White House Briefing on Water Infrastructure Funding Full of Ideas

On the afternoon of October 10th, the White House held a briefing for a wide variety of stakeholders on water infrastructure funding. Randy Ellingboe, ASDWA President and Manager of the Section of Drinking Water Protection for the MN Department of Health, attended this briefing along with Alan Roberson, ASDWA Executive Director. Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, kicked off the briefing and made three major points during his remarks.  First, project permitting needs to be streamlined.  Second, the Superfund program has over 1,300 sites on the National Priorities List (NPL) and he wants more of them to be cleaned up and wants additional clarity on cleanup and liability.  Third, more investment is needed in water infrastructure, as it’s in desperate need of additional investment from his point of view.
D.J. Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy, provided some details on the ongoing development of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure initiative. Permitting was mentioned again as the Administration wants a lighter touch on permitting, and currently intends to focus on four areas for this initiative. First, incentives would be provided to state and local government to provide more state and local funding, for example, from sources such as sales taxes. Second, since these incentives would work best for urban areas, block grants would be provided to states for rural areas. Third, the federal government wants to be a partner for transformative infrastructure.  Fourth, the Administration wants to increase the size and scope of the current lending programs such as the DWSRF and WIFIA and other funding programs.
The Administration plans to develop more details and work with Congress on any legislation that might (likely in some areas) be needed to make the increased funding happen. Given Congress’ current workload, it’s still not clear where infrastructure funding fits in with the other legislative priorities.