WASHINGTON, D.C. – Taking a stand to ensure every customer has equal access to safe, reliable and affordable wastewater services, U.S. Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Mike Bost (R-IL) introduced the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) Parity Act (H.R. 250) to allow all wastewater customers access to taxpayer-funded low-interest loans.
“We applaud Reps. Garamendi and Bost for their efforts to make sure every American – no matter who their wastewater service provider is – has equal access to safe, reliable and affordable wastewater services,” said NAWC President and CEO Robert F. Powelson. “Under the current structure, the Clean Water SRF program discriminates against customers whose services are provided by America’s wastewater companies even though tax dollars from these same customers help fund the program. We appreciate Rep. Garamendi and Rep. Bost recognizing how fundamentally unfair the program structure is and how correcting this structural deficiency advances equity of service.”
The Clean Water SRF program provides the financial support utilities need to be able to invest adequately in infrastructure by low-interest loans and grants to wastewater service providers. Under the current program structure, state officials administering the SRF programs can only provide low-interest loans and grants to government-owned wastewater systems. Garamendi and Bost’s Clean Water SRF Parity Act amends eligibility provisions so that all wastewater customers have the ability to benefit from the program’s low-interest loans.
Access to the clean water SRF benefits customers of private wastewater systems in the same way as customers of public systems since those companies are required by state regulators, such as public utility commissions, to pass any savings directly on to their customers. In fact, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has passed four separate resolutions calling on Congress to expand eligibility so that all of their constituents have the opportunity to benefit from the SRF programs.
“Our nation’s sewage treatment infrastructure was rated a D+ under the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent scorecard, requiring $81 billion in additional federal, state, local, and private investment,” Rep. Garamendi said. “Californians and the millions of other Americans served by publicly regulated utilities deserve modern wastewater treatment infrastructure and clean waterways. Our bipartisan bill would unlock more than $153 billion in low-cost public financing available under the Clean Water Act’s State Revolving Loan Funds. Publicly regulated utilities are already eligible under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s State Revolving Loan Funds, so it only makes sense they also be able to apply for this competitive financing, which is paid back with interest to the government. Upgrading our nation’s wastewater treatment infrastructure to be more efficient and cleaner means less environmental impact and lower utility bills for American families in the long run.”
“It is vitally important that we have up-to-date water infrastructure systems for both the health and safety of our communities,” Rep. Bost said. “I’m proud to help introduce the bipartisan Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) Parity Act to expand access to low interest SRF loans to the companies that provide this important service to many of our Southern Illinois communities.”
The restricted eligibility of the Clean Water SRF program ultimately limits the impact of this taxpayer-funded program leaving out tens of millions of Americans served by regulated water utilities. Changing the eligibility rules would allow Clean Water SRF dollars to instead be invested where the tax dollars will do the most good – regardless of the system’s ownership structure. The Clean Water SRF Parity Act only expands eligibility for dollars allocated to the program over and above current funding levels, ensuring that this expanded access would not reduce investment levels in publicly owned systems. Under the Act’s provisions, states could invest money where they believe taxpayers will benefit most, just as they can under current law with the drinking water SRF program.
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