U.S. congressman to introduce cybersecurity legislation The U.S. House of Representatives is currently on holiday break, but Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark) has stated that he will soon introduce legislation to authorize and fund the formation of a water risk and resiliency organization (WRRO). The WRRO would coordinate the development of cybersecurity requirements for drinking water and wastewater systems with oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A spokesperson for Rep. Crawford said, “In the ever-changing cyber threat landscape, we need our most critical water infrastructure entities to be as secure as possible.” AWWA has been advocating for this approach since 2021 to ensure that owner/operators have a direct role in defining requirements that address the diversity of the sector. Recent cyber incidents targeting water systems have elevated concerns in Congress and the White House. PFAS drinking water standard sent to OMB The final drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been sent to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the last step in the process and the final opportunity for major changes to the rule. Typically, OMB has 90 days to complete this review, which includes an opportunity for federal agencies other than EPA to evaluate the agency’s draft final rule. EPA Administrator Michael Regan has previously promised to release the final rule this year, so we should expect the administration to try and expedite this review. If OMB were to reduce the typical 90-day review period to just 60 days, the final rule could be released in mid-February 2024. A shorter review period would be difficult administratively, especially for a rule with major cost consequences and significant implications for the Department of Defense and other agencies. USDA confirms nearly $2 billion in IRA funds will support source water protection A letter AWWA received this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Terry Cosby stated that he agreed with AWWA’s earlier assertion regarding $19.5 billion in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding. In the letter, which was dated last month, Cosby said he agreed with AWWA’s point that these IRA funds fall within the statutory requirement for at least 10% of conservation funds for most programs to be reserved for source water protection. AWWA staff and a team of engaged volunteers advocated during past Fly-Ins and other opportunities to secure provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that reserved 10% of the funds allocated to most USDA conservation programs (except the Conservation Reserve Program) for activities that protect sources of drinking water. In 2022, the IRA added the $19.5 billion to these programs over five years. We have asserted since its passage that the 10% set-aside applied to these funds, but this letter is the first instance where USDA has agreed and the first evidence the agency is moving toward that goal for IRA funds. This means that at least $1.9 billion over five years will be allocated to help protect drinking water sources. New SEC rule requires publicly traded companies to disclose cyber incidents The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) new cyber disclosure requirement went into effect on Dec. 18. The rule is intended “to enhance and standardize disclosures regarding cybersecurity risk management, strategy, governance and incidents by public companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.” This requires publicly traded companies to report to the SEC within four business days if a “material” hack occurs and create annual reports disclosing how they manage cybersecurity. A new Form 8-K item requires “registrants to disclose any cybersecurity incident they determine to be material and describe the material aspects of the nature, scope, and timing of the incident, as well as the material impact or reasonably likely material impact of the incident on the registrant, including its financial condition and results of operations.” The Commission stated that the rules “would provide investors with the more timely, consistent, comparable, and decision-useful information they need to make informed investment and voting decisions.” The rule also includes a provision by which the U.S. Attorney General can delay a disclosure if an incident is determined to pose “a substantial risk to national security or public safety” based on guidance issued by the Department of Justice. EPA proposes to evaluate risk posed by vinyl chloride EPA proposed to review the risk posed by allowing vinyl chloride use under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). This review could set the stage for risk management measures to protect workers and/or the public from exposure to vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride, which is used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, is in turn used to produce many products including water pipes. PVC drinking water pipes have figured repeatedly in press accounts of this Federal Register notice. There have been calls to ban vinyl chloride for several decades as well as information supplied by the chemical sector on the chemical and the merits of current risk reduction measures. Currently, EPA characterizes vinyl chloride as a known human carcinogen. The retrospective review of chemicals currently in use was a key feature of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. If completed, a final action by EPA on this notice would add vinyl chloride to the pipeline of existing chemicals in a multi-step risk evaluation process. Potential future actions under TSCA based on a final evaluation could include increasing worker safety protections, removing vinyl chloride from commerce, encouraging action under other statutes, and other measures. CRS highlights limitations of Drinking Water Needs Survey In its recently-released report, “ Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs: Background and Issues for Congress ”, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) questions whether the Drinking Water Needs Survey is fit-for-purpose. The report comes amid growing concern in the water sector and state governments that congressionally directed spending, or “earmarks,” are cannibalizing the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water state revolving loan fund programs (SRF). CRS points out several significant limitations of recent needs surveys, including (1) that the needs documented do not clearly align with regulatory compliance, (2) the survey design does not effectively characterize the infrastructure needs of small systems, and (3) the survey does not allow EPA to assess the needs of disadvantaged communities. EPA is currently conducting a “ do over ” to estimate the number of lead and galvanized service lines that will need to be replaced across the United States, following public reaction to the agency’s initial state-by-state allocation of lead service line replacement SRF funding based on the Seventh Needs Survey .