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Water Infrastructure Improvement Act Passes House and Senate

H.R. 7279, the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, a bill coauthored by Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA-32) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH-7), has passed both the House and Senate.

“This is incredibly important to cities in my Congressional district as they meet the challenges of the Los Angeles County MS4 Stormwater permit,” said Congresswoman Grace Napolitano. “Our legislation will greatly assist them and communities nationwide by providing them with flexibility to address these permits, while ensuring the protection of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams. I thank the House leadership for bringing our bill to the floor and Congressman Gibbs for his willingness to work with us to reach an agreement on this important issue.”

“Many of our nation’s cities, towns, and municipalities are faced with EPA mandates, aging water infrastructure, and rising repair or construction costs,” said Congressman Bob Gibbs. “These problems, and the price to fix them, ultimately fall on residents. Integrated Planning can help bridge the gaps between these issues, encourage innovative solutions, and prevent undue financial burdens on ratepayers. Access to clean and affordable water utilities is important to everyone, and the municipalities tasked with delivering it should have every tool at their disposal. I want to thank Congresswoman Napolitano and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for coming together to find solutions to the water infrastructure problems our communities face.”

H.R. 7279 codifies a concept from the Obama administration known as “Integrated Planning,” which can assist communities with meeting their requirements under the Clean Water Act while maintaining their obligation to achieve improvements in local water quality. EPA’s Integrated Planning framework provides communities with a voluntary opportunity to prioritize local clean water investments with the greatest benefit to human health and the environment.

The legislation builds on a recent provision Napolitano included in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act that authorized $450 million in stormwater municipal grants to plan, design, and construct stormwater, water recycling, and sewer overflow projects. Napolitano encouraged swift passage and enactment of H.R. 7279, which now awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate, and pledged to do more in the next Congress.

“The sad reality is that until the federal government increases its investment under the Clean Water Act, communities will still struggle with affordability challenges; we can do better,” Napolitano continued. “We must first reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and I am hopeful that this is one of the first things we can accomplish next year on a bipartisan basis. Second, we need to address the cost of water and sewer services to those households with the least ability to pay. No hard-working American families should be forced go without water and wastewater services simply because their local rates are too high. Clean water should be a basic human right. Yes, utilities should be able to recover the costs necessary to upgrade their local systems, but when those costs disproportionately affect individual households, we must do more to help struggling families afford these basic services.”

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