Wednesday, March 14, 2007

American Rivers Policy Update

Week in Review

Last week the House of Representatives passed much needed legislation to improve the nation's aging wastewater infrastructure. H.R. 720, The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007, passed the House with a vote of 303-108 despite a veto threat from the White House. The House bill, which was sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar (D- MN), reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) for four years at $14 billion, a much needed funding boost that will help close the gap between wastewater infrastructure needs and current spending levels. During floor consideration, Rep. John Hall (D-NY) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) offered an amendment to help curb sprawl by prioritizing spending on existing projects rather than subsidizing the building of new developments. The amendment, which was strongly supported by the conservation community, passed by voice-vote.

The SRF, which was first established in 1987, gives low interest loans to states to upgrade their aging water infrastructure. Since the inception of the fund in 1987, the federal government has distributed more than $20 billion dollars. States have been able to leverage that money into $47 billion dollars for improvements and pollution control projects. The President's veto threat was due to the cost of the bill and a controversial "Davis-Bacon" labor provision. The Senate version of the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 has not been introduced yet.

Also passing the House last week with a vote of 367-58 was H.R. 569, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D- NJ). The bill would authorize $1.8 billion over 5 years to address the problem of sewer overflows. Many cities and towns are facing the issue of upgrading combined sewer systems in which stormwater and sanitary waste share a pipe to the treatment center, a situation that often results in sewage overflows during periods of heavy rain. States and communities will have to pay an estimated $140 billion to upgrade their sewer systems and H.R. 569 authorizes limited federal assistance. Last week Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced S. 836, companion legislation to the House bill. The bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

H.R. 700, the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007 also passed the House last week with a vote of 368-59. H.R. 700, which is sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), increases investment in alternative water projects by authorizing a $125 million pilot program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pilot program would fund projects intended to provide water from alternative sources. The White House threatened to veto the legislation, claiming it was duplicative of existing efforts. The Senate version of the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act has not been introduced yet.

Also last week, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) reintroduced S. 802, the Owyhee Initiative Agreement Act, which addresses rural development and public resource management concerns in southwestern Idaho. Unfortunately, the bill undercuts Wild and Scenic river protection by failing to provide the rivers with the riparian corridor protection usually conveyed by the Wild and Scenic designation. The measure also releases certain lands from their Wilderness Study Area designations. Conservationists hope that the bill can be strengthened to provide real protection for the cultural heritage and free-flowing rivers and streams of Idaho. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

2) Water Resources Development Act Gains Momentum

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is expected to see action this week when the House holds subcommittee and full committee mark-ups and the Senate assesses the Bush Administration's FY 2008 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) or Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is expected to introduce the House version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 early this week, followed by a mark-up in the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday and full committee mark-up on Thursday. Also on Thursday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hear testimony on President Bush's $4.9 billion budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers for FY 2008. Senator Feingold is scheduled to testify on the imperativeness to modernize the Army Corps of Engineers.

The House bill is expected to be very similar to the version of WRDA that passed the House in the summer of 2005, prior to Hurricane Katrina. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought to light the need for modernization of the ways the Army Corps of Engineers manages the nation's water resources. As a result, the Senate passed a version of WRDA in 2006 that included several provisions to address the need for independent peer review of major projects, upgrades to the principles and guidelines that dictate how the Corps operates, and increased mitigation of unavoidable harm to rivers and wetlands. Unfortunately, negotiations between the House and Senate fell apart before the end of the 109th Congress. These issues, as well as a provision that would require the Corps to prioritize its $58 billion backlog, will have to be addressed prior to final passage of WRDA in the 110th Congress.

Mark-up: House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment on Wednesday at 2:00 PM in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building

Mark-up: House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Thursday, March 15 in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building, time TBA.

Hearing: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Thursday, March 15 at 10:00 AM in 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building

3) FY 2008 Budget Hearings Continue

Hearings on the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget request continue this week. On Tuesday in the House the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water will hear testimony on the budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). On Wednesday, the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment will hear from the Bureau of Land Management while the House Committee on Science and Technology will hear testimony on the request for research and development programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

On Tuesday in the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, will hold a hearing to address the president's requested cuts to the EPA's budget. On Thursday, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will hear testimony on the budget requests for the Corps, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of Interior. Also on Thursday, the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the Committee on Environment and Public Works will hear testimony on the nation's water resources needs and the Corps FY 2008 budget request.

The Senate Budget Committee is also considering marking up its FY 2008 budget resolution later this week. If cleared by the Committee, it could see floor action as early as next week.

For a complete list of river and water related hearings coming up this week please see the Congressional Calendar below. For more information on priority river protection and restoration programs and the river community's recommended funding level for FY 08 please see the FY 08 River Budget.

4) Congressional Calendar

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2007
Hearing on FY 2008 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies 10:00 AM, 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Hearing on FY 2008 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water 10:00 AM, 2362B Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007
Subcommittee Mark-up on the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment 2:00 PM, 2167 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing to examine technology solutions for climate change.
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation 2:30 PM, 253 Russell Senate Office Building

Hearing on scientific research
House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water 10:00 AM, 2362B Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing on the FY 2008 budget request for the Bureau of Land Management House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment 9:30 AM, B-308 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing on the FY 2008 budget request for research and development programs of the Environmental Protection Agency House Committee on Science and Technology 2:00 PM, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2007
Hearing on the FY 2008 budget request for the U.S. Coast Guard Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard 10:00 AM, 253 Russell Senate Office Building

Hearings on the nation's water resources needs and the FY 2008 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
10:00 AM, 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Hearing on the FY 2008 budget proposal for the Department of the Army, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of the Interior Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development 2:30 PM, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Hearing on state and local perspectives on climate change House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality 11:00 AM, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing on several natural resources bills including H.R. 713, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Act House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands 10:00 AM, 1324 Longworth House Office Building

Full Committee Mark-up on the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (tentative) House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Time TBA, 2167 Rayburn House Office Building

Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2007
Hearings to examine energy innovation
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation 2:30 PM, 253 Russell Senate Office Building

Hearing on utility CEO's perspectives on climate change House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality 10:00AM,
2123 Rayburn House Office Building

5) Take Action to Restore Salmon to the Snake River!

Removing four high-cost, low-value dams is what scientists say must be done to restore the legendary salmon runs of the Snake River. As the Bush administration continues to stonewall, the evidence for dam removal keeps mounting. Revenue Stream, a recent report co-authored by American Rivers, shows that removing the outdated Snake River dams will save taxpayer dollars and improve local economies.

It's up to the new Congress to do what the Bush administration refuses to do -- order independent studies on the costs and benefits of removing the dams for the sake of salmon. These studies will offer an independent voice that restoring the Snake River makes economic sense -- and common sense -- for people and communities, as well as for fish.

Urge your representative to cosponsor a bill to study the benefits and costs of restoring a free- flowing lower Snake River. Take action today


No comments:

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails