ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1321 , the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, on December 7. This bipartisan bill, sponsored by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), bans the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017 and the delivery of these products by July 1, 2018. NACWA strongly supports this legislation and applauded its passage in a press release.
Plastic microbeads have become a topic of concern among clean water advocates given that they are difficult to remove during typical wastewater treatment processes and can pass through treatment plants and into waterways, causing harm to aquatic life and ecosystems. Natural alternatives can be easily substituted for plastic microbeads in cleansing and exfoliating products – eliminating microbead pollution at its source and protecting the environment.
NACWA urges the Senate to take up this broadly supported legislation before this session of Congress adjourns and compells all Senators to vote yes on H.R. 1321.
NACWA CEO Adam Krantz and key staff met with Joel Beauvais, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water and Ellen Gilinsky, senior policy advisor for the water office, today to brief Beauvais on the Association and its top priority issues. Beauvais, who has been with the Agency for five years and previously held positions in the air and policy offices, assumed the top leadership position in early November after Ken Kopocis announced his departure.
Beauvais has spent much of the last month being briefed on the water office’s list of issues. NACWA and EPA discussed those areas where we have worked closely together – including integrated planning and affordability – as well those issues where more work is needed, including peak flow blending. The Association also discussed its work on the Water Resources Utility of the Future, as well as the underlying infrastructure funding challenge that influences so much of what the clean water community does.
Beauvais expressed interest in continued close work between the Office of Water and NACWA on priority issues. He also looks forward to the opportunity to speak directly to NACWA’s membership. The Association is working to find an opportunity for Beauvais to address NACWA’s members either in San Diego, during NACWA’s upcoming Winter Conference, and/or during the National Water Policy Forum, Fly-In & Expo in April.
Congressional negotiators were unable to reach agreement this week by their December 11 deadline for an omnibus spending package to fund the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year. As a result, negotiations will stretch into next week. Both the House and Senate agreed to a short-term extension of existing federal funding until December 16, giving Congress an extra five days to achieve a final package.
The outcome of the omninbus negotiations is important to Association members on a number of fronts, including funding levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) for Fiscal Year 2016, potential language impacting implementation of EPA’s Clean Water Rule, and – most significantly for NACWA – the fate of a controversial policy rider that could impact combined sewer overflows and blending in the Great Lakes.
NACWA has been actively involved this week in discussions over the omnibus package to ensure the interests of the Association’s members are well-represented, and will report to the membership on any developments.
NACWA hosted a New Jersey Long Term Control Plan Workshop on December 10 designed for New Jersey clean water utilities and municipalities that are beginning work on development of combined sewer overflow (CSO) long-term control plans (LTCPs). Since many New Jersey communities recently received new CSO permits requiring the development of LTCPs, this workshop was particularly timely and provided an opportunity for utilities in the state to learn the basics of the process. Nearly 70 people participated in the half-day event.
The Workshop kicked off with presentations by the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection (NJDEP). Dan Kennedy, Assistant Commissioner of Water Resources Management, praised the collaborative process that took place for several years before the CSO permits were issued and welcomed the opportunity to continue to work closely with EPA and the regulated community. He also acknowledged that while green infrastructure has many benefits, it will not be a 100% solution, and emphasized not setting unreasonable expectations. Striking the right green/gray balance and determining the proper role of green infrastructure was addressed throughout the agenda.
Pilar Patterson, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Surface Water Permitting, NJDEP, discussed the importance of continued efforts to reduce sewer overflows. She emphasized the importance of designing CSO programs to achieve water quality standards. Having the perspective of NJDEP represented at the Workshop was very important to ensure the regulated community understands the expectations of the state regulators.
Other presentations emphasized the important opportunity utilities have to pursue LTCPs through a permit approach; offered an analysis of the key legal and regulatory framework underlying the process from top clean water experts; and provided a series of case studies from clean water utilities that have already embarked on CSO LTCPs sharing how their utilities approached the planning phase and what they have learned during implementation. Speakers on the case study panel also noted that New Jersey utilities have a unique opportunity to learn from the experience others in the CSO LTCP process.
The Workshop was presented in association with Jersey Water Works, and took place immediately following the New Jersey Urban Water Conference. The Urban Water Conference included important discussions on how transforming New Jersey’s inadequate urban water infrastructure can deliver not just sustainable infrastructure but multiple community benefits, including healthier, safer neighborhoods; clean waterways; local green jobs; flood and climate resilience; and, ultimately, economic growth.
NACWA met with representatives of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) and others late last week to discuss the organizations’ joint project to explore the use of low income assistance programs by clean water utilities and state and local barriers to the use of variable rate structures, subsidy programs and other forms of assistance.
Representatives from EPA’s Water Infrastructure & Resiliency Finance Center participated in the first half of the meeting to discuss EPA’s project, currently underway, to collect information on the types of assistance programs currently in use. Based on publicly available information, EPA is compiling a database of utilities with these types of programs and the water sector groups discussed how this information, when released, would inform their project.
The joint water sector project, funded in part by the Association’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF), will be coordinated with EPA’s efforts. Current plans call for the sector project to get underway in January as the organizations solicit proposals to conduct the study.
The potential impact of climate change on the water sector took center stage this week at the International Water & Climate Forum hosted by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). A number of NACWA members played prominent roles in the conference, including Association President Adel Hagekhalil of the City of Los Angeles – LA Sanitaiton; Secretary David St. Pierre of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; Board Member Harlan Kelly of the City & County of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission; and Angela Licata of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Other Association members were also in attendance and participated in discussions on implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. NACWA’s presence at the conference ensured that the perspective of municipal wastewater and stormwater utilities was included as part of the broader discussion of climate issues impacting the water sector.
NACWA’s Water Finance Workgroup, led by chairs Mark Kim of DC Water and Eric Sandler with San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, hosted the leaders of EPA’s newly-launched Water Infrastructure & Resiliency Finance Center (WIRFC) during a conference call late last week. The Workgroup members are all finance leaders within their respective utilities and bring a great depth of experience on these issues. EPA recognized this level of expertise within the Workgroup as they solicited peer reviewers for upcoming reports and input on the 2016 objectives for the WIRFC.
Among the WIRFC’s first projects is compiling a report 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 (see related article this issue). They asked the Workgroup to provide two peer reviewers for the draft report due out in early 2016.
EPA staff also noted that the WIRFC has no capitalization capacity to fund water infrastructure projects, but instead is intended to provide convening opportunities and objective financial advice to help communities finance water infrastructure projects and account for affordability concerns. The Finance Workgroup will continue to engage with the WIRFC as they refine their tasks for 2016.
What Could COP-21 Mean for Wastewater Utilities?
The United Nation’s Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris, France concludes this week, bringing climate change back to the forefront of the public’s conscious. What do these talks on greenhouse gas emissions and climate resiliency mean for clean water utilities? Read on to find out more.
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