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EPA funding stays on course, most programs see boost or status quo; Senate-backed loan 'fees' on cities modified by House.

Senate-backed Loan `Fees' on Cities Modified by House

Conferees have completed negotiations on funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the coming fiscal year.

Overall, there is either level funding or modest increases in appropriations for municipal programs.

In a semi-victory for cities, House conferees insisted on modifying Senate-approved language authorizing States to charge local governments "loan origination fees" when they borrow from the water infrastructure (wastewater and drinking water) revolving loan funds.

The Senate would have made the option permanently available; the House limited the authority to already approved (by the EPA Administrator) actions, and loans to be made in 1999.

The action was taken in response to State claims that the cost of administering the loan program exceeds the 4 percent States may take from the State Revolving Loan Fund grants ($2 billion annually) to States for such purposes.

NLC president, Brian O'Neill strongly opposed the Senate provisions on behalf of NLC saying, "we can neither understand nor support providing the states with yet another opportunity to raise revenues on the backs of municipal taxpayers."

Water Infrastructure Loan Programs

In overall funding for the water infrastructure revolving loan programs, conferees agreed to fund both the wastewater and the drinking water state revolving loan funds at the current level of $2.1 25 billion: $1.350 for wastewater and $775 million for drinking water infrastructure needs.

In approving these funding levels the conferees maintained funding for wastewater infrastructure at current levels and increased by $50 million funding for drinking water infrastructure needs. Up to 50 percent of funds from either program can be used interchangeably.

This final Congressional action represents a rejection of the administration's proposal to cut funding for the wastewater loan program by $275 million.

Non-Point Source Program Funding

Conferees also agreed to fund the administration's Clean Water Action Plan at the request amount of $145 million to begin addressing pollution caused by run-off from nonurban sources such as farms, ranches, forests, and mines. They rejected the administration's proposal to take these funds from the municipal water infrastructure loan program.

Superfund

Congress also approved $2.15 billion for clean-up of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites under CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act), popularly known as "Superfund".

While the total Superfund appropriation includes the disputed $650 million addition requested by the administration, the additional funds will only be made available if Congress completes, and the president signs, a Superfund reauthorization proposal. Absent that, the program will continue to be funded at the current level of $1.5 billion. Congress balked at the administration's proposed increase based on reports from the General Accounting Office (GAO) that the program is fraught with "waste, fraud and abuse."

Global Climate Change

Conferees also agreed to fund global warming research at the current level of $72.5 million, with related research funded at $27 million (+$10 million over current funding levels). While EPA is thus authorized to conduct climate change research, no funds may be used to implement or act on the Kyoto agreement.
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Title Annotation:1999 federal allocation; modification of municipal fees for using water infrastructure revolving loan funds
Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 19, 1998
Words:506
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