U.S. water infrastructure legislation underway U.S. congressional committees are starting crucial work on water infrastructure legislation at a relatively early stage for a new session of Congress. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce this week unveiled a large climate change bill that includes reauthorization of the drinking water state revolving loan fund (SRF) program with a large increase in authorized funding. We expect to see the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works introduce legislation soon to reauthorize the drinking water and wastewater SRFs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. Committee leadership aims to have that bill on the floor of the Senate by early April. Authorization of the drinking water and wastewater state SRF programs and of WIFIA expires at the end of this federal fiscal year, Sept. 30. The House bill, called the CLEAN Future Act, would authorize $4.14 billion for the drinking water SRF in 2022, $4.8 billion in 2023 and $5.5 billion in 2024-2031. The drinking water SRF received about $1.126 billion the last two years. The CLEAN Future Act would also double authorized funding for drinking water resiliency efforts to $50 million annually for 2022-2031. It would create an annual $500 million grant program for installing treatment for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for those same years. Lead service line replacement efforts would get $4.5 billion annually for 2022-2031. In addition, at a Feb. 23 hearing , leadership for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure announced it would soon reintroduce legislation offered in the previous session that reauthorized the wastewater SRF for five years at $8 billion annually. That committee has jurisdiction over wastewater, so reauthorization of the wastewater SRF must come from there. That is where House reauthorization of WIFIA will also emerge. Bear in mind both the House and Senate must approve SRF and WIFIA reauthorization for it to become law. While parts of the bigger bills may be controversial, the water infrastructure features should attract largely bipartisan support. Also, these are authorizations, so Congress would still have to appropriate such funds for them to become available. All that said, these efforts indicate greater appreciation of the challenges facing the water sector and of the potential job creation possible through water infrastructure investment. U.S. House rescue bill would affect water sector The massive House-passed pandemic relief bill, H.R. 1319 , now under consideration in the Senate, would channel another $500 million in the current federal fiscal year to assist low-income customers. This would be in addition to the $638 million Congress approved for this purpose in December. Also, the bill would provide $19 billion through FY2027 for rental assistance and more than $9 billion through 2025 for homeowner assistance . Those funds could be used for rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and similar purposes. The bill would provide about $350 billion to state and local governments to mitigate the financial effects and restore lost revenues due to the pandemic. This fund would provide $195.3 billion to states, $65.1 billion to counties, $65.1 billion to cities and other municipalities, $20 billion to tribes and $4.5 billion to territories. The Senate is producing its own version of this bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan Act, and has already trimmed back some of the spending. Still, it appears some level of funding will be headed to localities that could help the water sector. Congressional committees shuffle top ranks The change in control of the U.S. Senate, plus retirements, have produced several changes in committee and subcommittee leadership in Congress significant to the water community . Most notable is the change in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works . Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is the new chair. He was ranking Democrat in the previous session of Congress. The ranking Republican is now Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Heading the Senate subcommittee with direct jurisdiction over water issues is Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. The ranking Republican is Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. In the House, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., returns as chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce , but Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is the new ranking Republican. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., also returns as chair of the House subcommittee with direct jurisdiction over drinking water, while Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia is the new ranking Republican. AWWA offers International Women’s Day Webinar on March 8 Water utilities and service providers seeking to diversify their workforce and prepare for the future may be interested in our International Women's Day Webinar on March 8 at 1 p.m. ET. Continuing its tradition of promoting women in water, AWWA is planning a series of events in 2021 themed as Informed. Influence. Impact. The webinar will feature the following learning objectives: Learn the global statistics of women in engineering, STEM and the water industry. Analyze the challenges of diversifying the workforce and explore potential solutions. Challenge ourselves to identify gender inequity and seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. The webinar will be moderated by AWWA President Melissa Elliott, vice president of communications & marketing at Raftelis; and includes the following speakers: Dr. Roberta Rincon, senior manager, research, Society of Women Engineers Jennifer Sara, global director, water global practice, World Bank Kamila Galeza, social development specialist, water global practice, World Bank Becky Hachenburg, vice president, regional water sector leader; member of Stantec US Inclusion and Diversity Council WIFIA awarded $6 billion in loans in FY2020 The WIFIA program invited selected borrowers to apply for $6 billion in loans to finance about $15 billion in water infrastructure improvements in federal fiscal year 2020, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because WIFIA provides loans for up to 49 percent of a project’s costs, the actual investment in the nation’s water infrastructure will amount to about $15 billion. The selected projects will benefit 25 million people in 21 states. About $629 million of that will be applied to projects aimed at reducing lead and emerging contaminants. Another $3.3 billion will be used to repair, rehabilitate and replace aging infrastructure. In other WIFIA news, EPA announced it had awarded a $321 million loan to the City of Alexandria (Virginia), Sanitation Authority to redirect millions of gallons of sewage mixed with rainwater from combined sewer overflows to a treatment facility. EPA said the project will serve 320,000 people and create 2,000 jobs. Biden Administration guide addresses social cost of emissions The Biden Administration has issued an interim technical support document on the “social cost” of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. This concept provides a methodology for federal agencies to account for the impacts that increased emissions from a decision would have (or conversely the benefits of reduced emissions from a decision) in a format that can be included alongside other costs and benefits of a decision. The revised values may considerably change the cost-benefit analysis of federal decisions that include a significant impact on emissions. Although emissions were considered during rulemakings under the Trump Administration, the interim value for carbon is now more than seven times what it was previously, due primarily to a change in methodology. The exact impact of this tool is not yet fully known but is likely to influence many federal decisions by placing a greater focus on the reduction of emissions in federal decisions, including those related to infrastructure and natural resource management.