H.R. 1262: Water Quality Investment Act of 2009

H.R. 1262

Water Quality Investment Act of 2009

Date
March 12, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 1262 is expected to be considered on the floor on March 12, 2009 under a structured rule.  This legislation was introduced by Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) on March 3, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1262 reauthorizes several federal grant programs and implements new national reporting standards on municipalities and water treatment works operators.

Clean Water State Revolving Funds:  H.R. 1262 authorizes $13.8 billion in federal grants over five years to further capitalize the Clean Water State Revolving Funds.  These funds provide loans and subsidies (such as negative interest loans and principal forgiveness) to local communities for water infrastructure.  Additionally, the bill would expand the types of water projects eligible for these funds to include, for example, lake protection programs, water facility security, and watershed improvement pilot projects.  H.R. 1262 also extends the repayment period to 30 years for the loans.  This repayment period is up from 20 years under current law.

Davis-Bacon:  Contractors would be required to pay prevailing wages and benefits in order to receive work flowing from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds.  Some Members may be concerned that this legislation expands Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions for contractors receiving Clean Water State Revolving Funds for treatment work projects. 

According to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republicans, "This new expansion of Davis-Bacon requirements would inflate the cost of clean water projects across our nation and ultimately result in fewer projects being built, fewer jobs being created, and less clean water being achieved.  By adding to the cost of public construction, the Davis-Bacon Act disproportionately impacts small, rural, and disadvantaged communities, which can least afford to pay the higher cost of projects.  The revolving, non-federal component of the State Revolving Funds has operated successfully since 1987 without the onerous application of Davis-Bacon, the effect of which will be further restriction of state and local control."

"Buy American":  This bill requires that U.S. steel, iron, and manufactured goods be used, unless the EPA Administrator finds that such products are not reasonably available in the U.S. or if compliance would raise the overall cost of the project by more than 25 percent.  H.R. 1262 specifies that this provision "must be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements."  Some Members may be concerned that this provision may raise the cost of water projects and might induce foreign countries to apply similar restrictions which would negatively affect trade with the U.S.

Alternative Water Source Projects:  The bill reauthorizes an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program which makes funds available for alternative water source projects which develop or provide water for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses in areas which experience water shortages.  H.R. 1262 authorizes $250 million over five years for this purpose.

Sewer Overflow Control Grants:  H.R. 1262 reauthorizes sewer overflow control federal grants to States and localities.  Sewer overflows can lead to untreated wastewater flowing into rivers, streets, and basements, affecting public health and the environment.  These federal grant funds subsidize the redesign of sewer systems to separate sewage flows from storm water flows and help add system capacity to eliminate the possibility of combined flows exceeding the limits of existing infrastructure.

Community Right to Know:  This bill requires owners and operators of publicly owned water treatment works, and municipalities, to provide notification of sewer overflows to the public, as well as to federal and State agencies. 

Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization:  H.R. 1262 increases the authorization for eligible projects under the Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-365) from $50 million to $150 million.  The Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization Act funds projects which clean up areas of the Great Lakes where contamination has settled into sediments at the bottom of the lakes.

Revenue Provisions: The bill offsets the cost of the spending in the legislation by increasing vessel tonnage duties imposed on vessels entering the United States from a foreign port, as well as for foreign ships that depart from and return to an American port.  The duty will be raised on vessels arriving from foreign ports in North America, Central America, the Bahamas, the West Indies, and Newfoundland.  American vessels, recreational boats, and barges are not subject to these duties.

Background

This legislation is a compilation of five separate bills relating to the Clean Water Act which passed the House in the 110th Congress.  These bills from last Congress were H.R. 700, H.R. 720, H.R. 569, H.R. 2452, and H.R. 6460.

Clean Water State Revolving Funds:  The Clean Water State Revolving Funds, authorized in this legislation at $13.8 billion, have not been reauthorized for the past 15 years.  They were established under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or "Clean Water Act," which was passed by Congress in 1972.  Since the Fund's creation in 1987, the federal government has spent $57 billion on State loans for wastewater infrastructure, which are administered by the EPA.  States maintain permanent loan funds for water projects which are financed by federal grants, State contributions, loan repayments, and interest.  Under current law, States set interest rates for these loans between 0% and the market rate.

Great Lakes Legacy: The Great Lakes Legacy Act was first enacted in 2002 and was reauthorized in 2008 by the Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization Act of 2008.  This recent reauthorization bill included $53 million for the program in each of Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010.  The Great Lakes Legacy program funds various EPA activities to clean up the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes region is home to about 40 million people and includes Michigan, part of Illinois, New York, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), implementing this legislation "would cost about $10.6 billion over the next five years and $17.7 billion over the next 10 years, assuming the appropriation of the necessary amounts."

Additional Information

AMENDMENTS MADE IN ORDER

1)    Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) #21:  Authorizes tribal governments to receive technical and management assistance for the operation of small public sewerage agencies.  The amendment also increases the authorization level for EPA "green technology" pilot projects regarding storm water runoff to $100 million for each of the Fiscal Years 2010-2014. 

The amendment requires the EPA to conduct a public annual performance review of Clean Water State Fund expenditures.  Additionally, the amendment authorizes additional studies regarding water infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border and wastewater infrastructure on the Great Lakes.

The amendment requires States to set aside 20 percent of sewer grants for communities that implement green infrastructure or undertake water and energy efficient improvements.  Finally, the EPA must conduct a study on the presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in American waters.

2)    Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) #5:  Removes all Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions from the bill.

3)    Reps. Markey (D-CO) and Kratovil (D-MD) #2:  Requires States to use at least 15 percent (instead of 10 percent) of water pollution control capitalization grants for assistance to municipalities of less than 10,000 people, given sufficient application for such assistance.

4)    Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) #19:  Directs the EPA to form a task force to develop recommendations on the disposal of unused pharmaceuticals, as well as a strategy to educate the public on such. 

5)    Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) #25:   Prohibits funds appropriated as a result of the Water Pollution Control Revolving Loan Funds reauthorization from being earmarked.

6)    Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) #8:  Would require States to give priority to projects which construct bioswales to filter and store storm water runoff and floodwaters for future water supply and the recharge of natural aquifers.

7)    Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) #20:  Would require the OMB Director to study and report on the programs authorized by the base bill using the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or a successor tool.

8)    Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) #7:  Would require system operators to certify that water and energy conservation are part of their fiscal sustainability plans.

9)    Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA) #1:  Would require the OMB Director to report to Congress on an interagency budget for Chesapeake Bay restoration activities.  This amendment would also require the EPA to develop a Chesapeake Bay restoration management plan.

10)  Rep. Steve Dreihaus (D-OH) #15:  Would increase a grant program authorization for sewer overflows from $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion.