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April 6, 2010

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Government Relations

Proposal to Remove Tax Restrictions on Private Activity Bonds for Water Projects Passes U.S. House of Representatives

NAWC Continues to Urge the Senate to Quickly Consider H.R. 4849’s Significant Measures for Water Infrastructure Improvement

Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.)
The National Association of Water Companies applauded the U.S. House of Representatives on March 24, 2010, for passing the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010 (H.R. 4849). This bill will stimulate the economy through a number of important initiatives, including creating greater opportunity for investment in our nation’s aging water infrastructure.

The broad bill provides incentives for small-business investment, relief for overburdened small-business owners, and expanded opportunity for infrastructure investment by states and localities in part through the removal of state volume caps on private activity bonds (PABs) for water and wastewater financing. Also included in the bill was a one-year extension of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption for private activity bonds and an extension of the Build America Bond program.

“Following the lead of Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the House took a major stride towards putting Americans back to work and encouraging investment in water infrastructure,” said Michael Deane, executive director of the National Association of Water Companies. This provision drafted as H.R. 537 would provide communities with an important tool when dealing with the challenges of maintaining or improving essential water infrastructure.

Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) was joined by 48 of his geographically diverse and bi-partisan colleagues in support of this measure. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and chair of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Water Resources spoke about her enthusiasm for the proposal on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives: “Removing state volume caps on Private Activity Bonds for water and wastewater facilities is expected to reduce the cost of water projects, increase the number of water projects that communities initiate, improve our Nation’s water infrastructure, and encourage public-private partnerships.”

A removal on bond caps for water projects will bring funding for this piece of the nation’s critical infrastructure in line with airports, high-speed rail and solid waste disposal, which are all currently exempt from existing caps.

Providing opportunities for public water providers to leverage private sector investment in water and wastewater infrastructure, the bill will also generate significant tax revenue for states and communities across the country. Each $1 billion invested in water infrastructure yields an increase of $82.4 million in state and local tax revenue. The portion of the bill addressing PABs for water infrastructure investment could support more than 57,000 jobs this year.



A New Approach to Protecting Drinking Water and Public Health

In a speech to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency is developing a broad new set of strategies to enhance public health protection from contaminants in drinking water.

EPA is seeking a new approach to expand public health protection for drinking water by going beyond the traditional framework that addresses contaminants one at a time. The agency is initiating a national conversation to identify better ways to address contaminants in groups, improve drinking water technology and more effectively address potential risks to give Americans greater confidence in the quality of their drinking water.

EPA announced they will focus on four principles that will provide greater protection of drinking water:

    Address contaminants as a group rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost-effectively; Foster development of new drinking water technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants; Use the authority of multiple statutes to help protect drinking water; and Partner with states to share more complete data from monitoring at public water systems (PWS).
The current approach to drinking water protection is focused on a detailed assessment of each individual contaminant of concern and can take many years. This approach not only results in slow progress in addressing unregulated contaminants but also fails to take advantage of strategies for enhancing health protection cost-effectively, including advanced treatment technologies that address several contaminants at once. The outlined vision seeks to use existing authorities to achieve greater protection more quickly and cost-effectively.

The agency plans to seek input on the four major elements by the following measures:

1. Address contaminants as a group rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost-effectively.

    Engage stakeholders and the public to develop technical and procedural approaches to group contaminants, identify treatment technologies and consider adverse health effects. As appropriate, use an approach that addresses groups of similar contaminants to develop drinking water regulations.
2. Foster development of new drinking water technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants.

    Collaborate with universities, technology developers and the private sector to develop water- and energy-efficient treatment technologies that can reliably reduce health risks and control the types of contaminants that confront utilities today and into the future. Showcase field demonstrations of large and small water treatment systems that address a broad suite of contaminants while providing safe drinking water at reasonable and predictable costs in a sustainable fashion.
3. Use the authority of multiple statutes to help protect drinking water.

    Use regulatory authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) to ensure that decisions made for new and existing industrial chemicals are protective of drinking water and provide relevant health effects and exposure data. Use FIFRA registration actions to develop risk assessments, generate missing data and develop analytical methods to support the development of drinking water regulations. Tighten FIFRA pesticide registration requirements when occurrence data approaches or exceeds levels of concern. More fully explore EPA’s chemical action plans being developed and implemented to identify synergies that can help to improve and better understand drinking water quality. This can provide the opportunity to regulate contaminants before they get into drinking water.
4. Partner with states to develop shared access to all public water systems (PWS) monitoring data.

    Promote the use of advanced information technology to facilitate information and data exchange capability between states and EPA. Enhance compilation and analyses of PWS information to strengthen the review of potential drinking water public health concerns without additional information collection burden and requests on states. Share powerful data analysis tools with states to target public health issues, program oversight, compliance assistance and enforcement to areas where risk to public health may be high. Implement a range of interactive communication tools to enable states, drinking water industry and consumers to learn more about their drinking water and obtain timely information about the quality of drinking water and performance of drinking water systems.
By pursuing these actions, EPA aims to provide more robust public health protection in an open and transparent manner, assist small communities to identify cost- and energy-efficient treatment technologies, and build consumer confidence by providing more efficient sustainable treatment technologies to deliver safe water at a reasonable cost.

For more information on the strategy, click here.

For more information on the six-year review, click here.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce Making the Case for Improving and Investing in Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure — transportation, telecommunications, energy and water systems — forms the physical platform of our $13 trillion economy. Some of these systems are outdated, overwhelmed and, in some places, literally falling apart. Others need continued expansion and upgrades. Without proper investment and attention to infrastructure, the nation’s economy, job-producing capabilities and competitiveness — and Americans’ quality of life — are at risk.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored the short video,"Let’s Rebuild America’s Infrastructure,” to get these messages out to key audiences and make the case for improving and investing in infrastructure. Please take a few minutes to watch the video and consider the importance of infrastructure to your daily life or business.