Government Affairs

PWEA’s Government Affairs Committee provides summaries of recent federal and state legislative and regulatory activities, as well as other information useful to Pennsylvania’s water quality professionals.

Impact on Environmental Agencies with first Trump Administration Budget Blueprint
(abstracted from the March 17, 2017 edition of WEF’s This Week in Washington)
Roughly 3,200 employees (20% of the work force) would be cut from the EPA’s 15,000 member workforce, and the budget would be reduced from $8.1 billion in FY 2016 to $5.7 billion-- its lowest level in 40 years.  
The proposed budget does continue to provide funding for drinking and wastewater infrastructure, including $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Funds (SRFs), which is a $4 million increase over the 2017 Continued Resolution and $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which is the same level of funding as 2017.  The budget eliminates over 50 EPA categorical programs, and regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Program.  It severely cuts funding to the EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance, the EPA Office of Research and Development, and in the areas of climate work and the Clean Power Plan.
Infrastructure is Getting Major News Coverage - Water Receives Poor Grade on ASCE's Infrastructure Report Card
(abstracted from the March 10, 2017 edition of WEF’s This Week in Washington)
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on America’s Infrastructure has issued its
 2017 Infrastructure Report CardIt gave America a grade of D+ , the same grade as the 2013 report.  Wastewater received a grade of D+.  We all know what a D+ grade meant when we were in college or high school; not something you wanted to bring home to your parents!  In the ASCE report, a D+ means “The infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration. Condition and capacity are of serious concern with strong risk of failure.”  Get ready for increased pressure to improve infrastructure.   Hopefully funding will follow.  This is the time for PWEA members to contact their legislators emphasizing the importance of funding for infrastructure improvements. 
WEF Urges its Members to Contact Congress about FY18 Funding for Water Infrastructure!
(abstracted from the March 17, 2017 edition of WEF’s This Week in Washington)
Write to your Members of Congress and urge them to increase funding for clean water infrastructure for FY 2018!  Read more about the benefits of increased funding for the State Revolving Fund Program here.

WEF posted the following Breaking News on Friday December 16, 2016.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a rule requiring dental offices to use separators to remove mercury from amalgam prior to discharging into POTWs.  This rule requires dental offices to adopt two best management practices to further prevent mercury from entering the waste stream: One prohibits the discharge of scrap and the other prohibits the use of line cleaners that may lead to the dissolution of solid mercury when cleaning chair-side traps and vacuum lines. The rule and fact sheet has been posted on EPA’s web site.  For more information, please visit EPA's website or contact Claudio H. Ternieden, WEF's Senior Director, Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at or at (703) 684-2416. 

Breaking News on December 12, 2016 .... The following is quoted from WEF's 12/12/16 newsletter "This Week in Washington":
Congress Passes Legislation Containing WRDA
Over the weekend, prior to Congress recessing to end the 114th Congress, the Senate passed the “Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act,” which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 by a vote of 78-21.  The House passed by bill by a vote of 360-61 on Friday.  President Obama is now expected to sign it into law.  Earlier in the week, negotiators in the House and Senate had released the bill, which authorizes port, waterway, flood protection projects, aid for Flint, MI, and drinking water and wastewater provisions.  While the primary purpose of WRDA bills has traditionally been to authorize Corps projects and programs, the WIIN Act also includes a number of provisions that WEF supported.  Title II of the bill is titled the Water and Waste Act of 2016, and the first section, Section 2101, is a Sense of Congress to urge robust funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs.  This provision is a result of Section 7002 in the earlier Senate version of the WRDA bill which cited a report by WEF and WateReuse that found economic, job creation, and tax revenue benefits from increased federal funding for the SRF programs.

During a December 5, 2016 National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) conference call, consequences from the national election on clean water programs and agencies were discussed and predicted.  Some take-a-ways are as follows:

  • Water will be a high priority for the new administration, in particular water infrastructure.(Incidentally before recessing for the holidays, Congress passed the “Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act,” which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.  President Obama is now expected to sign it into law.)

  • Funding for water and sewer infrastructure investment could approach one trillion dollars per year over a 10-year period.  Tax exempt bonds, however, could be at risk.

  • The new administration may seek to cancel billions in U.N. climate change programs and funnel that funding into domestic water and wastewater infrastructure.

  • It’s not likely that EPA will be dismantled as has been part of recent rhetoric, but EPA will likely be charged with re-focusing on its core mission, i.e., clean air and safe water without creating an excessive regulatory burden

  • The administration may act to repeal or dismantle, the Climate Action Plan, the Clean Power Plan, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Clean Water Rule (WOTUS).

  • There may be staff resistance to change wastewater blending or SSO policies.

  • NACWA is still pursuing full cost pricing and affordability issues of water and sewer including a Low Income Household Water Assistance Program.

News Flash
The Nutrient Survey that was to have been sent out this past October (see item below) has been delayed.  There is some effort on EPA's part to try to get it out before the new administration assumes control in January.  But, there may be further delays, and indeed the entire effort may wither and fade away.  Stay tuned.

Breaking News from WEF
"Congress Comes to Agreement on Water Resources Development Act of 2016 - On Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, negotiators in the House and Senate released the "Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.  The bill, which authorizes port, waterway, flood protection projects, aid for Flint, MI, and drinking water and wastewater provisions, is expected to be considered by the House and Senate prior to Congress recessing on Dec. 9th to end the 114th Congress.  While final passage of the bill is not certain, the bill is the conclusion of months of tough negotiations between the House and Senate to craft the legislation."

Please reach out to your Members of Congress regarding the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA)!
Majority spokespeople for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently expressed commitment to passing a bill in 2016.   
While the House version of the bill
H.R. 5303, focuses almost solely on traditional Army Corps civil works projects, the Senate bill, S. 2848, includes several key provisions affecting water infrastructure funding.
Specifically, Title VII, Drinking Water and Clean Water Infrastructure, in the Senate bill, includes important measures to help communities meet safe and clean water obligations. The Senate's WRDA package does include Title VII.  While the House bill includes some of the provisions in Title VII (such as aid for communities facing drinking water emergencies and authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative), other key provisions are omitted, such as an effort to address ratepayer affordability challenges and authorizations for investments to support clean and safe water infrastructure. 
Water Advocates and all WEF members are urged to write their Members of Congress to support passage of WRDA and inclusion of Title VII. Use this
 link to the Water Advocates page to find your members of the House and Senate and send a pre-drafted letter using the Water Advocates grassroots outreach tool.

For more information contact Amy Kathman at – or call 703 684-2400 ext. 7540.

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
On September 29, 2016 the House of Representatives passed its version of WRDA, an $11.5 billion water resources package.  The vote was 399 – 25.  It authorizes over three dozen Army Corps of Engineers flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects and studies across the country, and authorizes $170 million in aid for Flint, Michigan to assist with the drinking water crisis.  The Flint aid package enabled bipartisan support for the bill.  Now work is underway to reconcile the Senate and House versions of WRDA. The House WRDA bill is much narrower than the Senate version which passed by a vote of 95-3. The Senate bill includes a similar list of Army Corps projects, $220 million for Flint and an entirely separate title dedicated to improving the nations drinking water and clean water infrastructure.  It calls upon Congress to provide robust funding for the SRF programs.  For more information click hereSeveral Senators have recently urged inclusion of dam rehabilitation in WRDA to address our nation’s nonfederal dams.  Read more hereWEF and ASCE have undertaken major initiatives to urge Congress to pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) this year.

EPA Distributes Survey on Nutrients
On October 20, the USEPA sent a letter to all POTWs in the US regarding the National Study of Nutrient Removal and Secondary Technologies.  The letter can be seen hereThe objective of the program is to gather information.  Details can be seen here and hereThe USEPA's strategy for addressing the nutrient problem in partnership with states can be viewed here.

Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Program
In January, the Wolf administration unveiled a strategy to enhance Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort.  The Bay Journal reported in an August 7, 2016 article that the effort has been lagging.  Increased inspections of farms throughout the watershed is expected.

Green Infrastructure Financing Tools
Bloomberg BNA has issued a report entitled Financing Integrated Green Stormwater Infrastructure to Improve Community Health, Resiliency - Getting the Best Deal for the Money It may be helpful to municipalities seeking to understand traditional and innovative ways to finance stormwater infrastructure investments.  The authors are Dominique Lueckenhoff (EPA Region 3 Deputy Director for Water Protection Division) and Seth Brown (formerly of the Water Environment Federation).

Safe Drinking Water Act
The House is considering updates to SDWA including changes to make it easier for the USEPA to set drinking water standards. There has not been a major update to SDWA in 20 years. 

Groundwater Corrosivity
AWWA Water Services Insider, July 15, 2016, reports that the USGS has issued a report entitled Potential Corrosivity of Untreated Groundwater in the United StatesThe report addresses groundwater corrosivity on a state by state basis.  USEPA guidance on corrosion control can be found hereAWWA is evaluating whether the two reports are consistent in their guidance and recommendations.

Don’t forget to check the latest news from PADEP.

MS4 Phase II Remand Rule
The Water Environment Federation is offering a free webcast on the final rule signed on November 17, 2016. The webcast will be held on December 6, 2016 from 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EST.