WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, praised final passage of companion legislation to legislation he authored in the Senate with Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) that would provide local governments more tools to deal with stormwater and infrastructure challenges. The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act first cleared the Senate in October and was passed in its final form Saturday. The bipartisan legislation includes provisions to prevent the disproportionate impacts of water and sewer bill hikes on low-income Americans, which has been particularly problematic in cities like Baltimore. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.
“Americans have a right to expect that water coming from their taps is safe to drink and that Congress will do everything within its power to ensure that happens at a reasonable cost to consumers. Having clean, safe water should not be a luxury priced out of reach for any person in this country,” said Senator Cardin. “I am particularly pleased to know that this legislation will help limit the disproportionate impacts of sewer and water bill hikes on low-income Americans, and make critical advancements in the use of green wastewater management strategies. Every community in America — urban, rural and suburban neighborhoods — will be helped by this bipartisan effort to improve our nation’s water infrastructure. If consumers cannot pay their water bills, then utilities cannot make the needed repairs and upgrades to their drinking water and waste water treatment plants, nor to the pipes and pumps that deliver water throughout their service area. We can break this cycle with more flexibility and greater federal resources.
The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act would:
- Provide communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects needed for CWA compliance.
- Establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at EPA to assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws.
- Compel the EPA to promote green infrastructure, which uses or mimics natural processes to infiltrate or reuse storm water runoff beneficially on-site where it is generated.
- Require the EPA to update and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) have endorsed the legislation.