House Package Merges Billions in New Water, Clean Energy Funding

June 22, 2020, 5:42 PM

House Democrats unveiled details of their $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan Monday that would pay for water projects, fight contamination from “forever chemicals,” and move toward a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

The 2,309-page package combines a $500 billion surface transportation bill that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved June 18 with a grab bag of other clean energy, infrastructure, and education funding proposals already unveiled by Democrats in recent months.

The bill faces scant chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, but its proposals provide an illustration for what Democrats hope to achieve if they control the White House and Senate as well as the House next year.

The Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) would provide $70 billion in electricity grid improvements and billions of dollars in annual water spending, including $25 billion to improve drinking water infrastructure and address per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances. It also provides grants for schools and child care facilities to voluntarily test for lead contamination and to replace school drinking water fountains.

It would boost funding to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, an Environmental Protection Agency program that helps states improve their water treatment facilities. The fund would go from $4.1 billion in fiscal 2022 to $4.8 billion in fiscal 2023, and to $5.5 billion in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

The measure also would establish a grant program to help community water systems pursue high-tech solutions for removing PFAS from drinking water. The EPA administrator would have to publish a list of treatment technologies that it determines are effective in removing “all detectable amounts” of PFAS.

The Democratic-controlled House is moving to take up the legislation in the coming weeks. But Republicans have already panned the measure as a wish list, given its $1.5 trillion price tag.

Bill Timing

Water utilities applauded the proposed infusion of funds to help combat PFAS contamination, given the increased interest in regulating chemicals in drinking water.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure that the public health is protected and that local ratepayers are not left bearing the costs of PFAS management,” Kristina Surfus, managing director of government affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, said in an email.

On its way to the floor, the measure has to make a stop at the House Rules Committee, which decides which amendments are be debated on the floor.

The panel set a June 25 deadline for submitting amendments. That schedule means the measure isn’t likely to be taken up by the Rules panel this week, according to a committee Democratic aide.

The new PFAS grant program would steer $500 million each year between fiscal 2021 through fiscal 2025 to help pay for capital costs associated with the treatment of the contaminants.

The package also proposes $40 billion in new wastewater infrastructure including projects to help communities address stormwater improvements and prevent pollution of local rivers.

The House package also includes climate-friendly provisions from the highway bill, including $1.4 billion in total for battery charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, according to a House Rules committee fact sheet on the measure.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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