Sept. 7 — The Senate will try to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848) before the week is out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sept. 7.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) similarly suggested the Senate might “hotline” the water infrastructure bill, an apparent reference to the shortcut of a unanimous consent vote rather than a slower process amendment and debate.
It was unclear how much their remarks might be a result of excessive optimism. No senator said the bill definitely would be passed in the few remaining days of the work week.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) expressed strong doubt about a fast passage of WRDA.
“It’s going to be slow, because I think everyone wants it to stay here until they resolve the budget issues. So I think we could probably resolve it in a week, but it will probably take two, two-and-a-half weeks,” he said.
Appropriations legislation was the elephant in the room. Senators were considering what sort of continuing resolution they needed to pass to keep the government funded beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, a concern that could easily take precedence over the water infrastructure bill.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Boxer, as chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called for all amendments for WRDA to be sent to them by July 31.
In August, committee staff worked to prepare the way for action in September with a manager’s amendment to accommodate various interests. Boxer said the bill will pass easily.
“I mean we’re dealing with ecosystem restoration, port development, navigation, flood control, lead in water ... it just has some wonderful components in it,” Boxer said Sept. 7. “So I feel good about it.”
The reference to lead in water was a reminder that the Senate bill has financial assistance for Flint, Mich., and other communities dealing with contaminants in drinking water systems.
The prospect of aid for Flint gave the bill determined support from the Michigan delegation.
“WRDA is at the top of my list,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said, referring to legislative vehicles to provide assistance to Flint. “I’m working with colleagues. The Michigan delegation is united.”
The traditional elements of a WRDA bill also include local benefits, as Boxer indicated. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), who helped shape the House version of WRDA, tweeted encouragement Sept. 7 for action.
“Many inland navigation projects on Ohio & Mississippi river system must be addressed. Water transport is critical to our economy,” Gibbs wrote.
The manager’s amendment expected from Inhofe includes language to give states the authority to implement individual coal ash regulations, lawmakers and advocates told Bloomberg BNA.
Inhofe praised the language on the Senate floor Sept. 6, arguing that inclusion bolsters enforcement of the EPA’s 2015 coal ash rule (RIN:2050-AE81).
Some have decried the rule’s self-implementing nature, meaning only civil litigation is likely to lead to enforcement. Inhofe labeled the language “consensus,” and Boxer echoed that description in comments to Bloomberg BNA.
“I think the way we’ve done it is very protective, and the environmental groups don’t object to it,” she said Sept. 7. “We worked with everybody, all the stakeholders before we agreed to do it.”
Boxer said the WRDA legislation is preferable to Senate standalone coal ash legislation (S. 2446), sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). The WRDA language is also valuable, Manchin said Sept. 7.
“The coal ash language in WRDA gives states the ability to take the lead on setting up their own permitting programs to make sure coal ash is safely recycled and reused under existing EPA health and environment regulations,” Manchin told Bloomberg BNA. “Allowing for these state permitting programs is a critical step toward providing certainty to businesses and utilities.”
Despite Boxer’s assertion, Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said he opposes the WRDA language, while admitting he may not have seen the latest version.
“I‘m confident this language will undermine the EPA coal ash rule,” Schaeffer said Sept. 7. “You get it down to the state level and who knows where it’s going to go. It eliminates certainty. It’s one bird in the hand and half a bird in the bush.”
The American Public Power Association, however, supports the language, said Desmarie Waterhouse, senior government relations director and counsel with the group.
“The WRDA language would give states primary enforcement authority and doesn’t take away the authority of civil litigation,” she told Bloomberg BNA, adding that the WRDA language is much shorter and more streamlined than the Senate bill.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)