More Infrastructure Funds In EPA Budget
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) used
EPA's budget hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee to question
Administrator Christine Todd Whitman about the level of water infrastructure funding in
the agencys FY2002 budget. The hearing was held the week of May 14, 2001.
The budget includes $2.1 billion in grants to states for water infrastructure,
including $850 million in the clean water state revolving loan fund (CW-SRF), $823 in the
drinking water SRF and $450 million for a new program to address infrastructure needs
related to combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows. Voinovich noted
that the budget for continued capitalization of the CW-SRF represented a $500 million cut
from the $1.35 billion Congress has appropriated in recent years.
On the House side, a bipartisan group of 50 lawmakers sent a letter to Rep. James Walsh
(R-N.Y.), chairman of the Appropriations VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee,
asking for an increase in FY2002 funding for the CW-SRF to at least $1.35 billion.
They also requested full funding of $750 million for the new wet weather grants program.
Return to top
Water Infrastructure Hearings Held In House and Senate
The week of March 26, 2001 was a busy one for WIN with hearings in both the
House and Senate. WIN
testimony as well as other testimony and details of the hearings are now
Return to top
Controversy Competes With Testimony At Water Hearings
Courtesy of eenews (3/28/01)
Move over California, the nation's next crisis is here: water. In so many words, that
was the theme that developed at a pair of House subcommittee hearings Wednesday aimed at
uncovering the need for comprehensive drinking water and wastewater infrastructure funding
and legislation. By day's end, in-depth testimony questioning the financial viability of a
total overhaul of the nation's water systems had been matched by environmentally minded
lawmakers sounding off over the most recent Bush administration move on the arsenic
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman appeared at her second
hearing on the subject of water infrastructure in as many days. But the former New Jersey
governor's testimony on the subject at hand was delayed while lawmakers pounced on her
decision earlier this month to delay the Clinton administration rule changing the
allowable level of arsenic in the nation's drinking water from 50 parts per billion (ppb)
to 10 ppb. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), in particular, made his feelings known
during opening statements in the House Energy and Resources Committee hearing. Waxman,
mimicking the Academy Awards ceremony, gave Whitman a "Golden Jackpot" trophy
filled with chocolate for her decision to hold off on implementing the arsenic standards
until further studies could be done.
Whitman said she agreed with Waxman that a standard needs to be set, only to say that
other factors such as economics must be considered before the rule goes into effect.
Maintaining her previous statements that a standard would be met before the 2006 deadline
mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, Whitman added that she had not been directly
lobbied on the issue by timber or mining industry officials. She also said White House
officials kept their distance on the subject. Waxman, meanwhile, responded by saying water
systems will continue to be polluted and the public health remains at risk while the EPA
looks into the matter.
Later, after Whitman had finished giving her testimony, she said she was dismayed that
the bigger picture of infrastructure issues was overlooked in favor of the arsenic rule.
"If there are those who want to score partisan points, that is unfortunate," she
Whitman said EPA will address a number of key infrastructure issues is in its upcoming
"gap analysis," a historical assessment expected this summer that will reveal
previous capital investments on drinking water and wastewater and also addresses
operations, maintenance and the costs of infrastructure improvements that could be passed
on to consumers. In her testimony, Whitman pointed to all of those issues as key
components for further evaluation. Also included in her list was emerging environmental
and public health demands, notably arsenic.
Earlier in the day, committee heavyweights came out for the House Transportation and
Infrastructure subcommittee hearing on the same subject. Full Committee Chairman Don Young
(R-Alaska), former Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Sherwood
Boehlert (R-N.Y.), and subcommittee ranking member Rep. Robert Borski (D-Pa.) all made it
clear that something needed to be done on water issues soon. Young emphatically said that
water infrastructure is both "badly needed" and a "major crisis facing this
country," suggesting that one solution would be to organize a federal agency to head
up the issue while ensuring that there be no "waste in bureaucracy" and
"waste on delays."
Many of Young's suggestions, also made by other lawmakers, are also seen in a February report compiled by the Water Infrastructure
Network (WIN). According to the report, the nation is facing a $23 billion
annual gap over the next 20 years that should be financed partially by federal funds. But
Wednesday's morning hearing also gave a glimpse into some new criticisms to the WIN
report. According to the Congressional Budget Office, which is conducting an ongoing
review of the WIN report as requested by both the Transportation and Infrastructure
and Energy and Commerce subcommittees, there are a number of inconsistencies that cause
Perry Beider, a CBO principal analyst, said the WIN estimates are uncertain and
possibly overblown. He said the "lion's share" of the proposed funds are aimed
at investments on rehabilitating or replacing water and sewer pipes but there is no
national inventory of pipe ages and conditions to base those investment needs. He said WIN
analysts are relying on rough national assumptions that add significantly to the
uncertainty seen in a 20-year cost projection. Beider also said that while the WIN
report says needs have been underestimated, CBO has found factors suggesting the estimates
may be too large.
On the potential impact on water consumers, Beider said that "proposals intended
to address the equity problem of keeping rates affordable may adversely affect efficiency
by raising total national costs." He said that considering the differences in
expenses from one water system to the next based on each's operation and investment plans,
federal funds should be provided in a way that gives system operators and water users the
appropriate incentives to keep costs and usage down.
Like the EPA, Beider said the CBO is also looking into the affordability issues
associated with infrastructure needs and will provide additional information later this
year. In a related matter, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has asked the
General Accounting Office to do its own outside review of the WIN report, though no
indication was given at a Tuesday hearing if GAO was finished.
Lee Garrigan, a WIN spokeswoman, said her organization has been working with CBO
officials on the analysis and welcomes the review. Regarding the CBO criticisms, she said
infrastructure debate is a first for the nation and "everybody involved is feeling
their waythrough." While there is no complete survey to determine the conditions and
extent of the nation's underground water and wastewater pipes, Garrigan said it is clear
from anecdotes on daily maintenance from across the country that there is a need to fund a
"You always have differences in numbers," she said. "This is
-- Darren Samuelsohn
Return to top
Committee Announces Plans To Pass Water Infrastructure
Legislation This Congress
In its annual Views and Estimates report, the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee said it "intends to move water infrastructure legislation in this Congress
to address [infrastructure needs], with significantly increased authorization levels
beginning in FY 2003." The report cited estimates of drinking water and wastewater
infrastructure needs released by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), a group of more
than 30 organizations.
The main purpose of the report is to signal Congressional budget committee leaders to
raise the self-imposed budget caps that determine the amount of appropriations Congress
can approve for various programs.
The first step in the committees efforts to pass legislation is a hearing set for
March 28 on water and wastewater infrastructure needs by the Transportation and
Infrastructure Committees Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
Hearings are also expected to be held this spring by the House Energy and Commerce
Committees Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials and the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee. (3/19/01) (Courtesy of AMWA).
Return to top
Call For More Infrastructure Funding Comes From All Corners
In the last few weeks since the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) released its
drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs analysis and recommendations for
addressing them, several parties have echoed WINs call.
The supporters include several senators, Republican and Democratic, who sent President
Bush a letter on March 14 urging him to boost infrastructure funding in his forthcoming
budget. Also, its annual recommendations to budget committee leaders, the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee expressed a need to increase the budget limits
on water infrastructure funding.
Another group called the Clean Water Network, a loose coalition of environmental
groups, also called on Congress for more funding. In a March 14 letter, the group
recommended a significant boost in infrastructure funds for water and wastewater systems.
The Clean Water Network outlined five sets of criteria for infrastructure funding:
- funds should only be for water and wastewater needs and source water protection.
- funds should not subsidize new development.
- the funding program should assure accountability by fund recipients.
- funds could be used to restructure or consolidate systems that are in significant
noncompliance with the law.
- priority should be given to projects that address the most serious threats to public
health; systems with the greatest need, based on affordability; and small systems with
Also, the Environmental Council of States, a coalition of state environment department
directors, passed a resolution at their recent conference urging Congress to increase
infrastructure funding. (3/19/01) (Courtesy of AMWA).
Return to top
EPA Estimate About One-Third Of True Infrastructure Needs
In February 2001, EPA released its latest estimate of drinking water infrastructure
needs, based on surveys of about 3,800 water systems in 1999. The survey found that the
total infrastructure need nationwide is $150.9 billion for the next 20 years. The report
may be downloaded from www.epa.gov/ogwdw/needs.html.
However, the reported total only covers specific documented infrastructure needs,
mainly those related to compliance with current and future EPA rules. It does not include
the vast majority of needs not documented by states, including the cost of replacing aging
treatment facilities and distribution systems, which represents the largest infrastructure
expense facing the nation's water suppliers. EPA concedes that the survey underestimates
the true need due to the stringent documentation requirements.
By comparison to the Water Infrastructure Network's (WIN) analysis, the EPA data only
represents about one-third of the total infrastructure costs facing the nation's 55,000
water suppliers. WIN based its findings not only on EPA data, but also on information from
the Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau, the American Water Works Association and
projections based on when pipe was laid and treatment facilities were built.
In February AMWA and the other members of WIN offered a blueprint to Congress to help
cover some of these overwhelming costs. Water
Infrastructure Now, released on February 13 at the U.S. Capitol, asks Congress to
provide $57 billion over the next five years in loans and grants for drinking water and
wastewater systems. (Courtesy of AMWA),
Return to top
Senators Ask For Infrastructure Increase In Bush 2002 Budget
President Bush will soon receive a letter signed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators
urging him to boost water infrastructure funding in his FY 2002 budget plan. The letter,
directed to the president, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and OMB Director
Mitchell Daniels, urges increased federal assistance to help communities "protect
public health and promote economic well-being by leveraging critical investments in
America's existing water and wastewater infrastructure.
The Senators ask Bush to significantly increase both the drinking water and clean water
state revolving funds. While the letter does not suggest a specific funding level, it does
say a recent EPA estimate of a $220 billion water infrastructure funding shortfall may be
too low. The latest report of the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), which is credited
with sparking current congressional interest in the issue, recommended that Congress
provide $57 billion over a five-year period for water infrastructure maintenance, repairs
Return to top
Bill Introduced To Fund Small Community Drinking Water
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week introduced the Small Community Drinking Water Act.
The bill would provide as much as $500 million a year in grants for towns with a
population under 10,000 to upgrade their drinking water systems. The funds would be used
to remove a host of unsafe contaminants in drinking water, including arsenic. (3/12/01).
Return to top
Drinking Water Infrastructure Graded "D"
In an annual Report Card on America's Infrastructure by the American Society of Civil
Engineers, drinking water infrastructure received a grade of "D" for the second
year in a row. The society cited drinking water infrastructure systems as
"quintessential examples of aged systems that need to be updated." Overall, the
society gave the nation's infrastructure (including transportation, wastewater, waste and
energy sectors) a "D+" and estimated the five year infrastructure needs
shortfall at $1.3 trillion. The low overall grade resulted from explosive population
growth and school enrollment, local political opposition and "red tape" and the
growing obsolescence of aging systems. To see the report, visit www.asce.org/reportcard.