Monthly Archives: September 2013

30 Water Bills on Tap for Legislative Committee

September is shaping up to be a high water mark for water resources advocacy on Beacon Hill this session, and we need you to join in!

Following last week’s environmental bond bill hearing, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has scheduled a hearing on water quality/infrastructure bills for 10 a.m. on Thursday, September 26, at the State House, Room A-1.

Thirty bills are scheduled to be heard, covering a wide array of regulatory, infrastructure and financing issues that affect the provision of wastewater, stormwater and drinking water services.

Of particular interest to the Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship, said President Philip Guerin, are these bills which it supports:

  • House Bill 690 (Carolyn Dykema), which would create a 10-year Water Infrastructure Bond providing $200 million per year to fund local drinking water, wastewater and stormwater improvements
  • House Bill 687 (Carolyn Dykema), which would create a legal framework for and encourage the use of “water banks” by cities and towns, allowing them to collect a reasonable fee to design and construct water infrastructure required to mitigate the impacts of new or increased demands due to new property uses.
  • Senate Bill 378 (Michael Moore)/House Bill 716 (Anne Gobi), which would require the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to complete a regulatory impact statement on any rule, regulation, guidance document or policy that it proposes.

Thursday’s hearing is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the joint committee how important this and other legislation is to our water systems and the cities, towns, and water districts that provide these services.

If you can’t attend the hearing, please send written comments to the co-chairs of the joint committee, Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Anne Gobi, and encourage your colleagues to as well!

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U.S. Mayors Seek Water Funding, Flexibility

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is urging Congress to help make it easier and less costly for cities and towns to make crucial water quality system improvements needed to deliver water services and protect the environment.

At its 81st annual meeting in June, the Conference of Mayors passed a resolution calling for a renewed federal-local government partnership that would ensure that the mandates levied upon municipalities by the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act are not only achievable but, equally important, affordable. The resolution highlighted that municipalities spent $111.4 billion in 2010 providing essential water services and meeting federal and state water and wastewater mandates. This annual amount is nearly double the total of all the grants previously provided by the federal government over 20 years!

Recommendations in the resolution include an influx of federal funding for water system infrastructure improvements and amendments to the Clean Water Act that provide for longer and more flexible permit terms; the revision or removal of certain regulatory standards; and the support of adaptive management and integrated planning to help prioritize projects that will provide the greatest environmental benefit for the funds expended.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship’s Board of Directors unanimously supports the Conference of Mayors resolution, which addresses many of the major issues of concern to Coalition members.

“The Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship is pleased to offer its support for this resolution and commends the Conference of Mayors for taking this bold initiative,” Coalition president Philip Guerin said. “Our members know all too well the economically unsustainable path that we are all headed down as a result of Clean Water Act compliance mandates. The CWA was once the most important and effective environmental law in the nation’s history but it is no longer the right tool for dealing with today’s water resources issues. It needs to be reviewed and modified to make it appropriate for addressing issues that are far more challenging and costly. The Conference of Mayors has taken an important first step in opening up this critical discussion.”

Draft legislative language based on the Conference of Mayors’ resolution is being written and will be introduced in Congress. Stay tuned for updates about when the legislation is filed and what you can do to help!

Environmental Bond Bill Hearing Wednesday

The first hearing of at least three legislative bills expected this fall seeking more funds for water infrastructure investment in Massachusetts will take place this week at the State House in Boston.

The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture will convene in Gardner Auditorium at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, September 18, to hear testimony on the Environmental Bond Bill (H3332) filed in March by Governor Deval Patrick.

The bill incorporates funding for improvements to environmental infrastructure contained in the administration’s five-year capital investment plan (2013-17), including $57 million for the Water Pollution Abatement Trust. The money would be made available through the Water Pollution Abatement Revolving Fund or Drinking Water Revolving Fund as state matches for federal grants received by cities and towns.

The bill also calls for $10 million for the Department of Environmental Protection for water and air quality protection. DEP would receive funding to develop new water quality analyses for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that provide the basis for regulations. Additional funding for the agency to develop sound science on which to base decisions is essential to sustainable, reasonable and responsible regulations. Projects related to non-point and point sources of water pollution are also included, and some of the funding may be expended for local grants and research for implementation of the Commonwealth’s Sustainable Water Management Initiative.

Massachusetts cities and towns have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on water infrastructure improvements over the last few decades, but a large funding gap remains. That was quantified last year in the Commonwealth’s Water Infrastructure Finance Commission’s report, “Massachusetts’s Water Infrastructure:  Toward Financial Sustainability.”

Following two years of study, the Commission put the gap in funding needed for water infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years at $10.2 billion for drinking water, $11.2 billion for clean water, and potentially $18 billion for stormwater.

Another bill to address water infrastructure investment, H690 introduced by State Rep. Carolyn Dykema of Holliston, is awaiting hearing before the Joint Committee on Environment.  And Senate President Therese Murray has indicated that she also was considering filing a bill this fall to address the matter.