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February 9, 2010

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Government Relations

Pascrell Water PAB Bill Gains Traction, Would Create Jobs

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.)

H.R. 537, Rep. Pascrell’s (D-NJ) water private activity bond bill is gaining significant support largely due to its jobs-making potential. The Pascrell bill would create 57,000 jobs this year. Furthermore, as the market matures the jobs creation could be up to 142,500 a year, yet cost the American taxpayer very little, only $214 million over ten years. Most importantly, the jobs this bill creates would be put to work addressing our nation’s water infrastructure needs.

Specifically, H.R. 537 would bring water and wastewater projects out from under the volume cap on private activity bonds, and thus dramatically increase the availability of this type of low-cost financing.

The bill has already attracted more cosponsors (35) than similar bills attracted in previous Congresses, and more are expected. The 23 Democrats and 12 Republicans currently supporting H.R. 537 make this a strong bi-partisan bill. Furthermore, the cosponsors represent every region of the country, and urban, suburban and rural districts.

A broad coalition of nearly 35 organizations has formed to support H.R. 537. This coalition includes NAWC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Urban Water Council, American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Associated General Contractors, American Water and many others.

For more information on the bill’s status, contact NAWC.


Senate Jobs Bill Forthcoming

Congress is turning its attention to job creation. The House passed a bill just before the holiday, and the Senate is now preparing what could end up being a few different bills. The Senate jobs package will likely divide tax and spending portions. Senate leaders Reid, Dorgan, Schumer, Baucus and Durbin have been gathering job creation ideas and intend to bring the first jobs bill to the floor “before the Presidents-Day recess.” They also outlined future legislative packages focused on small business lending, clean energy jobs, infrastructure and public-sector jobs.

The first package will include a business hiring tax credit; short-term extensions of unemployment insurance and health care subsidies for the unemployed; and an extension of the surface transportation authorization, and extensions of economic stimulus programs giving small businesses liberalized expensing rules and state and local governments assistance through a tax credit bond program, Build America Bonds.

The Build America Bonds (BABs) program has become very popular in Congress. Both the tax-writing committees and the Obama administration favor extending this program, which was first created in 2009 during the economic stimulus, or ARRA.

Water Spending

Early drafts of a Senate direct spending bill included no funds for the standard Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs (SRFs). Conversely, the House of Representatives included $2 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs. Senators Cardin (D-Md.) and Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are encouraging the Senate to include $6 billion for the SRFs in any future spending package. However, several high-ranking Democratic senators do not think the SRFs can be spent quickly enough to merit a place in a job creation bill.

NAWC Letter to Senate

The National Association of Water Companies sent a letter to Senate leadership on Jan. 28 with its recommendations on a jobs bill. The letter stressed the importance of leveraging private sector dollars "now sitting on the sidelines," as President Obama said, to invest in new infrastructure projects and create much-needed jobs throughout the country. The letter also reiterated NAWC’s support of H.R. 537, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, stating “tax-exempt bonding authority is one of the surest and swiftest forms of federal assistance to water projects. A bond issuance only requires a willing issuer, meaning no time-consuming applications. The entire process, from approval to sale, would take approximately 90-120 days for a ready-to-go project.

Finally, the letter also contained a clear endorsement of the State Revolving Loan Funds as a means of jobs creation and infrastructure replacement, though stated concerns with some of the riders attached to the program in the 2009 bill.


President Obama Proposes FY2011 Budget

On Feb. 1, the president sent his proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 to Congress. This starts the long Congressional budget and appropriations process that generally doesn’t conclude until at least the fall, and often later. Among the items of note:

  • The budget would increase the top income tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent from 15 percent for taxpayers in the top two brackets.
  • The administration has requested a slight decline in funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs from $3.5 billion to $3.3 billion. However, with the additional ARRA stimulus money last year, overall dollars available are still up.
  • The administration has proposed extending for one year the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATs), which exempt water utilities.
  • Finally, $4 billion was identified for an “infrastructure bank” to finance transportation projects in the president’s FY2011 budget. Water associations are working to craft a water infrastructure bank proposal.


2009 Sector Security Metrics Report Released

WaterISAC has released the Water Sector Coordinating Council's (WSCC) 2009 sector-specific security metrics report. The initiative, which built on the council's 2008 work to measure security at water utilities, is part of a broader effort by the Department of Homeland Security to measure security among the nation's most critical infrastructure sectors.

According to the report:

  • 87% of drinking water and 85% of wastewater utilities have integrated security and preparedness into budgeting, training, and manpower responsibilities;
  • 88% of drinking water and 85% of wastewater utilities receive screened, validated, and timely security threat information from one or more sources;
  • 93% of drinking water and 92% of wastewater utilities secure and monitor the perimeter of areas containing hazardous materials; and
  • 94% of drinking water and 94% of wastewater utilities secure and monitor the shipping, receipt, and storage of materials for the facility.

The water sector was the first of the 18 critical infrastructure and key resource sectors to complete its metrics initiative.

A copy of the report is available in the WaterISAC Library. WaterISAC subscribers can view the report by typing "2009 Metrics Report" into the portal search bar.


Water Sector All-Hazard Consequence Management Plan Released

The All-Hazard Consequence Management Planning for the Water Sector (All-Hazard CMP) helps drinking water and wastewater utilities incorporate all-hazard consequence management planning into their emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans and programs. The All-Hazard CMP was produced by a workgroup made up of drinking water and wastewater utilities, water sector associations, and representatives of state and federal water programs.

The purpose of the document is to provide drinking water and wastewater utilities with planning recommendations derived from emergency management, mitigation planning and emergency response resources. The goal is to help drinking water and wastewater utilities incorporate all-hazard consequence management concepts into their existing emergency preparedness, response and recovery planning. The document provides:

  • Customizable lists of preparedness, response and recovery actions that will improve resiliency across all hazards;
  • Consequence-specific lists of actions for potential hazards that are most relevant to drinking water and wastewater utilities;
  • Example incident-specific flow charts and checklists developed by a utility with links to the downloadable and customizable versions online; and
  • Information on how the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) are used in preparedness and during response and recovery.

The document is not intended to replace any existing guidance or provide a comprehensive set of preparedness, response and recovery actions for each and every utility. Detailed guidance documents on specific aspects of preparedness, response and recovery planning already exist for critical infrastructure sectors, including the water sector. Where possible, those more detailed guidance and resource documents are referenced throughout this document and provided as a bibliography in Appendix 1.

For a copy of the document, please click here.