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Happenings on The Hill: Infrastructure & Appropriations Updates

Appropriations

This week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment released the annual FY 2022 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The Subcommittee marked up the bill on Monday, June 28th. The bill sets the EPA FY 2022 funding level at $11.3 billion, a $2.1 billion increase above FY 2021 levels and $110.8 million more than President Biden requested in his annual budget. The full House Appropriations Committee marked up the bill on Thursday, July 1. The bill report is here. The text of the draft bill is here. A summary of the bill is here.

Appropriators focused on two principal areas at EPA that impact drinking water: Environmental Justice and PFAS contamination. The Appropriations Committee is backing the Biden administration’s plan to create a stand-alone equity office with a Senate-confirmed head, but will fund it as its own program area rather than grouping it under enforcement. In the bill report, the Committee writes that they expect EPA to “better integrate environmental justice considerations into its existing rulemaking, permitting, enforcement, and grant-making activities.” The bill report also indicates that Appropriators are providing EPA with increased funding to “act expeditiously in setting drinking water standards for PFAS and in designating PFAS as a hazardous substance under CERCLA.” There is currently no indication of the Senate’s timeline for FY 2022 appropriations.

Infrastructure Package

A bipartisan group of Senators worked with the White House to develop a framework for a potential infrastructure funding package. The framework includes $579 billion in new spending on traditional infrastructure projects, including $55 billion for water infrastructure; $21 billion for environmental remediation; and $47 billion for resilience. The funding for water infrastructure includes money to replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. While there was initial bipartisan support for this framework, Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have made it clear they do not intend to move forward with the bipartisan bill if there is not a companion bill, which would move forward using the budget reconciliation process. This would allow Democrats to approve the companion bill by a simple majority in the Senate, creating a path to pass additional infrastructure bills with Democratic priorities. Republicans have balked at this two-track idea, and some have revoked support for the bipartisan framework. An outline of the framework can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, the House continues to work on a $715 billion infrastructure package that funds transportation and Federal highway projects, as well as water infrastructure. The House measure includes $51.25 billion for EPA’s wastewater infrastructure and $117 billion for drinking water infrastructure programs and assistance for low-income water customers. There are nearly 150 amendments being considered and dozens are water-related, including several aimed at lead pipe replacement projects and regulating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) beyond the bill’s requirement for EPA to set drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS within two years. The water-related amendments include:

  • A deadline for EPA to issue Clean Water Act water quality criteria and effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) for measurable PFAS and authorizes $200 million a year for grants to publicly owned treatment works to implement the ELGs.
  • Requiring an industrial entity that introduces PFAS into wastewater treatment systems to provide specified advance notices to such systems, including the identity and quantity of such PFAS.
  • Amending the priority for drinking water funding to give priority to community water systems that are affected by the presence of the chemical GenX.
  • Requiring EPA to set a drinking water standard for chromium-6 within two years;
  • Requiring any wastewater facility receiving infrastructure funding from the CWSRF or other Clean Water Act grant program to first undergo a climate resiliency assessment to ensure future wastewater infrastructure is designed and constructed to withstand potential impacts of climate change, including drought;
  • Requiring EPA to establish a publicly accessible website on reported water main breaks and associated repair activity.

The future of these bills and amendments remains uncertain. Congressional leaders continue to push for an infrastructure package to be finalized in July, a quick timeline for major negotiations. While there is no deadline on water infrastructure funding, Congress faces an October 1st deadline to reauthorize transportation funding.