Senator Brown Introduces Bill Aimed at Keeping Water Rates Affordable, Provide Assistance to Communities
April 7, 2016 - 10:26 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With nearly 80 Ohio communities struggling to
afford costly but necessary renovations to sewer systems, U.S. Sen.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is introducing legislation this week that would
provide relief from high water rates to affected Ohio communities. Brown
introduced the Clean Water Affordability Act, legislation that would
help communities make renovations to outdated sewer systems, while
improving water quality and keeping rates affordable for residents.
“Studies indicate that for every $1 billion invested in
infrastructure projects, more than 20,000 jobs are created. And,
investment in water and sewer infrastructure keeps our water safe and
healthy and helps communities attract new businesses and residents. But
local communities and customers shouldn’t have to carry the burden of
investment on their own,” Brown said. “This bill will give communities
the flexibility and support they need to keep clean water upgrades on
track while keeping water bills affordable for customers.”
During a news conference call to announce the legislation, Brown was
joined by Julius Ciaccia, Jr., executive director of Northeast Ohio
Regional Sewer District, who discussed how the legislation would help
Cleveland lower water and sewer rates to attract new businesses and
“As the CEO of a major wastewater utility that has
consistently raised rates and invested heavily in its infrastructure, I
applaud Senator Brown’s efforts,” said Ciaccia. “Sen. Brown’s bill will
help find the proper balance between continued water quality
improvements and affordability for rate payers.”
Brown also released a county-by-county map of Ohio communities with combined sewage overflow systems
– outdated sewer systems that collect sewage and storm water, leading
to overflows that can pollute drinking water. In the event of a storm or
excessive rain, overflow systems cannot handle both human wastewater
and storm runoff at the same time. The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) estimates that about 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater
and storm water are released through overflow systems each year in the
Federal guidelines require municipalities to renovate these outdated
systems to protect human health and the environment, but upgrades often
prove too costly for many small communities. According to EPA,
communities across the nation face an estimated $48 billion in need for
overflow system renovations. These projects represent nearly 20 percent
of all wastewater needs reported in the most recent EPA needs survey.
A 2012 EPA survey found more than 70 Ohio communities with serious
sewage overflow problems amounts to a needed investment of $7.5 billion
over the next 20 years. The report calculated there is an immediate need
of more than $10 billion in Ohio for improvements in publicly-owned
wastewater treatment facilities.
Brown’s bill is aimed at updating the EPA’s clean water affordability
policy, which can put undue strain on the budgets of local communities.
The current EPA affordability policy does not provide for a full and
accurate representation of the financial impacts of clean water
investment programs on communities struggling to meet federal
regulations for improving their water infrastructure.
Specifically, the Clean Water Affordability Act:
Recognizes local economic trends—high unemployment rates, recent job
loss, population loss, impact of rate increases on low-income
populations—to adjust the process and increase flexibility in the
setting of compliance dates.
Authorizes $1.8 billion in competitive grants over the next five
years and prioritizes communities who already have water quality issues
and need the money most. According to Standard and Poors, every $1
billion invested in infrastructure projects creates more than 20,000
Requires EPA to increase its emphasis on cost-saving green infrastructure projects.
Allows for reopening of legally-binding consent decrees between wastewater utilities and EPA for green infrastructure projects.
Integrated permitting is encouraged to allow communities to
prioritize and plan for water-infrastructure investments in the most
affordable way for ratepayers.
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