May 13, 2011

Senators Seek Help for Small Water Systems

Legislation addresses unfunded mandates for drinking water

Washington, DC - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are reintroducing legislation that would ensure that small drinking water systems have the resources necessary to deliver safe drinking water to consumers while complying with multiple federal regulations.  The senators say that smaller municipalities-such as a vast majority of those in Idaho-are facing increased obstacles in complying with federal regulations mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies.

"Many small communities cannot afford to comply with federal drinking water regulations without the assistance of the federal government," Crapo said.  "Federal regulatory agencies should be true partners in developing drinking water regulations that municipalities can actually afford to implement." 

"Small communities in Idaho are hit hard when federal mandates are imposed on drinking water standards.  This legislation requires the EPA to work with communities rather than dictate to them.  It is important to have safe drinking water, but new standards need to be implemented through a working group process that is a partnership," said Risch.

The legislation would modify the Safe Drinking Water Act to require that the EPA provides the resources and assistance necessary to help small communities comply with drinking water regulations.  Specifically, the legislation would stop the enforcement of federal regulations unless sufficient funding and resources were in place to comply with those regulations.  It also provides exemptions for systems serving fewer than 10,000 customers if administrators of those systems need financial assistance and are taking all practical steps to comply with regulations.  Water systems serving Indian Tribes are also specifically included under the legislation, which awaits consideration before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the ranking member of the EPW Committee, introduced the measure.  Crapo, Risch and Senators Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) are original co-sponsors of the bill. 

Crapo also this week co-sponsored another water measure benefitting communities.  The Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2011 provides for the removal of state volume caps on private activity bonds, matching similar action that has assisted airports, high-speed rail and solid waste disposal sites.  The measure was introduced in both the Senate and the U.S. House and sponsored by Crapo and Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) in the Senate and U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey) and Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) in the House.