WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan water infrastructure bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) passed in the U.S. Senate last week.
Brown introduced the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act in March, legislation that would provide local communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to sewer systems. 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. The bill will need to be voted on in the U.S. House before being signed into law.
“Red tape shouldn’t force communities to spread their resources thin just to meet an arbitrary timeline set by a Washington bureaucrat,” said Brown. “Let’s work with communities so they can make sewer system updates and investments at their own pace. This will help support jobs and protect local drinking water.”
Many state and local governments face difficulties meeting Clean Water Act requirements for 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.
- Require the EPA to update this guidance and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities have endorsed the legislation.