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June 17, 2013
Senate Approves Farm Bill With Water Quality Partnership Opportunities
The U.S. Senate approved a five-year farm bill reauthorization by a 66 – 27 vote last week, advancing a program to help water systems and farmers work together on water quality improvement projects.
The “Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act” (S. 954) would reform several existing USDA programs and consolidate various conservation activities into a new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Among the programs folded into the RCPP would be the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), which offers USDA grant assistance to local farmers that partner with nearby water utilities and other stakeholders on cooperative projects to protect or improve water quality. The Senate-approved RCPP would continue to offer funding assistance for these activities and would also specifically list “nutrient management and sediment reduction” projects among those eligible for RCPP assistance.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider its own farm bill reauthorization proposal (H.R. 1947) this week. While the current draft of the House bill includes several major differences from the Senate version (such as steeper cuts to conservation spending and food stamp programs), it proposes a similar consolidated RCPP program with eligibility for water quality improvement projects.
This Week In Congress
With the Senate having approved its version of the farm bill, this week the House of Representatives is expected to begin debate on its own proposal to reauthorize USDA programs. If the bill passes the House, Congress will form a conference committee to work out differences between the two versions.
This week, Senate debate is expected to continue on legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
EPA Releases FY14 DWSRF State Allotments
EPA last week announced updated allotments
that will guide the distribution of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) dollars to states for fiscal years 2014 through 2017. The new allotments reflect the results of EPA’s most recent Drinking Water Needs Survey, which was released on June 3 and found the nation’s drinking water systems will require approximately $384 billion in infrastructure investments over the next 20 years just to maintain current levels of service.
While every state and the District of Columbia are guaranteed at least one percent of total DWSRF funding each year, EPA uses the needs survey results to steer additional funding to states with greater documented water infrastructure needs. The allotments are adjusted every four years based on the results of the latest needs survey and will be official when published in the Federal Register.
In addition to the updated allotments, EPA’s document also reports the actual dollar amount of DWSRF assistance that each state would receive next year under President Obama’s proposed FY14 DWSRF funding level of $817 million. These figures are tentative, however, and could rise if members of Congress direct additional FY14 funding to the DWSRF beyond the President’s request.
109 Chemicals Added To Endocrine Disruptor Screening List
EPA published a June 14 Federal Register notice
adding 109 chemicals to its list of contaminants requiring testing under its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). The EDSP requires entities that produce, manufacture, use or import the listed chemicals, which may be found in drinking water sources, to perform a Tier 1 screening analyses. Tier 1 screening requires initial assays to identify substances that have the potential to act as endocrine system disruptors. Chemicals meeting the Tier 1 criteria are then required to perform Tier 2 testing to identify adverse effects and establish dose-response relationships.
EPA administers the EDSP under Congressional mandate codified in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with the goal of preventing adverse health and ecological impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals found in water sources. Additional information on the EDSP is available EPA’s EDSP webpage
Cybersecurity Markup Postponed As Committee Sorts Through Comments
A subcommittee markup of a critical infrastructure cybersecurity bill originally planned for June 13 was postponed in order to give lawmakers and staff additional time to sort through comments collected from stakeholders, including AMWA and WaterISAC. House Homeland Security Committee staff say they hope to mark up the draft “National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection (NCCIP) Act” before the end of the month, but no firm timeline has been announced.
The draft bill was authored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) and circulated to industry stakeholders earlier this month. The proposal would encourage critical infrastructure owners and operators to voluntarily adopt cybersecurity standards formulated by their respective Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) and would not include enforceable government cybersecurity mandates. The draft bill would formalize the role of Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) as primary cybersecurity information sharing entities for each sector and would establish firm lines of communications between ISACs and DHS.
on the NCCIP Act submitted to the Homeland Security Committee earlier this month, AMWA and WaterISAC expressed appreciation that the bill did not create regulatory burdens but suggested several improvements to ensure effective communication and cooperation between government and critical infrastructure stakeholders.