Pending Water Legislation Discussed at UWC Meeting
September 29, 2003
Conference President Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner moderated a briefing on September 12 for Mayors and Urban Water Council meeting participants on the various bills before Congress affecting the financing of water and wastewater infrastructure projects, security issues, and water quality. Giving presentations were Jon Pawlow, Counsel for the House of Representatives' Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee, Judy Sheahan of the Conference staff, and Andy Shea of Poseidon Resources.
Pawlow presented four bills that the Water Resources Subcommittee has been working on and moving forward through the legislative process. They include the Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act of 2003 (H.R. 866), the Water Quality Financing Act of 2003 (H.R. 1560), the Twenty-First Century Water Commission Act of 2003 (H.R. 135), and the Water Resources Development Act of 2003 or WRDA (H.R. 2557).
Pawlow outlined the major components of each of the bills including the Wastewater Treatment Act that has been designed to help communities ensure wastewater treatment plants and sewers are protected from intentional disruption and terrorist acts by authorizing $200 million for vulnerability assessments and security enhancements, $15 million for technical assistance on security for small wastewater utilities and $5 million for the further development and refinement of vulnerability self-assessment methodologies and tools for wastewater utilities.
The Water Quality Financing Act's goal is to close the estimated $10 billion wastewater infrastructure annual funding gap by increasing investment in wastewater infrastructure and reducing the cost of constructing and maintaining that infrastructure. The bill authorizes $20 billion in Federal grants over 5 years to capitalize Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds (SRFs). The bill also extends repayment periods to up to 30 years and encourages alternative methods of financing projects, and planning for capital replacement needs.
Sheahan outlined the Conference of Mayor's legislative priorities including the latest efforts to prevent MTBE, a fuel-additive intended to improve air quality but which has also been found to contaminate water supplies from being granted liability immunity in the Energy Legislation. It is feared, Sheahan said, that if the provision is included in the legislation, the cost of clean up will be entirely borne by local governments. The legislation is currently being negotiated in conference.
Shea announced the introduction of a bill by Representative Kevin Brady (TX) that would permit the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for certain air and water pollution facilities and to provide that the state volume cap not apply for these types of bonds. The bill, the Clean Air and Water Investment and Infrastructure Security Act of 2003 (HR 3042), has been a priority issue for the Conference of Mayors and the Urban Water Council. These bonds, more commonly known as private activity bonds, could potentially provide additional monetary resources to improve water and wastewater infrastructure.
For copies of the presentations, please visit our website at www.usmayors.org/uscm/urbanwater.