October 29, 2019

Committee Approves Slate of Legislation to Improve Wastewater Systems and Fishing Vessel Safety and Research Grants, and to Designate Nation’s First Responders Day

Washington, DC - Today, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a slate of bipartisan measures by voice vote, including the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act; Funding Instruction for Safety, Health, and Security Avoids Fishing Emergencies Act, and a resolution expressing support for designation of October 28th as “Honoring the Nation’s First Responders Day.”

“Today our Committee passed The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, which is critical to helping communities across our country build and maintain wastewater infrastructure,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair DeFazio (D-OR). “In addition, our Committee passed important legislation to change the Federal cost share of fishing safety grants as well as legislation cosponsored by the late Congressman Elijah Cummings to establish October 28th as ‘Honoring the Nation’s First Responders Day.’ I appreciate Ranking Member Graves and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their diligent work to get these bills through committee in a bipartisan fashion.”

“The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act approved today will help communities across the country – particularly our rural and small communities – improve their wastewater infrastructure,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO).  “Rural and small communities in particular often face tight budgets, regulatory hurdles, and difficult choices when it comes to balancing their many needs with limited available resources.  This bill will ensure more federal infrastructure resources are dedicated specifically to help these communities, and the legislation’s permitting reforms gives them more flexibility in their efforts to comply with federal regulations.  I want to thank my Committee colleagues from both sides of aisle for their work on this bill, as well as the measures to recognize the work and sacrifices of the Nation’s first responders, and to improve safety for fishermen across the country.”

The legislation passed today out of Committee includes:

H.R. 1497 – the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019

H.R. 1497, introduced by Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Water Resources Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), and Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and John Katko (R-NY), authorizes Federal appropriations for major Clean Water Act infrastructure program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). The Clean Water SRF, the primary source of Federal funding for wastewater infrastructure, was last reauthorized by Congress in 1987. Its authorization expired in 1994. Yet, Congress has continued to fund this critical investment in our Nation’s wastewater infrastructure through annual appropriations bills—providing more than $43 billion in Federal capitalization assistance to States since 1987 – including a recommended appropriation of $1.784 billion for the Clean Water SRF in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill (H.R. 3055). The bill includes set-asides to assist small and rural communities in addressing their infrastructure needs, as well as additional permit flexibility to help communities address local water quality challenges.

“I am pleased my legislation to improve wastewater systems across the country passed through Committee today,” said DeFazio. “America’s water infrastructure is in dire need of Federal investment to make sure we don’t go back to the bad old days before adoption of the Clean Water Act when waterways were so polluted, they caught fire or couldn’t support marine life. It’s clear communities across the country need a partner to carry out critically important protections, which is why our bill authorizes more than $16 billion to improve our wastewater infrastructure, make it more resilient to disasters, and affordable for all communities. In addition, this legislation takes a step towards reducing human impacts on climate change by requiring utilities to maximize their energy efficiency potential, including the recapture and reuse of methane, where economically feasible. What’s more, investing in our water infrastructure will create good-paying jobs and provide communities with infrastructure that will last for decades. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass this legislation, and ultimately the President to sign it into law.”

"Thank you, Chairman DeFazio, Congressman Don Young, and Congressman Katko for joining me in introducing H.R. 1497. I am pleased that our legislation includes $2.5 billion in grants for innovative water projects that help all aspects of the water cycle, from capture to treatment to supply. In my district and across the country, water challenges of drought, floods, and contamination require us to create multi-benefit projects such as water recycling, stormwater management, and groundwater replenishment. The grant programs authorized in this bill will save the taxpayers money by having water agencies work together to solve multiple water problems with singular projects. I ask all of my colleagues to join us in supporting this vital legislation," said Chair Grace Napolitano (D-CA).

“Alaska’s communities know just how precious a resource safe drinking water is.  The State Revolving Fund program is vital to help secure funding for water, sewage, and solid waste system upgrades across our state” said Rep. Don Young (R-AK).  “This legislation takes important steps to tackle pollution and ensure that Alaska’s families have access to the clean water they deserve.  This bill also provides assistance to rural communities – including Native Villages – to access these programs and reduces the regulatory burden faced by municipalities receiving pollution discharge permits.  I am grateful to the Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for working in a constructive, bipartisan manner on this legislation. Alaskans have my commitment to continue working to fight pollution and keep our water infrastructure safe.”

“Modernizing our Nation’s water infrastructure has been among my top priorities in Congress and on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Rep. John Katko (R-NY).  “We must ensure Central New York and communities across our Nation have access to reliable and clean water sources.  By increasing federal investment in local water projects, authorizing $20 billion in grants for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and allocating $3 billion toward grants for water pollution and treatment, the bipartisan Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act will promote economic growth, create jobs, and bring our Nation’s water infrastructure into the 21st century.  I applaud the Committee for taking this important step to advance this bipartisan legislation and look forward to continuing my work to secure clean water in vulnerable communities across the country.”

H. CON. RES. 37 – Expressing Support for Designation of October 28th as “Honoring The Nation’s First Responders Day”

H. Con. Res. 37 would designate October 28 as “Honoring the Nation’s First Responders Day” to recognize their commitment to safety, defense, and honor. It notes that a 2017 compilation of data on the Emergency Services Sector in the United States, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, found that the community is comprised of an estimated 4.6 million career and volunteer professionals within five primary disciplines: Law Enforcement, Fire and Rescue Services, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Management, and Public Works. H. Con. Res. 37 was introduced on May 1, 2019, by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

“While many of us go about our daily lives throughout the week, millions of first responders across the country train and prepare for the worst case scenario—often leaving their own families and risking their lives to ensure the safety of others,” said Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark Meadows (R-NC). “I’m honored to have been able to introduce this measure in support of a day to honor the Nation’s first responders along with my friend, the late Chairman Elijah Cummings.”

H.R. 4719, Funding Instruction for Safety, Health, and Security Avoids Fishing Emergencies Act

On October 17, 2019, Representatives Jared Golden (D-ME) and Don Young (R-AK), introduced the Funding Instruction for Safety, Health, and Security Avoids Fishing Emergencies (FISH SAFE) Act to ensure our Nation’s fishermen have the resources they need to stay safe on the job. The FISH SAFE Act is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would increase the Federal funding available for grants to support fishing safety training and research programs. The legislation would restore the Federal share of fishing training and research grants back to 75 percent and would also reauthorize safety training and research programs at $6,000,000 per year from 2019 through 2021. Currently, the Federal share must not exceed 50 percent.

“Fishing is one of Alaska’s most important industries, and we need to be doing all that we can to ensure our fishermen remain safe on the job,” said Rep. Don Young (R-AK). “The FISH SAFE Act is an important piece of legislation to provide the resources and training necessary to protect not only Alaska’s fishermen, but fishermen across the country.  I am proud to partner with Congressman Jared Golden on this critical issue and look forward to continuing working with my friends on both sides of the aisle to support America’s fishermen.”