The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee subpanel voted last week to cut funding for water and wastewater infrastructure.
The House fiscal 2014 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill proposes steep cuts to federal loan programs intended to repair decrepit drinking water and wastewater systems. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would see a combined 69% cut from President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, which was already $472 million shy of fiscal 2013 levels. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund would take the deeper hit, being slashed to just $250 million, according to Environment & Energy Publishing.
The revolving funds have come under the knife repeatedly in recent years, even as the country’s water infrastructure is aging and failing. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded the nation’s wastewater and stormwater system a D, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that the country needs as much as $4.8 trillion in water and wastewater investment over the next two decades.
The bill would block any use of funds for work on guidance or regulations aimed at clarifying the scope of waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.
The administration is currently weighing whether to issue the guidance as it moves ahead with a rulemaking on the issue. The energy and water appropriations bill approved by the House earlier this month included a mirror provision.
The bill also includes several provisions aimed at a contentious, long-overdue stormwater rule that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to propose under a settlement agreement with an environmental group. The proposed rule is expected to set the first nationwide requirements for private property to manage stormwater runoff on site and potentially expand the number of municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) that require permits under the Clean Water Act
The House bill would block the agency from moving ahead with the proposed rule, though, until the agency submits a report to Congress on regulatory options and their potential costs. It would also block the agency from regulating certain MS4s that serve populations of fewer than 100,000 people.
A July 31 markup of the full House Appropriations Committee was carried over to after the August recess due to the large number of amendments offered.