News Briefs: New Bill Aims for Better Flexibility in Water Project Planning

In this week’s news briefs, senators across the country have teamed up to introduce the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, and the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board resigns to focus his efforts on the private sector
News Briefs: New Bill Aims for Better Flexibility in Water Project Planning

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Lawmakers are trying to establish legislation that would allow more flexibility for communities when complying with federal mandates for water and wastewater upgrades.

A group of U.S. senators announced the new proposal, titled the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, last week. According to a report by Law360, the bill would give communities more autonomy when planning and prioritizing projects, and establish an Office Of Municipal Ombudsman at the EPA to help assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws. It would also require the EPA to revise how it determines affordability and put an emphasis on green infrastructure.

“Local communities are working to upgrade our aging water infrastructure systems, but too often struggle with the costs of inflexible government mandates and families are forced to pay higher utility bills as a result,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “Our legislation would give local communities more flexibility in complying with these mandates and encourage the EPA to work with them in developing innovative and cost-effective ways to upgrade our water infrastructure so it’s healthy and safe.”

Source: Law360

Top Colorado Water Official Moves to Law Firm to Tackle Private-Sector Water Projects
The director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board is leaving his post at the end of the week, citing a desire to continue working on water projects but from the private sector end.

“The private sector needs to make sure it is pulling its weight and I’m going to see if I can help do that,” James Eklund told Aspen Journalism.

Eklund is taking a position at Denver law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, and will work to help develop private-sector water projects. He had been director of the Water Conservation Board since 2013 and was involved in Colorado’s new state water plan established in December 2015.

Source: Aspen Journalism

Reintroduced Legislation Would Limit Government-Funded Water Projects to Only American-Made Products
A U.S. senator has reintroduced legislation that would require much of the federal government’s spending on water infrastructure to only go to projects that use American iron and steel.

“Now is the time for President Trump to decide if he will keep his promises by supporting this legislation, or will he go along with Congressional Republicans who have embraced the status quo and blocked this legislation that puts in place a strong Buy American standard,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said in a report by the International Business Times.

Under pressure from lobbyists for foreign companies, House Republicans killed the legislation in December. The bill involves the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which has produced about $28 billion of financing for 12,000 projects the last two decades, and mandates that the program only fund projects using American-made iron and steel going forward.

Even if the bill’s reintroduction gains traction, it may run up against superseding trade treaties, the International Business Times reports.

“It could conflict with various bans and limits on Buy American imposed by the World Trade Organization and various Free Trade Agreements,” Lori Wallach, of watchdog group Public Citizen, told the Times. “Even if aspects might be protected by some of the exceptions, other countries certainly would attack it ferociously in Congress, claiming they would bring cases and the U.S. would face billions in trade sanctions.”

Source: International Business Times


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