Water Infrastructure Bills Advance in House

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Last week, two bipartisan water infrastructure bills that advance NLC’s Rebuild With Us infrastructure campaign saw action in the House. Together, the bills address the nation’s aging water infrastructure and provide communities with additional flexibility in improving their water systems.

On Oct. 28, the House passed the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act (H.R. 2440) to ensure the full use of funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for harbor maintenance purposes.

The HMTF is a tax levied against importers and domestic shippers using ports and harbors in coastal and Great Lakes areas. While the HMTF has an existing balance of $9.5 billion, only a portion is appropriated by Congress every year for operations and maintenance of the nation’s harbors. H.R. 2440 would enable, without appropriation, the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade for critical harbor and port projects to improve our nation’s infrastructure and secure our economic vitality. The lead cosponsors for H.R. 2440 are:

  • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR),
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO),
  • Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Grace Napolitano (D-CA),Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and
  • Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA).

Additionally, on Oct. 29, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act (H.R. 1497) by voice vote. The bill would reauthorize and increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program, which is an essential tool for communities to provide clean and safe water for residents and businesses. The bill also would extend the authorization of sewer overflow control grants to enable communities to better manage their wet weather flows and invest in green infrastructure and water and energy efficiency projects.

Prior to Committee markup, Committee leaders amended the bill to include legislation that NLC has previously advocated for that would extend the maximum term for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued under the Clean Water Act from five to 10 years.

Current federal law only provides for 5-year NPDES permits terms. Extending the permit term to up to 10 years would better reflect planning and construction schedules for local water and wastewater treatment projects. It would also provide the kind of flexibility needed by local governments to achieve clean water goals more efficiently.

The new language, however, would terminate a regulator’s authority in a delegated state to issue administrative extensions of 5-year permits and shift permit responsibility to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when such permit renewals are delayed. In a letter to Committee leadership, NLC opposed the inclusion of this provision in H.R. 1497 that would alter current policy and practice. The lead cosponsors of H.R. 1497 are Reps. DeFazio, Napolitano, Don Young (R-AK) and John Katko (R-NY).

NLC will continue to monitor and share updates on legislation related to crucial infrastructure funding and improvements.

Carolyn-Berndt-small.jpgAbout the Author: Carolyn Berndt is the program director for infrastructure and sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.