ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
Representatives from more than 30 public water and wastewater utilities and nearly 20 NACWA Corporate Affiliates joined hundreds of delegates from the private sector, state and federal government and the investment banking community this week at the 2015 American Water Summit in Denver. NACWA collaborated with Global Water Intelligence, the convener of the Summit, to develop the program and ensure the public sector voice was strongly represented. The Summit explored areas for greater collaboration between the public and private sectors on all aspects of water management, but the discussions focused on embracing the opportunities and addressing the challenges facing the water industry, whether public or private, and how to deliver the best value to ratepayers.
NACWA Member Agency representatives were featured throughout the program, highlighting the innovative work underway in adopting new technologies, communicating with the public, and collaborating with the private sector. NACWA also helped organize and moderate a panel of five Mayors from diverse cities across the US with varying views of the role of public-private partnerships in the water sector. The Summit and NACWA’s engagement with the private sector will be part of the discussions at the upcoming Fall Strategic Leadership Retreat and Board of Directors meeting in early November, and a discussion with the broader membership is planned for the 2016 Winter Conference in San Diego, February 21-24.
NACWA, along with several national associations representing drinking water and wastewater stakeholders, met last Friday with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water regarding a new EPA effort to compile information about various programs used by communities to provide assistance to low-income ratepayers who cannot afford to pay the full cost of their water and sewer bills. NACWA staff, joined by representatives from the Water Environment Federation (WEF), National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), offered assistance to EPA in gathering this information and discussed mutual interest in helping to disseminate the information once available. EPA indicated that it plans to issue the compendium later next year and welcomed support from NACWA and the other groups on behalf of the effort. NACWA and the water sector groups also discussed a need to explore the barriers at the state level to adopting these types of programs and other forms of assistance. The groups are currently discussing a collaborative effort to conduct such a study.
NACWA joined other water organizations this week to meet with senior EPA Office of Water staff on a number of important issues facing the water community. Central to the discussion was current legislation pending in the Senate that would ban combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and the use of blending in the Great Lakes. NACWA and WEF reiterated the significant concerns that the municipal clean water community has with the legislation and asked EPA about its position on the bill. EPA acknowledged the issues raised by NACWA and WEF but stated the Agency has not taken a formal stance on the legislation.
NACWA also raised questions at the meeting about use of Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) resources on private property for green infrastructure or other stormwater control projects. A number of utilities have recently expressed confusion about use of SRF dollars on private property. EPA reiterated that SRF funds are eligible for these types of projects and referred to recent SRF guidance the Agency has published for clarification, but noted that some states may have their own restrictions on use of the funds.
In other developments, EPA reported during the meeting that it is still working on a response to a congressional letter raising questions about the Clean Water Rule’s impacts on municipal sewer and stormwater systems, and also stated that it is continuing work on a report analyzing current funding allocations under the SRF program.
The final Clean Power Plan rule, which seeks to reduce carbon emission, was published in the Federal Register today. The Clean Power Plan aims to have all reductions in place by 2030. Legal challenges to the rule have already been filed by 24 states.
The basic requirements of the Plan target coal, oil, and natural gas-powered electric generating units (EGUs). EPA has established an implementation framework that allows states to use increases in renewable energy, and improvements in demand-side energy efficiency, to meet their required state-level reduction goals.
In accordance with comments filed by NACWA, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) in 2014, the final Plan recognizes the important role that water and wastewater utilities can potentially play in increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. How utilities will be able to participate –and potentially access funding and incentives to generate renewable energy and increase efficiency – will be left entirely to the states. NACWA will track state implementation and continue to provide information and tools to help member agencies take advantage of the incentives afforded by the rule.
NACWA’s engagement on the Clean Power Plan is consistent with the Association’s efforts to increase attention on climate and resiliency issues as they relate to water. Along these lines, NACWA President Adel Hagekhalil is leading a federal study group of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) on water sector resilience.
NACWA has been asked to provide input to a team working on behalf of the U.S. Treasury Department to document why US infrastructure projects may be "stalled" and what net benefits would accrue to the nation if these projects went forward. Treasury is seeking information on the top 50 projects across all of infrastructure, including water sector projects. This is an opportunity for NACWA to raise infrastructure financing and other related policy issues to the Administration and others through examples of projects that are not moving forward as they should.
The criteria being used in this investigation are that a project (a) has appropriate legal authorization, (b) has a clear sponsor responsible for taking it through to completion, (c) is sufficiently far along in planning to have at least preliminary thinking worked out on applicable regulatory, finance and environmental matters, (d) can stand on its own (is not dependent on other projects before it can go forward), and (e) is no more than 10 years away from completion. A project could be considered to be stalled if it meets some of these criteria, but not all, and could be accelerated if existing impediments were removed. The underlying assumption is that accelerating stalled infrastructure projects would reduce overall project costs and increase net benefits to the nation as a result of increased infrastructure investment.
Wastewater projects may not fit these criteria exactly since many are driven by statute and not principally benefit-cost economics. Nonetheless, we are soliciting NACWA members who may be aware of water, wastewater, or water resources projects that meet these criteria, and more importantly, projects that demonstrate why changes in financing, regulatory, institutional and related policies at the federal, state, and local levels could better support national economic growth. Examples of projects that might well meet these criteria include some wet weather, climate adaptation, regional resource development, or regional facility projects.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a report summarizing EPA’s work on integrated planning and affordability, while also highlighting continued Congressional interest in the issues. The document provides background on EPA’s integrated planning efforts to date and catalogues the continued concerns from municipalities and clean water utilities about community affordability. The report notes that key Congressional committees have held hearings on these issues and would like to see additional progress in addressing them. Although the report does not break any new ground regarding integrated planning and affordability concerns, it can serve as a helpful resource moving forward for the clean water community in continued advocacy with both EPA and Congress on these issues.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763) on Oct. 22. This long-term reauthorization bill is a potential vehicle for two pieces of legislation important to water and wastewater utilities. The first piece relates to the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the second piece relates to extending the deadline by which railroads must install Positive Train Control (PTC) technology.
NACWA, along with other water sector organizations, called for H.R. 3756, the WIFIA Improvement Act, to be included in the transportation bill. The WIFIA Improvement Act would repeal the limitation that WIFIA loans cannot be used in conjunction with tax-exempt debt, which, if maintained, would greatly discourage the use of the WIFIA loan program for communities. Making this fix to WIFIA would allow communities to fund water and wastewater infrastructure projects through a combination of funding and financing sources to more effectively support local investments. While the House transportation package does not include a fix for WIFIA, the Senate transportation package does and NACWA anticipates that the provision will be accepted by the House during conference negotiations.
Extending the PTC compliance deadline has also been a large concern for utilities since railroads that will not be able to meet the December 31 compliance deadline will not be able to transport important chemicals such as chlorine gas and anhydrous ammonia. NACWA participated in a joint letter with other water associations urging an extension. There is bipartisan support for extending the deadline and the House proposed surface transportation package contains the extension. NACWA is hopeful the Senate will quickly agree to an extension as well.
The week, NACWA had the pleasure of hosting a number of partner organizations at the 2015 Environmental Law Institute (ELI) Award Dinner in Washington, DC, which is an annual event that honors individuals and organizations for demonstrating outstanding commitment to environmental protection. NACWA was honored to host key stakeholders and partnering organizations at the event including representatives from the Association of Clean Water Administrators, the Water Environment Federation and American Rivers.
In recognition of his lifetime of achievements in the practice of environmental law and the conservation of lands and waters, ELI presented the 2015 Environmental Achievement Award to Henry L. Diamond, Founder and Senior Counsel of NACWA Legal Affiliate Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. NACWA congratulates Mr. Diamond and the entire Beveridge & Diamond firm on this prestigious achievement.
John Cruden, the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment & Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), provided opening remarks at the ceremony. Cruden will keynote NACWA’s upcoming National Clean Water Law Seminar, which will be held November 4 – 6 at the Westin Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, NV.
Partnerships for Clean Water: The Norm or the Exception?
Steve Hershner, guest blogger and Utilities Director of NACWA Member Agency the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, discusses the City’s $4.3 million watershed project. The Middle Cedar Partnership Project is a collaborative effort between the City and 15 other organizations focusing on improving soil health and water quality. The project was made possible thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which focuses on working with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to encourage widespread adoption of best management practices. What did the City learn and are they willing to take on collaborative efforts like this again? Read on to find out more!
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