PA DEP secretary urges U.S. Senators to oppose cuts in water quality fund

President proposes 37% cut in Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which has been a cornerstone of improving water quality for almost 20 years...

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 30, 2004 (PRNewswire) -- On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty urged the state's U.S. senators to preserve the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and oppose President George W. Bush's 37% cut in funding for a program that has been a significant part of the state's water-quality improvement efforts for nearly two decades.

"The Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been a successful blend of federal-state cooperation for financing water quality needs across the country, giving states the flexibility to structure programs creatively to best serve their needs," Secretary McGinty said. "But such a steep cut in federal funding threatens the continued success of CWSRF, making it difficult for Pennsylvania and other states to tackle some of the more serious environmental challenges."

Established by the U.S. Clean Water Act amendments of 1987, CWSRF signaled a new national approach to providing funding assistance to water pollution abatement projects. The program, comprising state and federal contributions, has provided $4 billion annually in recent years to fund water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, nonpoint source pollution control, and watershed and estuary management. CWSRF has allocated $43.5 billion since its inception, providing more than 14,200 low-interest loans to date.

In Pennsylvania, the fund has been an extremely effective and efficient mechanism to protect and maintain water quality. In her letters to U.S. Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, Secretary McGinty noted that full funding of $1.35 billion for CWSRF is needed in federal fiscal year 2005 to meet the growing need and demand for aid, especially in Pennsylvania.

The President's proposed 37% reduction in the CWSRF, down to $850 million, translates into a $19.4 million reduction in funding for Pennsylvania's portion.

"All signs indicate that the costs for maintaining water quality are heading upward," Secretary McGinty said. "The combined pressures of aging wastewater treatment systems, localized population growth and continuing nonpoint source pollution pose serious challenges. Water quality improvement efforts will be hindered without adequate CWSRF funding."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than $390 billion will be needed over the next 15 years to meet clean water infrastructure needs. Pennsylvania has more than 83,100 miles of streams, completing assessments on about 60,800 miles of those streams. Of the assessed streams, the state has designated more than 24,000 miles of streams as "high- quality" or "exceptional value" waters. At the same time, Pennsylvania has identified more than 10,800 miles of impaired waters.

The state's current clean water infrastructure needs are estimated to be $8.06 billion, and the Commonwealth currently has projects totaling approximately $757 million on its project priority list for funding.

"The CWSRF has served the nation well, helping to achieve environmental and public health goals; meet Clean Water Act requirements; create jobs; and secure the nation's water infrastructure," Secretary McGinty said. "At a minimum, we urge that Congress sustain the current level of funding at $1.35 billion for this very important program."

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