other matters, Jackson said the president's $1.3 billion
superfund request would “enhance enforcement and removal work” as
well as support the program. She also cited the administration's
call for reinstating the superfund tax that expired in 1995, which
she said could generate $1 billion annually for cleanups, beginning
Jackson further cited requests for $55 million to fund screening,
assessing, and reducing chemical risks, as well as $25.6 million to
help states and tribes “strengthen their ability to address
environmental and public health threats.”
By Bill Pritchard.