Rural Water Group Keeps Up Push for Changes to Lending Programs

A water treatment facility in Casper, Wyoming.

A water treatment facility in Casper, Wyoming. shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The utility group wants the changes included in a final version of water infrastructure legislation taking shape in Congress.

Rural water utility advocates are keeping up pressure on congressional lawmakers to include changes to water and wastewater financing programs in a broader water infrastructure bill.

The National Rural Water Association sent an advisory to its members this week telling them that House and Senate committees are in discussions to reconcile their different versions of the 2018 Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA legislation.

Included in the Senate bill are provisions to blend elements of two federally backed lending programs. The provisions are favored by the rural water association, but have drawn opposition from other utility groups whose members include bigger and more urban utilities.

The National Rural Water Association has provided a draft letter for its state affiliates to send to House lawmakers calling for the language in the Senate bill to remain intact in the final legislation.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the panel's top Democrat, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, are the main targets of the lobbying effort.

The legislation that the provisions emerged from is known as the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act, or SRF WIN Act. U.S. Sens. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican, and Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, spearheaded that bill.

It involves the clean water and drinking water state revolving funds, and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA.

With the revolving funds, the Environmental Protection Agency awards "capitalization grants" to states. States contribute a 20 percent match, and then use the funds to provide low-cost loans and other financing assistance to water and sewer utilities for projects.

WIFIA deals with the federal government lending directly for projects at interest rates in line with the generally low rates for U.S. Treasury debt. Eligible projects need to be at least $5 million in communities with 25,000 people or less and at least $20 million in larger places.

Rural water utilities have argued that because their projects tend to be smaller, WIFIA is of only limited use to them. They have other criticisms of the program as well, notably that it fails to adequately incorporate "need" and state priorities into the selection of projects.

(Need here refers to considerations like the costs utilities face complying with federal regulations and the ability of local ratepayers to afford project expenses.)

The rural utility group says that the SRF WIN Act would help address these issues by extending WIFIA's lending terms to the revolving funds and, in turn, giving them a better opportunity to take advantage of the program's benefits.

But groups like the American Water Works Association, which says that it represents almost 4,000 utilities that supply 80 percent of the nation's drinking water, have opposed the SRF WIN Act, saying that it would undermine WIFIA and its ability to support large projects.

In the form letter to lawmakers, the National Rural Water Association says that about 70 percent of both clean water and drinking water state revolving fund dollars go to "large communities" and that the key distinction between the revolving funds and WIFIA is that the revolving funds prioritize projects based on "need and states' priorities," adding: "WIFIA has no similar required targeting."

House lawmakers approved their WRDA legislation in June. A full Senate vote on its version of the legislation hasn't happened yet.

The House bill focused more narrowly than the Senate version on Army Corps of Engineers programs, which are generally the main focus of WRDA legislation. The Corps has a hand in infrastructure projects like harbors, locks, dams and reservoirs.

In addition to delving into WIFIA and the revolving funds, the WRDA legislation the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved in May gets into other issues that have to do with the Environmental Protection Agency and water and sewer utilities.

More coverage on the WRDA legislation can be found here:

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: How to Make Scooters in Cities Safer

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.