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March 23, 2010

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Government Relations

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Bill to Encourage Water Infrastructure Investment

The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) along with 40 national groups representing the entire spectrum of the diverse water sector — engineers, contractors, construction workers, distributors and manufacturers — collectively applauded the House Ways and Means Committee for passing a bill that would remove state volume caps on private activity bonds (PABs) for water and wastewater financing included in the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010, H.R. 4849. The committee passed the bill on March 17, 2010; it now awaits House passage.

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.

In a statement, NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane said, “The inclusion of language from H.R. 537 drafted and led by Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) and 45 of his bi-partisan and geographically diverse colleagues to address both jobs and infrastructure will help local water providers leverage private sector investment in water and wastewater infrastructure, addressing two critically important challenges facing our nation and generating significant tax revenue for states and communities across the country.”

A removal on bond caps for water projects promises to 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.


NAWC Water Experts Meet with and Report to Congressional Leaders

Forty NAWC water experts from all over the country came to Capitol Hill from March 9–10 as part of an annual “Report to Congressional Leaders.” More than 100 meetings were scheduled with elected officials during which water experts talked about the broad spectrum of solutions they provide to cities, towns and utilities across the country. NAWC encouraged congressional leaders to support several initiatives that will promote sustainable business practices and provide incentives for increased partnerships between public and private sectors to provide valuable and affordable water and wastewater service to millions of Americans.

NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane noted that “as service providers, NAWC members maintain a shared focus with elected officials. Our 74 million customers are their constituents, and we both have a common goal to protect public health and water resources for the American people. Following the regulatory guidelines put forth by Congress and the administration, NAWC members implement the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and provide quality and reliable water service all day, every day.”

NAWC encouraged Congress to lead on water issues by:

  • Supporting the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act (H.R. 537), a bill
    sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and 45 of his bipartisan colleagues from across the country, which expands the use and availability of tax-exempt financing for water projects. It is estimated that removing existing restrictions to this financing could support upwards of 57,000 jobs in 2010;
  • Reauthorizing the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and the Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S.1005) to enable private water service providers to extend much-needed wastewater solutions and service to underserved communities and non-compliant systems; and
  • Considering the development of an infrastructure bank that would accommodate water infrastructure projects, act as a real bank and encourage public-private partnerships.


Rep. Pascrell (D-N.J.) Champions Solutions for Water Infrastructure, Job Creation Before Congress

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) of New Jersey passionately spoke about water problems and his proposed solution on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 12, 2010. His speech can be read below and watched on YouTube here.

“Mr. Speaker, if you look at the data, it is clear that since the start of the Obama administration and the passage of the Recovery Act — which you've heard depicted by the three former speakers — we are stemming the number of job losses per month; there is no doubt about that. But we need to do everything we can to actually start gaining jobs instead of just losing fewer. It would seem like the charts, it would seem by the facts that in the next several months we will see, finally, for the first time in several years a plus in terms of the creation of jobs.

“The U.S. jobs deficit has reached millions. Our unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. That is an intolerable rate. The problem we are facing is how to address the shortfall in employment opportunities and articulate a new strategy that targets and engages our small businesses and American workers. Mr. Speaker, we simply need jobs.

“Which brings me to what I think is the most obvious answer. It was obvious many years ago, it's obvious now: Our infrastructure. Our infrastructure is in disrepair. And it's not just our roads, and it's not just our bridges that are falling down. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the Nation's wastewater systems and water systems the lowest grade of any infrastructure category, a D-minus. I want to have our viewers in the House see this. This is a rotted water main pipe, much like the pipes in many of our districts and many of our communities. I like to call these the out-of-sight, out-of-mind pipes; you don't see them until you have a problem with your water main. But as we have learned over the last couple of years, just because our infrastructure needs are not visible doesn't mean that they are not deteriorating.

“A quick look at the recent news headlines across the country illustrates the state of our water infrastructure, and I can only list a few because time does not permit: Franklin Water Main Break Closes Roads and Schools; ‘Boil your water,’ says Franklin, New Jersey; Lancaster Water Main Breaks; Sinkhole Swallows Car in California; Water Main Break in Manhattan Causes Evacuations in Traffic, Subway Disruptions in New York City; Water Main Break Cuts Off Water Service to the Medical Center in West Virginia.

Here we have an illustration of the water main break on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland, watching people airlifted out of their cars. We're not making this stuff up; this is real. In metropolitan DC on Christmas Eve, 2008, it was quite a spectacle. One headline actually read, Water main break forces dramatic rescue of nine. The road literally exploded.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to two realities: America needs jobs, and our infrastructure cannot put people to work fast enough. As a former mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, I understand the significance of local water and wastewater systems. A strong water infrastructure is essential to the community's public health and economic vitality.

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the General Accounting Office estimate that community water systems will require $500 billion above their expected rate of investment in order to meet safe drinking water standards and sanitation needs just over the next 20 years.

“As Congress struggles with historic deficits, I strongly believe that we must leverage private capital investment and look at options for public-private partnerships. That is what we are talking about this evening.

“In order to encourage this possibility, I introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, H.R. 537, which will generate significant investment through the use of tax-exempt bonds for water infrastructure, and that is water and wastewater projects.

“Congress already exempts airports, intercity rail, and solid waste disposal sites from those bond caps. My bill would remove water infrastructure projects from the cap as well.

“By exempting water projects from the bond cap, we can get people working on the very projects to my right in 90 to 120 days. This isn't hot air; this is real relief. This is real jobs. Standard & Poor's estimates that $180 billion in new money infrastructure is available for investment. This capital cannot be deployed until a private activity bond cap exemption is crested.

“This legislation aims to repair our crumbling water infrastructure while leveraging private capital to create jobs. Every dollar invested in public water and sewer infrastructure will add $8.97 to the national economy. This is a win-win situation. Economists estimate a $1 billion investment in water infrastructure will create 28,500 local jobs. You cannot in any manner, shape or form produce any other job plan that is going to do what this can do, because these are our needs. These need to be done because things are only going to get worse.

“That pipe, which I showed you before, is not going to cleanse itself. It has led that pipe and many other pipes like it to this particular situation of people being airlifted, to rescue workers having to go to a particular community and, of course, to vehicles that have been raised in the air because of the explosion of our water mains.

“This would be 28,500 jobs in 1 year. This is bipartisan legislation. Both sides of the aisle have signed onto this. It could put Americans in every State to work within 120 days of its enactment. It is time to focus on creating jobs and on building a strong infrastructure for future generations. Let's stop talking about what needs to get done, and let's actually get this done.

“There are huge economic benefits that come with water and wastewater infrastructure projects. In fact, a recent study found that every $1 billion invested in water and wastewater infrastructure creates 27,000 new jobs with average annual earnings of more than $50,000. Each $1 billion invested generates approximately $82.4 million in State and local tax revenue at a time when States and localities need it most.

“This chart shows how construction dollars ripple through local communities. Right here, an estimated 20,000 to 26,669 jobs can result from a national investment of $1 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure — everything from construction, to real estate, to retail, to legal services, to the management of companies and enterprises, to private households, and to maintenance and repair. This chart shows how these construction dollars ripple through our entire communities.

“Let's face it: as of this unemployment situation that we are in today, 40 percent of those jobs will never return, and 40 percent of those jobs that have been lost — get this — are by people who have been out of work for more than 6 to 8 months. They will not return to those jobs. We need to invest with the private community in order to do things that must be done that communities cannot afford. We have found that every $1 billion invested in these projects creates jobs in 325 other industries, and they are listed.

“I urge all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take action to support this legislation and to push its passage for measures that will empower American workers and that will provide them with opportunities.

“Eligible and essential public health and environmental projects approved for 2010 are waiting for funding. They are waiting for private and public investment, which we can leverage with a very small amount of money. The resulting jobs are important. In California, 285,000 jobs can be created and, in Illinois, 133,950 jobs. In New Jersey, $1.8 billion will mean 51,300 jobs on projects that are needed. In every State we go over, this is the case.

“There are 60 different organizations which support this legislation — from engineers to waterworks associations, to equipment manufacturers — Caterpillar, Coca Cola, Design-Build Institute of America. There are 60 different organizations which support this bipartisan legislation that will create jobs and not hot air. We have had a lot of hot air in Washington. I think this legislation is what we need.

“My good friend, Mr. Boccieri, I thank you for bringing us together tonight.

“America needs jobs. This is our priority. I have presented an idea which, I hope, will be accepted. I hope that America can get back to work again. Our people need jobs — jobs that will be needed and that are needed so that we don't have to make work. Remember school? Make work. Keep the kids busy. These are things we need. We understand this, but we don't look at it because these waterworks, whether they are sewers, whether they are water or whether they are watersheds, are all mostly under the ground. It's not a romantic or a sexy thing to talk about, but I have presented to the House a way to put people to work. These jobs need to be done, and the private and public sectors must be brought together.

“With that, I yield back. I thank you for allowing me to share in this important evening.”


N.J. DEP Delays Adoption of Perchlorate Standard

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), on March 16, 2010, delayed adoption of a drinking water standard for perchlorate. The DEP had previously proposed establishing a 5 parts-per-billion limit, but ultimately concluded that it should postpone taking final action until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had had an opportunity to act on this issue. The EPA, which is considering standards ranging from 15 parts per billion to as low as 2 parts per billion, is expected to decide whether to regulate perchlorate and, if so, at what level sometime this summer.