WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined efforts to provide communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water infrastructure projects by helping introduce the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.
“Water infrastructure development and maintenance is important to public health and safety. As communities meet the needs of their population and address aging infrastructure, they must have the flexibility to do so while not passing along the increased costs of utilities to families and businesses. This bill is a commonsense measure to help cities comply with federal environmental laws,” Boozman said.
The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act would:
- Provide communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects needed for CWA compliance.
- Establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at EPA to assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws.
- Compel the EPA to promote "green infrastructure," which uses or mimics natural processes to infiltrate or reuse storm water runoff beneficially on-site where it is generated.
- Require the EPA to update this guidance and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures.
Many state and local governments face difficulties meeting Clean Water Act requirements for storm water and wastewater updates. The U.S. Conference of Mayors found, on average, municipalities spend between six to seven cents of every tax dollar on water and sewer systems. This makes water infrastructure the third-largest expense for cities, after education and emergency personnel.
The bill was introduced by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and in addition to Boozman, has the support of Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“Improvements to water infrastructure help keep Americans healthy and safe. But as local communities work to comply with burdensome EPA mandates, costs are ultimately passed on to families through higher utility bills. The city of Omaha knows this well. This bipartisan legislation would give cities and local communities more control and flexibility as they manage infrastructure updates. It would also allow them to prioritize projects in an effective manner,” Fischer said.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities have endorsed the legislation. Click here to read the letter of support from these organizations.
Click here to read the text of the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act.