Washington Policy and Regulatory Updates

Our ENS Federal Report provides a summary and the status on select legislative and regulatory actions.

We normally issue a Report when both Chambers are in session

ENS Federal Report

November 20, 2020

Washington Policy and Regulatory Updates

Our ENS Federal Report provides a summary and the status on select legislative and regulatory actions.

We normally issue a Report when both Chambers are in session

ENS Federal Report
June 18, 2021

Senate Confirms Environmental Nominees

This week, the Senate confirmed Radhika Fox as Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Office of Water. The Senate confirmed Fox’s nomination 55-43, and, in doing so, confirmed the first woman of color and first individual of Asian American decent to head the office. The Office of Water is responsible for managing water policy and regulatory decisions at USEPA, including addressing issues related to water quality, water contamination, ecosystem restoration, and watershed management and protection. Fox has been serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water. Prior to her position at USEPA, Fox served as the CEO of the US Water Alliance, and at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, directing the policy and governmental affairs.

 

During her nomination hearing earlier this year, Fox stated that as Assistant Administrator, a top priority would be to "advance durable water solutions" and dedicate efforts to ensuring all communities have access to safe water. Under Fox, the Office of Water will be a central actor in USEPA’s rewrite of the contentious Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule that defines federal jurisdictional authority over surface waters.  Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) voiced opposition to Fox’s nomination during floor debate, citing USEPA’s recent announcement that the agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would repeal the 2020 WOTUS rule and rewrite the rule from scratch. Capito stated that this decision cemented her opposition to Fox’s nomination, because Fox, serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, was involved in this EPA decision.  Fox stated during her nomination hearing that the goal for the WOTUS review is to create a rule that strikes a balance between the 2015 and 2020 rulemakings.

 

The Senate also confirmed Tommy Beaudreau to be Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on a bipartisan vote of 88-9.

 

House Moves Forward With FY2022 Spending Bills

This week, the House Committee on the Budget introduced a “deeming resolution” that sets a top-line spending limit of $1.506 trillion and includes cap adjustments for disaster relief and wildfire suppression. Shortly following introduction, the House approved the measure along party-lines.  The funding amounts to a 9% boost over the current fiscal year. The $1.5 billion will be distributed between the appropriations subcommittees and allow appropriators to begin drafting fiscal year 2022 spending bills ahead of markups later this month and in early July. The disaster relief cap adjustment does not specify an exact figure, however, based on the current formula, $2.45 billion would be available for wildfire suppression.  

 

Appropriations Committee Announces Markup Schedule

Following House passage of the deeming resolution that establishes top-line spending numbers for fiscal year (FY) 2022, House Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced a tentative schedule for the committee’s marking up of the FY2022 appropriations bills.  Congress has until October 1 to pass spending bills before the new fiscal year begins. The tentative markup schedule is as follows:

  

Subcommittee Mark Up Schedule  

  • June 24Financial Services and General Government; Legislative Branch   

  • June 25 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs  

  • June 28 Interior-Environment; State - Foreign Operations  

  • June 29 Subcommittee Allocations; Financial Services and General Government; Legislative Branch 

  • June 30Defense and Homeland Security 

  • July 12 Commerce-Justice-Science; Energy-Water Development; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; Transportation-Housing and Urban Development 

 

Full Committee Mark Up Schedule

  • June 30 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Military Construction-Veterans Affairs  

  • July 01Interior-Environment; State-Foreign Operations  

  • July 13 Defense and Homeland Security   

  • July 15 Commerce-Justice-Science; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education  

  • July 16 Energy-Water Development; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; Transportation-Housing and Urban Development 

 

House Subcommittee Marks Up Water and PFAS Bills; Sends To Full Committee

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change advanced three bills addressing access to clean and reliable water services and PFAS contamination to the full committee in a markup this week.  The bills were:

  • H.R. 3291, Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2021

  • H.R. 3293, Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021

  • H.R. 2467, PFAS Action Act of 2021

The subcommittee voted along party-lines to advance the three bills. For H.R. 3291 and H.R. 3293, Republican Members argued that Congress has already authorized and appropriated significant funding to assist communities and utilities maintain and upgrade water systems and services, and that it is fiscally unsound to continue to authorize further funding. Democrat Members countered Republican opposition cautioning of the consequential public health crises if Congress fails to deliver necessary assistance to ratepayers and water utilities. Below is a summary of the three bills.

H.R. 3293, would create permanent  programs at USEPA to assist low-income households maintain access to drinking water and wastewater services by helping ratepayers pay service bills. The subcommittee approved an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by the bill’s sponsor, Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), that authorized $4 billion in funding to both drinking water and wastewater programs. Additionally, the legislation would do prioritize utilities that:

  • Are subject to a Clean Water Act Consent Decree

  • Have customers that have cost increases of 30% or more during the last three years 

  • Develop programs for low-income ratepayers 

  • Provide matching funds for the grant 

 

H.R. 2467, the PFAS Action Act of 2021, is the comprehensive PFAS package sponsored by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) that, among the various provisions, includes the directive to USEPA to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous under CERCLA within two years of the bill’s enactment and to determine whether to designate all PFAS chemicals as hazardous under CERCLA within 5 years of the bill’s enactment. The bill was advanced along a party line vote of 16-7, with all Republican Members disapproving of the legislation. Republican members emphasized their desire to address PFAS contamination but argued that solutions should be based on science and, if enacted, H.R. 2467’s provisions will supersede ongoing activities at USEPA to make regulatory determinations of the chemicals. Democrats argued that efforts to address PFAS contamination cannot be delayed further, and that Congress must take decisive action to address and resolve PFAS contamination. The bill’s other provisions include: 

  • Designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants within 180 days and requires USEPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within 5 years

  • Requiring USEP to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and provides $200 million annually for wastewater treatment 

  • Prohibiting unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and places a moratorium on introduction of new PFAS into commerce

  • Requiring comprehensive PFAS testing

  • Creating voluntary label for PFAS in cookware

 

Finally, H.R. 3291 would provide federal assistance to water systems, focusing primarily on drinking water needs, to address issues related to ratepayer debts, PFAS contamination, and replacing lead service lines. Specifically, the bill would authorize a total of $105 billion in funding assistance, of which $53 billion would go to support the Drinking Water SRF, $45 billion to support replacement of every lead service line, and $5 billion to assist utilities with PFAS contamination. The bill would also authorize $4 billion in emergency relief to provide forgiveness to utility customers facing debt for unpaid fees since March 1, 2020. 

 

Cybersecurity Threats to Water Sector Included in Biden Summit with Russia

On the heels of recent ransomware and other cyberattacks on some of the nation’s most critical infrastructure, the President during his meeting with Russian President Putin made it clear that continued cyberattacks emanating from Russia would be met an aggressive response from the U.S.  The clear message was re-enforced with a reference to the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of what comprises the sixteen sectors of critical infrastructure including the water sector.  While Congress continues to develop an enhanced federal policy, the White House and Department of Homeland Security are expected to continue to issue directives and guidance on what actions must be taken to better protect the nation’s security from such threats.  One approach is likely to be unveiled through the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.  The commission was established through the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 to put into place a national strategy and plan to address the cyber threats.

 

Legislation Introduced to Protect Electric Grid

H.R. 2885, the Preventing Outages With Enhanced Resilience and Operations Nationwide Act of 2021 (POWER ON Act of 2021) was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), co-sponsors include Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA).  H.R. 2885 would provide $100,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026 for projects that enhance the physical resilience of the electric grid including: undergrounding of electrical equipment, utility pole management, the relocation of power lines, vegetation and fuel-load management, and, microgrids. 

 

New Legislation

H.R. 3973,  To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide for improved precision in the listing, delisting, and downlisting of endangered species and potentially endangered species. - Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

 

H.R. 3990, To ban the use of intentionally added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances in cosmetics.  - Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)

 

H.R. 4018, To provide drought relief in the State of California, and for other purposes. - Rep. David Valadao (R-CA)

 

H.R. 3906, To establish a Blue Carbon program to conserve and restore marine and coastal blue carbon ecosystems, and other purposes. - Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)

 

Reports and Regulation

Lead and Copper Rule – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is delaying until December 16, 2021, the effective date of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions. USEPA is also delaying the compliance date established in the LCRR to October 16, 2024. Request for Public Comment.

New Treasury FAQs - Broadband provision of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds’ Interim Final Rule.

 

Congress Next Week

Tuesday June 22, 2021

House Committee on Natural Resources – Hearing on Legislation Before the Committee

 

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Hearing on President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: Agency Policies and Perspectives (Part I)

 

Wednesday June 23, 2021

House Committee on Natural Resources – Hearing on Examining the Department of the Interior’s Spending Priorities and the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal

 

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – Hearing on FEMA’s Priorities for FY22 and Beyond: Coordinating Mission, Vision and Budget

Previous Posts 

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November 13, 2020

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November 6, 2020

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October 16,2020