WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House and Senate have both passed legislation based on U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act that would provide local communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to sewer systems. The Senate passed the final version of the bill yesterday, and the bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
The bill would also encourage cost-saving green infrastructure and give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.
“Red tape shouldn’t force communities to spread their resources thin just to meet an arbitrary timeline,” said Brown. “Let’s be smarter and work with communities so they can prioritize their wastewater investments while reducing pollution. This bipartisan bill will help support jobs and protect local drinking water.”
“My sincere thanks to Senator Brown for his leadership in securing the Senate’s unanimous approval of the legislation transforming Integrated Planning from just policy to actual law. This change will allow cities to achieve the nation's clean water goals in affordable and sustainable ways,” said Mayor David Berger.
Many state and local governments face difficulties meeting Clean Water Act requirements for critical storm water and wastewater updates. The U.S. Conference of Mayors found, on average, municipalities spend between 6 to 7 cents of every tax dollar on water and sewer systems. This makes water infrastructure the third-largest expense for cities, after education and emergency personnel.
The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act would:
- Provide communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects needed for CWA compliance.
- Establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at EPA to assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws.
- Compel the EPA to promote "green infrastructure," which uses or mimics natural processes to infiltrate or reuse storm water runoff beneficially on-site where it is generated.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities have endorsed Brown’s legislation.