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September 28, 2010

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Government Relations

EPA to Survey Community Water Systems to Estimate Capital Investment Needs

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to conduct the 2011 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, which will provide EPA with a basis for estimating the nationwide infrastructure needs of public water systems.

The EPA conducts a capital needs survey every four years "to allocate the next fiscal year's appropriation of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) monies to the States,” according to the agency. The state revolving fund provides low-interest or no-interest loans to water utilities through state agencies.

On Sept. 10, the EPA formally initiated the 2011 survey process with the issuance of a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comments on whether the survey was necessary, and what would enhance its quality, utility and clarity. Following the public comment period, the EPA will submit an information request to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Although participation in the survey is voluntary, an economic incentive in the form of financial assistance under the Safe Drinking Water Act encourages participation.

EPA said it expects almost all of the survey responses to be provided during 2011. The last survey, conducted in 2007, produced an EPA estimate that the national 20-year need for capital investment in public water systems amounted to $335 billion.

Comments on the information collection request can be submitted here, citing Docket ID EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0689. Comments also can be e-mailed.


California Announces Health-Based Goals For Three Drinking Water Contaminants

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the publication of the final technical support documents for the Public Health Goals (PHGs) for benzo(a)pyrene, methoxychlor and TCDD (dioxin) in drinking water.

The PHG for benzo(a)pyrene is established at 0.007 parts per billion (ppb), based on carcinogenic effects in rats and mice. The PHG for methoxychlor is established at 0.09 ppb, based on effects in male offspring of female mice treated with methoxychlor during pregnancy. The PHG for TCDD is established at 0.00005 parts per trillion (ppt), based on tumors in multiple sites in female rats.

Public Health Goals are non-mandatory benchmarks that the California Department of Public Health uses to establish or update state drinking water standards, known as maximum contaminant levels.

For more information please click here.


U.S. Senate Passes Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act

The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) has been a strong supporter of the bipartisan Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (S. 624) to provide safe water and sanitation to 100 million people around the world by 2015, and which the United States Senate recently passed by unanimous consent.

Introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Corker (R-TN), the bill would create government positions at both the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State to oversee implementation of the act's provisions, to coordinate U.S. policy as it relates to other international issues and to oversee implementation of the 2005 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.

The Water for the World Act will work to foster global cooperation, develop expertise within regions facing significant water challenges, and fund the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“NAWC has been a longstanding advocate for this important legislation,” said Michael Deane, the executive director of NAWC. “Globally, one billion people do not have access to clean water and we need only to see the coverage of recent natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan to witness the catastrophic health and safety consequences of unclean water supplies. We commend the leadership of Senators Durbin and Corker and their 32 co-sponsoring Senate colleagues on the passage of this important initiative and will lend the industry’s expertise to provide clean water for those most in need.”

The Act is named in honor of Senator Durbin’s predecessor, the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL), whose 2002 book, Tapped Out, predicted a global clean water crisis.



Congress Continues to Debate Dividend and Capital Gains Tax Rates; Businesses Continue to Push for Resolution

The 2003 Bush tax cuts that lowered the tax rates for capital gains and dividends to 15 percent are set to expire on December 31, 2010. Without Congressional action, dividends will be subject to ordinary income tax rates of up to 39.6 percent beginning in 2011, and capital gains will again be taxed at a 20 percent rate.

Although Congressional leaders have not settled on a strategy or timeline for extending the Bush tax cuts before the end of 2010, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) recently announced that he intends to seek a permanent top tax rate of 20 percent for both capital gains and dividends, and that he wants the Senate to waive budget rules requiring the high-cost proposal to be offset. The Obama administration wants to keep the 15 percent income tax rate for the middle class but see capital gains and dividends taxed at 20 percent for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000. Democrats and Republicans have largely agreed on the concept of continuing to tax dividends at the same rate as capital gains.

Hundreds of companies - especially utilities, telecom and financial firms - have sharpened their lobbying efforts and formed advocacy groups in response to the threat of higher investment tax rates. Among them are Defend My Dividend, which represents 50 electric and gas utilities, and the Alliance for Savings and Investment, which includes about 25 companies and groups including NAWC. The Alliance for Savings has run print ads in Capitol Hill newspapers, created a website featuring concerned senior citizens, and hired high-powered Washington consultants and lobbyists.

“Water companies must continue to be able to attract capital to fund the EPA estimated $300 billion in public and environmental health infrastructure needs over the coming years," said Michael Deane, NAWC's executive director.