House holds hearing on Administration's proposed budget cuts for EPA

As the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing yesterday on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fiscal year 2006 budget, it's clear that proposed cuts to the agency's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program are untenable and the federal government needs to commit to long-term clean water funding, stated the Association of Muncipal Sewerage Agencies...

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 17, 2005 -- As the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing yesterday on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fiscal year 2006 budget, it's clear that proposed cuts to the agency's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program are untenable and the federal government needs to commit to long-term clean water funding, stated a national group representing municipal sewage authorities.

The Bush Administration has proposed to dramatically cut clean water funding by seeking to slash EPA's budget for fiscal year (FY) 2006 by $500 million (from $8.1 billion to $7.6 billion). The vast majority of this reduction would be achieved by a proposed cut of about $360 million (from $1.09 billion to $730 million) to the Agency's CWSRF program. The CWSRF, a loan program that helps local communities repair and replace aging treatment plants, has been the primary source of federal support for clean water infrastructure projects since its creation in 1987.

Studies by EPA, the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Water Infrastructure Network estimate a water infrastructure funding gap exceeding $300 billion over the next 20 years. Given this mounting funding gap, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) said in a news release, that it believes it's untenable for the federal government to cut support for clean water in America. AMSA is urging Congress to support both full funding for the CWSRF in the short-term, and a dedicated trust fund to guarantee clean and safe water in America for the long-term.

"This proposed cut is the wrong measure at the wrong time," stated AMSA executive director Ken Kirk. "Without a long-term, sustainable federal-state-local partnership communities will not be able to tackle essential capital replacement projects needed to meet federal Clean Water Act mandates and improve the quality of the nation's waters."

Facing similar shortfalls in funding for critical national infrastructure, Congress has established trust funds supported by dedicated revenue sources. Congressionally established trust funds for highway infrastructure ($30 billion/year) and airport infrastructure ($8 billion/year) provide a strong precedent for moving forward with a similar trust fund for clean and safe water. "Clean and safe water is certainly as important to the nation's economic and public health as our highways and airports," said Kirk. AMSA, together with other stakeholder groups, will work aggressively with Congress and the Administration -- both to ensure full funding for the CWSRF and to establish a trust fund dedicated to clean and safe water in America.

AMSA (www.amsa-cleanwater.org) is a national trade association based in the nation's capital that represents hundreds of publicly owned wastewater treatment utilities across the country. AMSA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim over 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day. AMSA members are environmental practitioners dedicated to protecting and improving the nation's waters and public health.

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