U.S. Senate, House hold four hearings on ACWA priority issues

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Jun 9, 2021
  • Water News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held hearings and mark-ups on the Biden Administration’s budget, water contaminants and threats to public health, as well as potential legislation to be included in an infrastructure package.

Budget and Appropriations

Two Senate Appropriations Subcommittees held hearings on the president’s budget request, listening to officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). The Senate Interior and Environment Appropriation Subcommittee focused on EPA, remarking their appreciation for the president’s 22% requested increase to EPA. However, they expressed hope for additional increases for specific programs.

Additionally, Senators questioned EPA Administrator Michael Regan about the agency’s priorities, including climate change, a review of the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, review and remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and preparing for a “silver tsunami” effect wherein half of all EPA staff would be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

At the same time, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), examined the Corps and Reclamation estimated budgets and justifications. During opening remarks, Feinstein noted many western states are experiencing severe drought conditions and that the Corps and Reclamation must play key roles in addressing the crisis.

With the highest annual budget ever proposed, the Corps’ $6.8 billion budget focuses on investments that will yield high economic and environmental returns, increasing resiliency to climate change; facilitating safe, reliable and sustainable commercial navigation; and accelerating and improving the delivery of water resources projects. Similarly, Reclamation’s proposed budget of nearly $1.5 billion focuses on modernizing and maintaining infrastructure, conserving natural resources, using science and research to inform decision-making, serving underserved populations, and staying as nimble as possible in response to the real-time resiliency and long-term adaptation requirements of drought and a changing climate.

Contaminants

Also in the Senate, witnesses before the Environment and Public Works Committee shared their experiences with PFAS. The hearing focused on PFAS pollution tied to the use of PFAS-laden aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), Department of Defense legacy PFAS pollution cleanup issues and the option to hold polluters responsible by designating PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). One witness, G. Tracy Mehan III the Executive Director for Government Affairs with American Water Works Association, emphasized that additional funding is still needed for research to assess and address the human health effects of PFAS exposure; identify analytical methods that quantify levels of PFAS in drinking water and wastewater; and further develop cost-effective technologies to remove PFAS to levels that do not post health concerns.

Infrastructure

Finally, across the Capitol rotunda, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to markup two pieces of legislation that may be included in an infrastructure package negotiation. Of primary importance to water managers, the committee marked up and amended H.R. 1915, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021. The legislation largely focuses on funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, which provides communities low-cost financing for water quality infrastructure projects.

Members of the committee noted that while the investments included in H.R. 1915 are a good place to start, the national need for funding for water infrastructure funding is much greater, especially when considering the effects of climate change. The sentiment of the committee echoes recent letters sent by the broad western water infrastructure coalition, of which ACWA is a leading member of, and also includes agricultural interests, as well as many urban, suburban, and rural water providers. Several amendments were accepted during the markup and the bill was reported favorably out of committee.

ACWA staff continues to track developments on priority issues for members, the fiscal year 2022 budget, as well as a potential infrastructure package. Please contact ACWA’s DC Office for any questions on federal activity or Congressional hearings at jayt@acwa.com.

For more details regarding the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water hearing on the Army Corps and Reclamation budget, visit the hearing website.

For more details regarding the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment hearing on the EPA budget, visit the hearing website.

For more details regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on PFAS, visit the committee website.

For more details regarding the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on infrastructure legislation, visit the committee website.

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