House approves EPA spending bill

The House of Representatives has approved FY19 appropriations legislation that would provide funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) next year. The bill as approved by the House would facilitate billions of dollars’ worth of low-cost water infrastructure loans.

The bill, an Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, contains a total of $35.3 billion in funding for programs that protect and make the best use of domestic natural resources, that provide investments in infrastructure such as improvements for drinking water systems, and that help protect against and fight devastating wildfires. The bill also makes strides to rein in harmful regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The appropriations legislation would deliver just over $8 billion to EPA, a figure that includes $1.013 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and $1.543 billion for the Clean Water SRF. While the amounts provided for each SRF are $150 million below each program’s FY18 funding levels, they would still represent appropriations well above what each program has typically received in recent years. The legislation includes a provision that would continue to apply “Buy America” restrictions for iron and steel products used on projects funded in whole or in part with SRF funds.

The bill also includes a total of $77 million for EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which provides low-cost financing for large-scale drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects.  The bill’s WIFIA funding includes $67 million that could be leveraged into more than $8 billion worth of loans to communities, plus an additional $10 million to help EPA administer the program.  Lawmakers had originally written the bill to give EPA $8 billion in administrative funds for WIFIA, but an amendment adopted on the House floor boosted that sum by $2 million.

“These bills fund vital programs across the federal government, including those that make Americans safer, protect our nation’s resources, and create jobs, especially in America’s small businesses. The package targets resources to programs that will help boost economic growth and opportunity, protect consumers and investors, promote an efficient federal court system, and help stop financial crime,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said.

Other amendments adopted on the House floor would direct funding to EPA to carry out the next Clean Watersheds Needs Survey and provide an additional $10 million to support an EPA grant program aimed at helping communities replace lead service lines.

According to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the Senate could begin consideration of its own FY19 EPA funding bill as soon as this week. That bill, as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, would provide slightly higher SRF funding than the House-passed measure, but slightly less WIFIA funding.

Source: AMWA

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