U.S. Senate shouldn't follow House's lead on clean water programs

With the Senate tackling the FY'05 spending bills, American Rivers calls on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget (VA-HUD and Independent Agencies) to take a step forward by funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program at $3.2 billion.

Sep 14th, 2004

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2004 (U.S. Newswire) -- With the Senate tackling the FY'05 spending bills, American Rivers calls on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget (VA-HUD and Independent Agencies) to take a step forward by funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program at $3.2 billion.

This vital program is the nation's largest source of clean water and wastewater treatment funding. The Senate subcommittee will recommend 2005 appropriation levels for this and other clean water programs in the coming days.

Despite the popularity of the Clean Water SRF program and its demonstrated necessity, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on July 22 to spend just $850 million on this program in 2005, a cut of half a billion dollars - or nearly 40 percent - from the previous year. The Senate appropriations subcommittee should not follow the lead of the House by cutting this vital funding.

"Congress cannot afford to whistle past the graveyard while our water infrastructure falls apart," said Betsy Otto, senior policy director. "The Senate should step up and provide its fair share of the funds needed to protect drinking water sources, human health, and fisheries."

Over the past 17 years the Clean Water SRF program has provided essential funding to communities large and small to build, upgrade, or maintain sewage treatment facilities. Sewer overflows and spills due to aging and inadequate infrastructure are a significant threat to clean water. As U.S. EPA noted in its August, 2004 report on sewer overflows: "The continued ability of existing infrastructure to safeguard the clean water accomplishments realized since 1972 is at risk." EPA projects that communities across the country will have to spend at least $388 billion on new and repaired equipment over the next 15 years just to meet current clean water infrastructure needs.

"There are many competing demands in the federal budget every year. But we cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to safeguarding human health. We need to invest significantly more money in our crumbling sewers and treatment plants, not less," said Otto.

At historic spending levels, federal clean water spending has directly lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of family- wage jobs for engineers, contractors, manufacturers, administrators, and construction workers in communities throughout the nation. In addition, communities boasting proximity to safe and attractive rivers, lakes, and beaches attract a wide variety of service industries including restaurants, hotels, retail operations, and recreational outfitters.

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