White House Seeks SRF Cuts to Help Finance Hurricane Recovery

The Bush Administration has asked Congress to rescind $166 million in approved Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) funds to offset some of the federal government’s expenditures to help Gulf Coast states recover from hurricanes.

The Bush Administration has asked Congress to rescind $166 million in approved Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) funds to offset some of the federal government’s expenditures to help Gulf Coast states recover from hurricanes.

The $2.3 billion package would rescind federal spending the White House considers “lower-priority.”

Congress approved $900 million for the Clean Water SRF in its fiscal 2006 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appropriations bill. The proposed rescission would reduce funding to the administration’s original request of about $730 million.

The administration also asked Congress to reallocate $17.3 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to hurricane-response projects that other agencies, such as EPA, are conducting.

Joshua Bolten, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the FEMA reallocations were necessary because FEMA cannot fund certain response activities.

Bolten said Congress has already approved $62.3 billion in emergency funding for hurricane response activities and more funding is expected next year.

Other programs targeted in the rescission include $306 million from Department of Interior’s agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) said it would oppose the Clean Water SRF rescission.

In other action, the National Association of Counties (NACo) has urged Congress to enact proposals to help the Gulf Coast rebuild from recent hurricanes and help the nation’s preparation for catastrophes.

“Our policy recommendations call for strengthening critical infrastructure, aiding citizens and enhancing support to state and local governments for disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery,” said Bill Hansell, NACo president and Commissioner from Umatilla County, Oregon.

NACo said federal and state assistance for natural and man-made disasters must reach first responders in an expedited fashion; reimbursements should cover all costs incurred in responding and recovering from major disasters or terrorist attacks; and funding should be increased to repair and rebuild damaged public infrastructure.

It also said federal, state and local governments should improve the public safety communications and more funding should be provided to programs that help homeowners, social services and labor.

NACo stressed the importance of preparing for and preventing future disasters through funding for training, mitigation programs, emergency management grants, improving flood maps and developing evacuation plans.

NLC Criticizes Eminent Domain measure

The National League of Cities (NLC) has criticized the House of Representatives’ passage of a bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain by cities and towns.

It said H.R. 4128, the “Private Property Rights Protection Act,” would shift land use controls from the local and state level to the federal level.

“The practical effects from this bill -- should it ever become law -- could be to freeze the process of public-private economic development projects across the country,” said NLC Executive Director Don Borut, citing what he called “vague and confusing” definitions of economic development contained in the bill.

The legislation was a reaction to a June U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Kelo vs. New London, Conn. That ruling allowed local governments to use eminent domain powers for economic development projects sponsored by private corporations.

NLC said cities should be able to use eminent domain for economic development in an equitable manner.

It said eminent domain is most often used to address blighted conditions, clear title of vacant or abandoned property, resolve compensation disputes over property, or as part of an overall redevelopment plan for an area or neighborhood.

NLC said the House bill would preserve the right of power companies, gas and oil companies, and railroad and utility companies to exercise the power of eminent domain for their business purposes.

“Apparently, states, cities and towns can’t be trusted with eminent domain, but large private corporations will be allowed to use this power as they see fit,” NLC said.

Senator Pushes Need for Energy/Water Research

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) continues to push his legislation to use national laboratories to improve water technologies. Domenici, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing on his bill in October.

The bill would investigate ways to use water more efficiently in the production of energy. Domenici said estimates show that every barrel of oil produced requires at least 10 barrels of water.

“We simply must reduce water demand for energy production, reduce energy demand for water production, and develop new sources of water. That’s a tall order, but I am confident our national laboratories have the wherewithal to help us find cost-effective technologies to do it,” Domenici said.

“Without new research, we in the West will have a difficult time meeting our future water needs. This bill will allow our nation to ramp up investment in research and development of water technology,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), a cosponsor of the bill.

The measure would create a Department of Energy Program to promote the research, development and commercialization of technology relating to the relationship between energy and water, including reducing water demand for energy production and developing new technologies to more efficiently use water, and develop technology to produce additional water for human use.

The Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national laboratories are the three lead facilities designated to carry out the program. Each would select a university partner for research.

Initially, the bill allocate $5 million to launch the program in fiscal 2006. Funding would increase in out years WW

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