NUCA Political Insiders Report October 15, 2019

CWC Supports Water Legislation Prior to House Mark Up:  NUCA is in the process of re-energizing the Clean Water Council (CWC), a diverse coalition of construction contractors, manufacturers, distributors, service providers, and labor unions working to increase financing for badly-needed improvements to America’s water and wastewater infrastructure. Our environmental infrastructure provides Americans with safe drinking water, protects our nation’s waterways, beaches, and other recreational opportunities, and helps provide the resources needed to keep our economy moving. Taken together, well-functioning water infrastructure is indispensable to the health of our country.

Rapidly aging wastewater systems and the lack of a sustainable revenue source, along with rising costs of compliance with environmental standards, present local communities with ever-increasing challenges in providing infrastructure improvements. At the same time, the federal government has contributed a decreasing share of the total funding provided for water and wastewater infrastructure. The CWC was established decades ago to address this growing problem.

Late last month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing entitled “The Administration’s Priorities and Policy Initiatives Under the Clean Water Act (CWA)”, where the committee discussed a range of issues related to the statute. Topics included the recent rollback by the Trump Administration of the contentious, Obama-era “Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)” regulation, water contamination, and the need to address wastewater infrastructure needs.

In what he referred to as an “infrastructure crisis,” T&I Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) indicated that the “EPA estimates that some $270 billion in infrastructure investment is needed over the next 20 years – and that is just to get our country’s current wastewater infrastructure into good shape.” Hundreds of billions more are estimated to address the nation’s drinking water infrastructure needs.

DeFazio went on to point out that “[d]espite these demonstrated needs, the Trump administration proposed massive cuts to the primary water infrastructure investment program – the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program (CW SRF) – asking for barely $1 billion for fiscal year 2020. That is a ridiculously low amount given the need.” Soon after this hearing, NUCA visited with top staff of the House T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, who reported that legislation to authorize $15 billion for the CW SRF would soon be considered.

The CWC is reacting quickly by sending a letter of support for the measure. The CWC will soon discuss this bill and other water infrastructure issues with T&I committee staff about ways the coalition can support this bill and others that would increase public funding and other financing options for this critical infrastructure.

EEIA Supports New CWA Rules Proposed by EPA:  As previously reported, NUCA is working as a member of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA) effort intended to clarify authority provided to states under CWA Section 401 (CWA 401), which allows states to determine whether any discharges from energy projects are in compliance with state water quality standards. Problems have surfaced in several states, where CWA 401 has become a way to delay or otherwise obstruct the development of natural gas and oil pipeline projects.

On October 8th, EEIA sent a letter (https://www.nuca.com/files/EPA-401-Sign-on-Letter-FINAL.pdf) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing support for the agency’s recent proposal to provide clarity, consistency and regulatory certainty in the process for state and tribal execution of their CWA 401 authority. The proposed rule would establish standards for timely reviews of applications, ensure the focus of their review is on areas intended by the CWA, and set clear and consistent standards for implementation. EEIA maintains this clarification would better ensure effective protection of our water resources.

“In the absence of definitive boundaries, some states have taken advantage of ambiguity in Section 401 to deny certification on grounds outside the Section’s purposes and intent,” according to the EEIA letter. “This has resulted in delay or cancellation of vitally needed energy infrastructure projects that would otherwise have provided consumers and our environment the tremendous benefits of increased access to affordable clean energy.”

Obstruction of certification of energy infrastructure projects on grounds other than intended by the CWA has resulted in “large-scale loss of work, stranded investments in equipment and materials, and inability of our businesses and workforce to plan for efficient deployment and utilization of both human and capital assets,” according to EEIA. Representing part of the “supply chain” of the energy production and transportation industry, NUCA was pleased to sign onto this letter.

NUCA 2020 Washington Summit: If you are going to our 2020 Convention & Exhibit in Tucson, Arizona in late February, please plan on attending our Advocacy educational session where the latest news from Washington affecting your business will be discussed. More details about this Convention advocacy session will be released by the end of the year.

And for those who want to actively participate in the NUCA government affairs program next year, plan on traveling to the Nation’s Capital for NUCA’s 2020 Washington Summit, now scheduled for May 19-21, 2020. Save the date, and expect more details about our annual advocacy fly-in program in the months ahead. 2020 is an election year for Congress and the Presidency, so there will be much to discuss about the future of infrastructure legislation and environmental regulations.

Remember to pass this issue of Political Insider along to others at your company who would be interested in knowing about the association’s work in Washington, D.C. to improve your business’s environment.