Recap: NEWEA Congressional Briefing

NEWEA Congressional Briefing
Washington, DC – April 12-13, 2016

NEWEA Representatives gathered in Washington DC for Congressional Briefing Event

NEWEA Representatives gathered in Washington DC for the 2016 Congressional Briefing

A delegation of NEWEA members, led by Government Affairs Committee Chair Peter Grose and Vice Chair Bob Fischer, traveled to Washington, DC in mid-April to make a pitch to our Senators and Congressmen for support of clean water in New England and our nation. The trip had three main focuses; explaining to our federal legislators what is important to us as water quality professionals, learning more about the status of clean water legislation and building working relationships.

The signature event was the 2016 Congressional Clean Water Breakfast, held in the Rayburn House Office Building on April 13th. Speakers included; legislators, regulators, government officials, including Mayor Daniel Rivera of the City of Lawrence, MA, utilities and water organizations.

The NEWEA contingent was very busy over the two-day event – meeting with senators, representatives, and their aides on Capitol Hill.  NEWEA members served as “boots on the ground” providing information and stressing the importance of clean water.  The NEWEA Congressional Briefing was coordinated with the National Water Policy Fly-in this year. This event was sponsored by WEF, NACWA, WERF and Water Reuse which brought in visitors from across the country to engage congress with activities similar to our own.

Top Priority – Provide Critical Federal Funding for Water Quality

  • EPA’s budget request for FY2017 proposes to cut the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by $414 million, or 30%! (The FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in Congress in December 2015 funded the CWSRF at $1.394 billion, which was $55 million less than the previous year!)
  • The proposed decrease in funding for this critical funding source runs strongly counter to the significant and increasing costs for repairing and replacing our deteriorating, aging wastewater infrastructure. Furthermore water and wastewater utilities are facing substantial and growing expenses for hardening these vulnerable facilities against the relentless impacts of rising sea level and more severe weather events.
  • Senators and Representatives need to actively support higher levels of funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund!
    • Support letters being circulated in Congress supporting strong, job-creating infrastructure investments. The House Democrats are recommending $2.0 billion funding for the CWSRF and a bipartisan House letter supports “robust” CWSRF funding.
    • Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has introduced S.2532, which would ramp up the CWSRF budget from $5.18 billion to $9.06 billion between now and FY2020
    • NEWEA sent letters to Congressional leaders requesting funding of the CWSRF ($2B), the WIFIA pilot program ($35M), Title 19 ($23.4M) and Integrated Planning ($16M)

Other Water Funding Priorities

  • The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hopes to pass a new Water Resources Development Act (WRRDA) in 2016. This follow-up to the 2014 WRRDA would authorize new Army Corps of Engineers projects, some of which are coordinated with stormwater and water reuse initiatives. Can we build on the bipartisan support for surface infrastructure upgrades (the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act passed in early December) and turn Congress’ attention to our aging, buried and out-of-sight wastewater infrastructure?
  • Climate Resiliency – Sea level is rising and severe weather is becoming more frequent and intense. Water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructures are vulnerable to climate change. Investments in proactively hardening our infrastructure are far more cost-effective and less disruptive than reacting after-the-fact to deal with the significant damage caused by more-frequent natural disasters. Funding for improvements in resiliency to climate change need to be a priority.
  • CWSRF Allocations – Per the 2014 WRRDA, the EPA was scheduled to review the current state-by-state allocation of the overall CWSRF budget by the end of December. This report has been delayed, and we need to remain diligent, as revisions to the allocations may have an adverse impact on the amount of CWSRF funds going to New England states.

Other Issues Facing the Clean Water Industry

Stormwater Management – The EPA released its proposed Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit Remand Rule in December. The EPA has proposed a General Permit approach in the regulations, and the public comment period ends March 21. NEWEA requests the new rules provide for a high degree of flexibility in addressing objectives of the regulations.

Ocean Acidification – Ocean acidification is a global water quality issue primarily caused by excess atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean. For coastal New England, the impact of ocean acidification is magnified in coastal areas that are also nutrient-rich and eutrophic. There is pressure on EPA and coastal states to address this issue through the CWA impaired waters law (Section 303(d)), but the data are incomplete and there is disagreement as to the best management approaches. We recommend increased monitoring and research to provide the data needed to inform management actions on this serious and growing issue.

Non-Dispersible’s – As the use of “wipes” and similar health care fabrics has increased, many of these products have been flushed into the nation’s sewers. Most do not degrade and have led to clogged pipes and pumps in many sewer systems, causing numerous overflows. Keeping wipes that do not disperse out of sewers through proper labeling and education is important to avoiding significant operational problems and expense.

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2 Responses to Recap: NEWEA Congressional Briefing

  1. Peter Goodwin May 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    I would also like to thankthe City of Portsmouth, NH for allowing David Allen, P.E.- Deputy City Manager and long time Assistant Public Works Director to join the NHWPCA group and share his extensive 25+ years of infrastructure related challenges at the Breakfast and with the Congressional Delegation. Best wishes on your retirement

  2. Dwight Richardson May 18, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

    Stay active and let your voices continue to be heard. They need to be brought along the enlightened self interest trail. You are their constituents and they want above all else to be reelected. Make clean water their key to a win– win strategy attracting support from party members and Independents.

    Make it your cause by doing something positive every day.

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