President passes massive $1.1-trillion spending bill; water funding to remain steady
On Wednesday, Dec. 17, President Obama signed a massive $1.1-trillion omnibus appropriations bill into law, which will provide much-needed funding to help the U.S. government continue to operate through the end of September 2015.
Dec. 19, 2014 – On Wednesday, Dec. 17, President Obama signed a massive $1.1-trillion omnibus appropriations bill into law, which will provide much-needed funding to help the U.S. government continue to operate through the end of September 2015.
The U.S. House passed the 1,600-page bipartisan bill with a final vote of 219 to 206 on Thursday, Dec. 11, and the Senate also approved the measure with a final vote of 56 to 40 on Saturday, Dec. 13.
Representing one of the last acts of Congress before Republicans gain control of both the House and Senate in January, the legislation primarily calls for national spending to remain the same as FY-2014 levels, with some downsizing to banking regulations.
With regards to water-related projects, the bill will allocate $2.35 billion for critical state revolving fund (SRF) programs, with $907 million set aside for drinking water SRFs and $1.45 billion allotted for clean water SRFs.
Accordingly, the new spending proposal will also include trade-restrictive "American Iron and Steel" language pertaining to these SRFs, which are identical to that seen in the 2014 appropriations bill.
The FY-2015 bill will also allow clean water law exceptions for agricultural waste, prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches, for example, under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Moreover, the law will require the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their interpretive rule issued last March, which sought to clarify CWA, Section-404 permit exemption applications for agricultural operations.
The appropriation bill will also cut EPA's budget by $60 million, apportioning a total of $8.1 billion to the organization for this term. Further, it will reduce the Agency’s staff levels, bringing them to the lowest point in over 25 years.