February 03, 2016

Cardin Urges President Obama, OMB to Right-Size Funding Requests for Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has written to Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, urging a substantial increase in the President’s FY17 Budget for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs). The SRFs are the primary source of federal funding for all states to maintain, repair and replace their aging water infrastructure systems. Following a boost in funding in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, every budget since that time has been lower than recommended funding levels for the SRFs.

 

“The U.S. is facing a serious and growing need for repairs to and replacements of its aging water and wastewater infrastructure.…This difficulty has been highlighted with the unfortunate situation that is occurring in Flint, MI, and plagues cities all over the country,” Senator Cardin wrote in his letter. “Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life and represents a serious public health problem. Underfunding of our vital water and wastewater infrastructure is an issue we cannot ignore.”

 

After sending the letter, Senator Cardin took the issue to the floor of the United States Senate. He spoke about the need to address the crisis in Flint and steps that must be taken to safeguard drinking water across the country.

 

“…I support this amendment, which would direct $400 million in matching federal funds to the city of Flint, MI, and forgive the city’s previous Revolving Fund loans, $400 million is about 1/3 of what we are currently appropriating every year for Drinking Water infrastructure for the entire country. And so I ask my colleagues, if it costs $400 million to fix the pipes in Flint, MI, are we going to come to an agreement that we need a substantial increase in the amount of funds appropriated for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds to help all of our American cities?” 

 

 

The full text of the letter follows and can be downloaded here.

 

 

February 3, 2016

 

Shaun Donovan, Director

The Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Director Donovan:

 

            I would like to urge that a substantial increase in funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) be provided in the FY 2017 President’s budget. As you are aware, the U.S. is facing a serious and growing need for repairs to and replacements of its aging water and wastewater infrastructure. Meanwhile, state and local communities continue to face an array of competing resource demands that coincide with tight budgets as the economy is still recovering. This difficulty has been highlighted with the unfortunate situation that is occurring in Flint, MI, and plagues cities all over the country.

 

The SRFs provide vital, sustainable support for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades in the form of low-cost loans and grants. As you know, Congress appropriated $6 billion in funding for the SRFs as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Since then, the President’s budget and Congressional appropriations have funded the SRFs at significantly lower levels—declining to approximately one third of that last year.  According to the EPA’s most recent estimates, more than $655 billion may be needed to repair and replace drinking water and wastewater infrastructure nationwide over the next 20 years. An increase to the SRFs would help address this shortfall and make vital sources of funding available to many communities that face water and wastewater issues similar to Flint due to their aging infrastructure. Also, because the loan funds “revolve” to be used for loans on new projects as the principal and any interest are repaid, the SRFs represent a sustainable source of funding.

Increased funding for the SRFs will also help the Chesapeake Bay watershed states address their obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Limit (TMDL). The TMDL addresses pollution resulting from urban and suburban area runoff and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in addition to pollution from other sources. Funding for the SRFs can be used to help rehabilitate, replace, and upgrade aging sewers that lack adequate capacity to convey increasing wastewater and stormwater levels. They can also be used to fund innovative, low-maintenance approaches to addressing stormwater, such as green infrastructure.       

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure a grade of “D” in 2013. This is egregious and appalling because access to safe drinking water is a fundamental right of citizens, and delivery of safe drinking water is a fundamental responsibility for federal, state and local government.  Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life and represents a serious public health problem.

 

Underfunding of our vital water and wastewater infrastructure is an issue we cannot ignore.  Including a substantial increase for the SRFs in the President’s FY17 Budget Request to Congress would demonstrate the Administration’s strong support for this important priority and I urge your consideration.

 

           

 

          Sincerely,