House holds clean water affordability hearing; Springfield testifies on planning proposal

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July 25, 2014 -- Today, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment held a hearing to examine the status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Integrated Planning Framework, as well as the legislative efforts being made to supplement the approach and promote clean water affordability issues.

Stephen Meyer, director of environmental services for the city of Springfield, Mo., and member of the National Association of Clean Water Agency's (NACWA) board of directors, for example, testified on NACWA’s behalf. His testimony centered around Springfield's affordability challenges and its efforts to develop an integrated plan in order to more affordably manage their wastewater and stormwater requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Springfield intends to eventually incorporate their requirements under the Clean Air Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act into their integrated plan as well.

"Like many others across the nation, the city of Springfield-Greene County region is being required to devote more money and resources to comply with the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations," said Meyer during his testimony. "Because of our challenges involved with meeting these federal statutes, an integrated planning approach is really the only practical and affordable way forward to ensure optimization of taxpayer resources. More broadly, integrated planning not only promises to provide significant and much-needed flexibility for communities facing significant water quality and other environmental challenges, it symbolizes the recognition that it is time to do things differently under the Clean Water Act."

The hearing, titled "Integrated Planning and Permitting Framework: An Opportunity for EPA to Provide Communities with Flexibility to Make Smart Investments in Water Quality," also examined two bills that NACWA has been working on to promote integrated planning and affordability issues. The first was H.R. 3862, The Clean Water Affordability Act, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Bob Latta (R-OH) and Tim Walz (D-MN) and would codify EPA's integrated planning approach, extend permit terms for communities with an approved integrated plan, and require EPA to revise its guidance on financial capability. Reps. Latta and Walz provided their statement for the hearing on their legislation.

Accordingly, the second bill was H.R. 2707, The Clean Water Compliance and Ratepayer Affordability Act, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Steven Chabot (R-OH) Marcia Fudge (R-OH). The legislation would create a new pilot program for 15 communities across the country to develop integrated plans and extend permit terms for pilot communities with an approved integrated plan.

NACWA has been working on a similar effort with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to set aside money in EPA's FY 2015 budget to establish an integrated planning pilot program to help interested communities develop integrated plans pursuant to EPA's Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework. The House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and related agencies recently included $2 million in grant financing in EPA's FY 2015 budget for this pilot program in addition to the $335,000 the Agency identified earlier this year to help provide technical assistance to communities seeking help with developing integrated plans. The full House chamber is expected to vote on the FY 2015 EPA appropriations package next week.

See also:

"Framework Provides Integrated, Priority-Driven Approach to Wet Weather Management"

"EPA assures open dialogue on clean water affordability, NACWA applauds agency's commitment"

"Mayors praise EPA Integrated Planning Framework"

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