House Examines Clean Water Affordability
Washington, July 24, 2014 | Sarah Criser (202-225-6405)
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee today examined the affordability of clean water and the unprecedented financial challenges communities face in meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new wastewater mandates. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) has introduced H.R. 3862, the Clean Water Affordability Act, to ensure clean water agencies have the flexibility they need to undertake clean water projects in a more affordable manner.
“Forty percent of American households are currently paying more for wastewater management than what the EPA says is affordable,” said Latta. “I have seen this financial struggle firsthand throughout Ohio and in the Fifth Congressional District, where the City of Defiance is currently under a 20-year consent decree to separate their combined sewer system. Only five years into the project, the City has already spent $30 million and has plans to spend tens of millions more. This has caused water and sewer rates to skyrocket for Defiance’s 17,000 residents, who pay ten times more per month than residents outside the city. The Clean Water Affordability Act, which I have sponsored, will give our communities the flexibility they need to meet these EPA mandates, so they don’t have to place further financial hardship on their residents.”
Since the passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA), water quality throughout the country has indisputably improved. However, the command-and-control nature of the CWA has led to a buildup of costly regulations on our nation’s communities and their rate-paying residents who foot the bill. These mandates, on top of the estimated $300-500 billion needed in wastewater infrastructure improvements across the country over the next 20 years, have shifted the financing burden to local ratepayers who are seeing their rates rise nationally at double the rate of inflation.
Congressman Latta’s Clean Water Affordability Act would codify the EPA’s Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework, ensuring it is available to all communities. The legislation would also assure communities that their clean water investments will be secure for longer than five years by extending EPA permit terms to up to 25 years for communities with an approved integrated plan. In addition, it would revise the Clean Water State Revolving Fund capitalization grant agreements to require states to set aside 15 percent for assistance to municipalities of fewer than 10,000 individuals. Finally, it would require the EPA to revise and broaden guidance for determining a community’s financial capability to more accurately reflect its financial challenges.
To read Congressman Latta’s statement for the record, click here.