EPA Water Loan Program Gets Gusher of Money in Spending Bill

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By David Schultz

The federal spending bill moving through Congress contains a windfall for an Environmental Protection Agency program that subsidizes low-interest loans for water infrastructure projects.

The program, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), would have a budget for the 2018 fiscal year double the prior year. The House passed the spending bill March 22, and the Senate is widely expected to clear it by the end of this week to avoid a government shutdown.

Under the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal, released Feb. 12, both superfund and brownfield sites would gain access to financing under the WIFIA lending program to address contamination to water resources see related story.

Under the bill, the WIFIA program would have a budget of $63 million in the 2018 fiscal year. That’s $33 million more than in 2017 and $43 million more than the Trump administration had requested.

In its brief existence, WIFIA has won bipartisan support for its ability to take a relatively modest appropriation from Congress and leverage it to grant loans that kick-start construction of water projects worth billions of dollars.

The 2017 fiscal year was the first time the EPA awarded loans through this program, which was set up as part of the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act. California, Florida and seven other states had projects that received invitations to apply for loans.

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