Copyright 2002 McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Monday, February 25, 2002
Vol. 248, No. 7
Senate Bill Would Hike Funds For Water Infrastructure
By Tom Ichniowski
After being on the sidelines for a while, water
infrastructure is gaining a
higher Capitol Hill profile. On Feb. 15, Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee leaders introduced a bill that would authorize a huge
federal aid boost for the state revolving funds that finance wastewater
treatment and drinking water facilities. Bills also are expected in the
House. But even if a big authorization passes, it will be up to
appropriations panels to determine how much the programs will get each
year. Appropriators aren't likely to approve such funding leaps. Still,
the Senate bill may provide a push for an increase this year.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by fisheries, wildlife
subcommittee Chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.), has full committee Chairman
M. Jeffords (Ind.-Vt.) as a co-sponsor. It proposes $35 billion for
Environmental Protection Agency water infrastructure over five years.
Water SRFs would get $20 billion, and drinking water SRFs $15 billion.
President Bush's 2003 budget proposes just $1.2 billion for Clean Water
and $850 million for drinking water. At a Feb. 13 hearing on EPA's
Jeffords said he's concerned those requests aren't adequate. EPA
Christine Todd Whitman says those sums would let the revolving funds
more than $2 billion, even if there is no new money. "That is robust,"
says, but she also acknowledges that water requirements outstrip that
"It's still going to need much more than that," she says.
The National Utility Contractors Association hailed the Senate bill.
the key components are in there," says Eben Wyman, vice president for
government relations. "The authorization levels, if this passes, will be
finally substantially increased. It's definitely a big step in the right
direction." NUCA is happy that the bill keeps the SRFs, rather than
at the center of EPA's water program.
"In general, we're happy that the leadership has stepped up and said
water infrastructure is a priority," says Tim Williams, the Water
Federation's government affairs director. He calls the $35-billion
good start," but notes that the Water Infrastructure Network has said
contributions should be $57 billion over the five-year span. He is also
concerned that the bill would require local wastewater treatment
the first time to demonstrate "technical, managerial and financial
capacity," to receive SRF aid. The committee says the provision is based
Safe Drinking Water Act mandates.
If appropriators don't adopt the authorizations, that could lead to "the
unhappy situation of having imposed a lot of new requirements on [SRF]
recipients without there being an infusion of new money," Williams says.
BILL PROPOSES INCREASE IN EPA WATER FUNDING
(in $ mil.)
APPROPRIATION ----PROPOSED AUTHORIZATIONS---
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Clean Water SRF 1,350 3,200 3,200 3,600 4,000 6,000
Drinking Water SRF 850 1,500 2,000 2,000 3,500 6,000
Totals: 2,200 4,700 5,200 5,600 7,500 12,000
Sources: Office of Management and Budget, Senate Environment and Public