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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Program Overview and Issues


Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments of 1996 authorized a drinking water state revolving loan fund (DWSRF) program to help public water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet the act’s health objectives. Under the program, states receive capitalization grants to make loans to public water systems (privately and publicly owned) for drinking water projects and certain other SDWA activities. Since FY1997, Congress has provided more than $13 billion for this program, including $2 billion in stimulus funding. Through June 2008, the DWSRF program had provided a total of $14.6 billion in assistance and supported 6,177 projects.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) latest (2007) survey of capital improvement needs for public water systems indicated that water systems need to invest $334.8 billion on infrastructure improvements over 20 years to ensure the provision of safe water. EPA reports that this amount is similar to the 2003 needs estimate of $276.8 billion ($331.4 billion when adjusted to 2007 dollars). The survey reflects continued improvement in reporting of needs for infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement, and also funding needs related to compliance with several revised regulations and security-related needs.

Key issues related to the DWSRF program include the gap between estimated needs and funding; the growing cost of complying with SDWA standards, particularly for small communities; the ability of small or economically disadvantaged communities to afford DWSRF financing; and the broader need for cities to maintain, upgrade, and expand infrastructure unrelated to SDWA compliance.

In the 111
th Congress, drinking water infrastructure funding generally, and the DWSRF program specifically, received attention. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5, H.Rept. 111-16) provided $2 billion for the DWSRF program for drinking water infrastructure projects, and $4 billion for a similar Clean Water SRF that funds municipal wastewater infrastructure projects. Under the DWSRF program, the stimulus funds have been allocated as capitalization grants to the states, which states have used to provide financial assistance (subsidized loans and grants) to public water systems for infrastructure projects. The conference report modified several program practices for projects receiving stimulus funds. The 111th Congress also completed FY2009 appropriations work with the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8), which included $829 million for the DWSRF program, and provided another $1.387 billion for the program for FY2010 in P.L. 111-88. For FY2011, the DWSRF program has been funded at FY2010 levels through continuing resolutions.

Further in the 111
th Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported, amended, S. 1005, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, which would have authorized $14.7 billion over five years for the DWSRF program. In July 2010, the House passed, amended, the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 (H.R. 5320, H.Rept. 111-524), which proposed $4.8 billion over three years for this program. Both bills would have applied Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions to projects financed in any way by a DWSRF, as did ARRA and P.L. 111-88. Introducing an alternative infrastructure funding approach, H.R. 3202 proposed to establish a dedicated water infrastructure trust fund supported by specified product and corporate taxes rather than appropriations of general revenues. No final action occurred on these bills.


Date of Report: February 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RS22037
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A U.S.-Centric Chronology of the International Climate Change Negotiations


Jane A. Leggett
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

The United States is a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but not to its subsidiary Kyoto Protocol (discussed below). The UNFCCC treaty was intended to address growing global concern about the possibility of human-induced global warming. As a Party, the United States has certain obligations under the treaty, and our behaviors in that context are likely to continue to draw attention on the world stage. The executive branch continues to negotiate and implement international obligations, while committees of Congress engage in oversight, providing input to the executive branch formally and informally, and deciding on program authorities and appropriations for these activities. In addition, the United States has exercised leadership for decades on climate change science, and has supported related partnerships, technology research and development, and other forms of international cooperation. Given the continuing public and legislative debate over whether and how to address climate change, the 112th Congress may continue to engage on international climate change activities.

The United States, like other industrialized countries, reports greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually and submits quadrennial national communications of policies and programs. The United States is the only one of 194 UNFCCC Parties that is not also party to the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 of the highest income countries committed to reduce their GHG emissions to specific levels during the period 2008 to 2012. The Kyoto Protocol allows Parties to use emissions trading markets to minimize the costs of achieving those reductions. Developing countries, however, have no GHG obligations, and their exemption has become a focal point of conflict in negotiations on actions in the period after 2012. Negotiations under way since 2007 have run on two tracks: one under the Kyoto Protocol (which is subsidiary to the Convention), to extend commitments of developed, Annex I, Parties beyond 2012, and the second track under the UNFCCC, regarding commitments for all Parties. Both tracks convened in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009 under a deadline to agree on steps to address climate change beyond 2012.

The 2009 Copenhagen conference was beset by strong differences among countries. The Parties did not adopt, but “took note of,” a “Copenhagen Accord,” agreed among the United States and two dozen countries (notably including China). The Copenhagen Accord may have marked a turning point, by addressing all countries’ commitments in one instrument and laying out essential compromises. In December 2010, many elements of the Copenhagen Accord were adopted by Parties in the “Cancun Agreements.” These embody GHG pledges made by all major emitting Parties; enhancements to reporting and review systems to ensure “transparency” of implementation; pledges for financial assistance; and additional new points of agreement.

As background for congressional deliberations, this document provides a U.S.-centric chronology of international climate change policy from 1979 to 2010. This chronology identifies selected external events and major multilateral meetings that influence both the current legal and institutional arrangements, and the contentious choices about future international cooperation.

Many in Congress are concerned with the merits of a treaty, or the goals and obligations one might embody. A particular concern regards parity of actions and effects on trade competitiveness among countries. Additional issues include the compatibility of any international agreement with U.S. domestic policies and laws; the adequacy of appropriations, fiscal measures, and programs to achieve any commitments under the agreement; and the desirable form of the agreement and related requirements. A new treaty would require Senate consent to ratify it and federal legislation to assure that U.S. commitments are met.



Date of Report: February 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R40001
Price: $29.95

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): Selected Regulatory and Legislative Issues

Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Much progress has been made in assuring the quality of public water supplies since the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was first enacted in 1974. Public water systems must meet extensive regulations, and water utility management has become a much more complex and professional endeavor. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated some 91 drinking water contaminants, and more regulations are pending. In 2007, the number of community water systems reporting no violations of drinking water standards was 89.5%. Despite nationwide progress in providing safe drinking water, an array of issues and challenges remain.

Recent issues have involved infrastructure funding needs, regulatory compliance, and concerns caused by detections of unregulated contaminants in drinking water, such as perchlorate, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Another issue involves the adequacy of existing regulations (such as the lead rule) and EPA’s pace in reviewing and potentially revising older standards (such as the chromium standard).

Congress last reauthorized SDWA in 1996. Although funding authority for most SDWA programs expired in FY2003, Congress continues to appropriate funds annually for these ongoing programs, while EPA, states, and water systems continue efforts to meet current statutory requirements. The 111
th Congress made one amendment to SDWA, P.L. 111-380, which reduces the amount of lead allowed in water pipes and plumbing fittings and fixtures.

An overarching SDWA issue concerns the cumulative cost and complexity of drinking water standards and the ability of water systems, especially small systems, to comply with standards. The issue of the affordability of drinking water regulations has merged with the larger debate over what is the appropriate federal role in assisting communities with financing drinking water projects needed for SDWA compliance, and for water infrastructure improvements generally.

Water infrastructure financing legislation has been offered repeatedly in recent Congresses to authorize higher funding levels for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, and/or to provide grants and other compliance assistance to small communities. In the 111
th Congress, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) included $2 billion for the DWSRF program, and the EPA appropriations act for FY2011 (P.L. 111-88) included another $1.387 billion. Two bills to revise and reauthorize the DWSRF received action: Housepassed H.R. 5320 and Senate-reported S. 1005. Taking an alternative financing approach, H.R. 3202 proposed to create a water infrastructure trust fund supported by fees and taxes.

The SDWA also mandates regulation of underground injection activities to protect drinking water sources. An issue in this area concerns the underground injection of carbon dioxide (CO
2) for long-term storage as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140) specified that sequestration activities shall be subject to SDWA underground injection control provisions. In 2010, EPA issued a SDWA rule to provide a national permitting framework for managing the underground injection of CO2 for commercialscale sequestration projects. Another underground injection issue concerns the growing reliance on hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas and oil from unconventional geologic formations. Two bills (H.R. 2766 and S. 1215, the FRAC Act) were introduced to authorize EPA regulation of this practice under the SDWA underground injection control program; in contrast, H.R. 2300 expressed opposition to federal regulation of gas and oil production wells under SDWA.


Date of Report: January 31, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL34201
Price: $29.95

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Clean Air After the CAIR Decision: Multi-Pollutant Approaches to Controlling Powerplant Emissions

James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Larry Parker
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney/Acting Section Research Manager


On August 2, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new Clean Air Transport Rule to control powerplant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). When finalized, this rule will replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR); CAIR, which was promulgated in May 2005, established a regional cap-and-trade program for SO2 and NOx emissions from electric generating units (EGUs) in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. On July 11, 2008, in North Carolina v. EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated CAIR, saying that it had “more than several fatal flaws.” The court subsequently modified its decision on December 23, 2008, however, reversing itself by allowing CAIR to remain in effect until a new rule is promulgated by EPA.

From a policy standpoint, the court’s July 2008 decision seriously undermined EPA’s approach to clean air over the previous eight years. CAIR was the lynchpin that held together the Bush Administration’s strategy for attainment of the ozone and fine particulate National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), for achieving reductions in mercury emissions from coal-fired powerplants, for addressing regional haze impacts from powerplants, and for responding to state petitions to control upwind sources of ozone and fine particulates under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act. As discussed in this report, the potential impact on communities attempting to achieve NAAQS and the impact on mercury emissions without CAIR or a similar rule would be substantial; this has prompted some to call for congressional action to address the issue. On February 4, 2010, Senator Carper and 11 bipartisan cosponsors introduced S. 2995, a multipollutant bill that would have replaced the CAIR requirements, and required standards for powerplant emissions of mercury. The bill was not acted on, but legislation addressing CAIR replacement is considered likely to be introduced in the 112
th Congress.

The D.C. Circuit’s July 2008 decision strongly suggested that there is no simple “fix” that will make CAIR acceptable to the court. This left EPA with three clear long-term options: (1) starting anew with a new strategy with respect to mitigating transported air pollution based on the decision; (2) allowing the states to sort out the issue through Section 126 petitions; and (3) seeking new legislation providing EPA with the statutory authority to implement either CAIR in some form, or an alternative. The agency is proceeding with the first of these options with its proposed transport rule, but has indicated that it views congressional efforts to address the issue as “mutually reinforcing.”

For Congress, the court decision raises several issues:
  • Should Congress consider providing EPA with the authority to implement CAIR or other cost-based, market-oriented approaches to address NAAQS? 
  • Should Congress consider multi-pollutant legislation as a supplement or substitute for the current regulatory regime, at least for electric generating units? 
  • Should Congress consider a more comprehensive revision to the Clean Air Act to address the full scope of ozone and PM2.5 NAAQS non-attainment and related issues, as well as mercury emissions from coal-fired powerplants, and emerging environmental issues such as climate change?


Date of Report: February 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RL34589
Price: $29.95

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Clean Air Issues in the 112th Congress


James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Although air quality has improved substantially in the United States in the 40 years of EPA’s Clean Air Act regulation, many issues remain unresolved, and, in recent months, members of Congress from both parties have raised questions regarding the cost-effectiveness of, and authority for, EPA actions. This report focuses on three general areas of likely interest to the 112th Congress: greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations, emissions from power plants (including interstate pollution and mercury emissions), and air quality standards.

EPA regulatory actions on GHG emissions using existing Clean Air Act authority have been the main focus of congressional interest in clean air issues in recent months. Although the Obama Administration and EPA spokespersons have consistently said that they would prefer that Congress pass legislation to address climate change, EPA has begun to develop regulations using its existing authority. On December 15, 2009, the agency finalized an “endangerment finding” under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, which requires it to regulate pollutants for their effect as greenhouse gases for the first time. Relying on this finding, EPA finalized GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks on April 1, 2010. The implementation of these standards has, in turn, triggered permitting requirements and the imposition of Best Available Control Technology for new major stationary sources of GHGs as of January 2, 2011.

It is the triggering of standards for stationary sources (power plants, manufacturing facilities, etc.) that has raised the most concern in Congress: legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate in the 111
th Congress—but not enacted—aimed at preventing EPA from implementing these requirements, and similar legislation is being introduced in the 112th. The bills have taken several forms, including resolutions of disapproval for EPA regulatory actions under the Congressional Review Act, stand-alone legislation that would forestall specific EPA regulations, and restrictions on EPA’s spending authority. Meanwhile, EPA has itself promulgated regulations and guidance delaying the applicability of requirements for stationary sources and focusing its regulatory efforts on the largest emitters while granting smaller sources at least a 6-year reprieve.

EPA’s GHG regulatory actions have come as Congress struggled with climate change and energy legislation. In the 111
th Congress, the House narrowly passed a bill establishing a comprehensive GHG regulatory program (H.R. 2454), but comparable legislation (S. 1733 and S. 1462) did not reach the Senate floor. In recent months, congressional attention has focused on renewable or “clean” energy legislation, rather than legislation to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Besides addressing climate change, EPA has taken action on a number of air pollutant regulations, generally in response to the courts. Several Bush Administration regulatory decisions were vacated or remanded to the agency: among them, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and Clean Air Mercury Rule—rules designed to control the long-range transport of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants through cap-and-trade programs – and hazardous air pollutant (“MACT”) standards for boilers. EPA is addressing these court decisions through new regulations—the agency proposed a replacement for CAIR July 6, 2010, and is expected to propose regulations for power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants in March 2011. The boiler MACT rule is to be promulgated February 21. Some in Congress have wanted to address these issues through legislation, while others are interested in using legislation to prevent EPA from implementing standards they view as too stringent. The agency is also in the midst of reviewing ambient air quality standards for the six most widespread air pollutants. These standards serve as EPA’s definition of clean air, and drive a wide range of regulatory controls.



Date of Report:
February 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R41563
Price: $29.95

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