Members Quiz Jackson On Water Infrastructure Grants For Small Communities
Katherine Boyle, E&E reporter
Members of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
yesterday welcomed a massive increase in funding for water
infrastructure projects in President Obama's fiscal 2010 budget
proposal for U.S. EPA but emphasized the agency will need to provide
grants, rather than loans, to struggling rural communities and
Ranking member Michael Simpson (D-Idaho) said he applauded the $3.9
billion infusion of cash for clean water and drinking water
infrastructure in the $10.5 billion White House proposal but noted
many small communities can ill-afford loans.
Committee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) seconded Simpson's call,
describing a backlog of water infrastructure projects that will take
years and billions of dollars to vanquish.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson emphasized EPA's dedication to
improving drinking water across the nation, though she acknowledged
the agency does not have enough money to solve every problem. "Small
communities deserve the same caliber and quality of water as larger
ones," she said. "EPA would like to work with Congress to come up
with a solution that makes clean water affordable."
Jackson also acknowledged the problems facing tribes, which she said
face many of the same problems plaguing rural communities without
having a tax base to supplement their water projects.
Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) said he was pleased Jackson acknowledged
tribal needs and the trouble facing small communities. He noted they
often have to pay too much for water projects because of the limited
number of people among whom to split the cost.
Jackson said some solutions to water infrastructure problems may be
found in legislation recently passed by the Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee that would authorize nearly $35 billion in
water projects. S.1005 would modernize the grant formula used to
distribute clean water infrastructure funds to benefit low-income
communities, using a new grant formula is based on a 2004 EPA study
(E&ENews PM, May 14).
Jackson also said EPA is considering creating a Great Lakes
advisory position, similar to the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River
advisory post held by Chuck Fox.
The Great Lakes adviser would advise Jackson on steps being taken to
clean up remaining areas of concern in the Great Lakes and the cost
of the project. The position would arrive on the heels of a proposed
$475 million injection of cash for the Great Lakes in Obama's budget
proposal, a significant boost from previous years.
House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) praised the
administration's commitment to the Great Lakes but emphasized the
need for a clear plan to deal with challenges ranging from invasive
species to viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a deadly fish virus.
"I am pleased about the administration's request," he said. "I don't
want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I would like to make
sure the money ... spent is actually going to do something."
On Obey's agenda: cleaning up mercury deposits and preventing
ballast water pollution.
There are various studies by various agencies, but in the end, you
need sound science, he said.
Jackson said the agency would draw upon the Great Lakes Regional
Collaboration to guide its efforts, noting that hundreds of
stakeholders have weighed in on the plan devised by the Great Lakes
She acknowledged the plan called for a $20 billion investment and
said the fiscal 2010 proposal could appear to be a drop in the
bucket. "We will still make sure it's not lost in all the work
that's going to be done" at EPA in the future, she said. "We see it
as a real opportunity ... to make sure EPA gets nothing but A