AMWA: EPA would win big under Biden budget plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would come out as a big winner in an initial FY22 budget outline released by the Biden administration, according to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. Under the plan, the agency would be in line for a total funding allotment of $11.2 billion or a 21.3 percent increase over its enacted FY21 level. Overall, the plan would increase federal non-defense discretionary spending by 16 percent.

EPA’s proposed budget allocation was outlined as part of the White House’s initial “skinny” budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year. A document released by the White House offers a look at top-line funding proposals for federal departments and agencies and features a few programmatic highlights. The Biden administration is not expected to unveil its complete, detailed FY22 budget plan until later this spring.

Among the highlights included in the EPA portion of the skinny budget plan is the $3.6 billion for water infrastructure, which the White House said represents a $625 million increase over FY21. While the administration did not detail how the funds would be allotted among EPA programs like the State Revolving Funds and WIFIA, it said the funds “could be used to advance water infrastructure improvement efforts for community water systems, schools, and households.” The plan also calls for $75 million to inform the development of drinking water standards and hazardous substance designations for PFAS and grants to help state and local governments address PFAS contamination.

The release of President Biden’s initial budget plan informally kicks off the FY22 appropriations process through which Congress will author the series of appropriations bills that will actually fund government operations. This process will operate on a different track than Biden’s recent infrastructure proposal, which, with lawmakers’ approval, could provide trillions of dollars in additional spending above and beyond the amounts outlined in the annual spending legislation.

AMWA urges EPA to move forward with Lead and Copper Rule

AMWA recently submitted a letter to EPA urging the agency to not further delay the effective date of EPA’s revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The association’s comments are in response to the agency’s proposed rule to delay the date on which the final LCR revisions take effect, or become codified, until December 16, 2021. This delay would be in addition to the initial delay EPA announced on March 10 that pushed back the effective date from March 16 until June 17, 2021. EPA has stated these delays will allow the agency to conduct a thorough review of the rule and fully consult with stakeholders, specifically those disproportionately impacted by lead in drinking water.

But AMWA is urging EPA to rescind the proposal, citing fears that the delay would postpone the “significant public health improvements that will be achieved by implementing the rule as finalized.” The association says it agrees with EPA that engagement with at-risk communities is critical, and AMWA highlighted the extensive engagement the agency has conducted with these communities, other stakeholders, and the public in the past decade. While the letter acknowledges that an additional delay could allow for the collection of additional input, it stresses “the benefits of this must be weighed against the costs of postponing the public health improvements that will be achieved when water systems begin to comply with the final rule in its current form.”

The association’s comments continue by giving EPA suggestions for what to do with the allotted extra time if the agency moves forward with the delay. First, AMWA suggests EPA engage with homeowners to determine their willingness to work with utilities to replace their privately-owned portions of the lead service lines, including this group’s likelihood of paying for the replacement of their section of the pipe. Secondly, AMWA encourages the agency to use this time to work with stakeholders, such as public drinking water utilities, to focus on the development of EPA’s guidance documents that will direct implementation of the rule.

Source: AMWA

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