SWIC Newsletter — April 2016

In February, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced legislation, S. 2606, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act to spur capital investment and to ensure the reliability and safety of the nation’s water infrastructure. Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.) have also introduced the same bill, H.R. 499, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation will remove the volume cap on private activity bond (PAB) financing of water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

“Flint has taught us all that ignoring our aging water infrastructure has dire consequences,” said Menendez. “We’ve underinvested in our infrastructure, certainly we’ve underinvested in water systems, and now we’re paying the price. These systems are old and badly degraded. Many of them are waiting to fail, and they need to be fixed. We can’t sit back, do nothing, and fail to address the public health dangers of an aging infrastructure.”

“It’s not just burst mains we need to worry about,” said Pascrell. “About a quarter of the treated water in this country is lost as it travels to our homes and businesses. Fixing these aging systems is a pressing need and upgrades can help alleviate threats to public health and also create needed construction jobs throughout the country.”

Lifting the state volume cap on private activity bonds that fund water and wastewater projects will open the door for more public private partnerships and infuse significant private capital into the nation’s critical water infrastructure.

“With the volatile nature of federal water infrastructure funding, it is vital that state and local governments have access to all the tools to better fix the country’s aging infrastructure and meet the water challenges of tomorrow,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “This legislation could unlock billions in private money for the economy, public health, and the environment.”

“Associated Equipment Distributors and its members commend Senators Crapo and Menendez for working in a bipartisan manner to address our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure,” added Associated Equipment Distributors president & CEO Brian McGuire. “The legislation will address years of underfunding in one of our nation’s greatest resources — clean water.”

The Associated Equipment Distributors and the Associated General Contractors of America are Steering Committee Members of SWIC.

Beyond Flint

In March, SWIC met with the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors to discuss water infrastructure challenges in Mississippi. During the meeting, Mayor Thelma Collins from Itta Bena, Miss., reminded SWIC and other participants that the drinking water crisis is not just in Flint but in many towns across the country. The nearby City of Jackson, Miss., is the latest community threatened by lead in drinking water supplies.

“They have a lead problem, they have a water problem and a water infrastructure problem,” said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “Just because one locality is getting more of the publicity, doesn’t mean that we don’t have a national problem.”

To help address the crisis in Flint and other communities around the nation, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), EPW Committee Chairman, along with Ranking Member Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), joined Michigan Senators and others in introducing the Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act, which provides funding to address lead and other contaminants in public drinking water systems, including loans from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The new legislation, introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), also requires rapid notification if there are high levels of lead found in a public drinking water system. In addition, the bill provides resources for monitoring public health and educational outreach in communities with lead contamination.

To pay for the initiative, Stabenow proposes to utilize non-expended funds from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program – a budget offset first offered up by her Finance Committee colleague Sen. Menendez in 2012 for his water PAB infrastructure legislation. The ATVM Program, which issued its last loan in 2011, currently has $4 billion in unexpended funds. More importantly, the program has only one outstanding loan – a $5.9 billion loan at 0.25 percent interest issued in 2009 to Ford Motor Company, which currently has $17 billion in cash according to recent company financials.

SWIC strongly supports advancing the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act and provisions of the Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act to help address the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure needs and to protect public health.  Moreover, SWIC supports the use of unexpended appropriations, especially from inactive federal programs to pay for critical infrastructure needs. SWIC is currently working with members to develop innovative finance programs similar to what Congress enacted for the automotive and telecommunications industries.

Contact your Representatives today at 202-224-3121 or www.house.gov or www.senate.gov and ask them to co-sponsor the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act and Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act.

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