Portman, Brown Introduce Water Infrastructure Bill to Increase Flexibility for Local Communities

March 23, 2017 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide local communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water infrastructure projects. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the water infrastructure in this country is more than 50 years old. Local communities are working to upgrade our aging water infrastructure systems, but too often struggle with the costs of inflexible government mandates, and families are forced to pay higher utility bills as a result. Our legislation would give local communities more flexibility in complying with these mandates and encourage the EPA to work with them in developing innovative and cost-effective ways to upgrade our water infrastructure so it’s healthy and safe for all Ohioans,” said Portman.

Wastewater infrastructure improvements support local jobs and keep our water clean and safe to drink. It’s critical we support Ohio communities as they work to update these systems and give them the flexibility to get projects done based on unique community needs,” said Brown.

Many state and local governments face difficulties meeting Clean Water Act requirements for storm water and wastewater updates. The U.S. Conference of Mayors found, on average, municipalities spend between 6 to 7 cents of every tax dollar on water and sewer systems. This makes water infrastructure the third-largest expense for cities, after education and emergency personnel.

The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act would:

  • Provide communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects needed for CWA compliance.
  • Establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at EPA to assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws.
  • Compel the EPA to promote "green infrastructure," which uses or mimics natural processes to infiltrate or reuse storm water runoff beneficially on-site where it is generated.
  • Require the EPA to update this guidance and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities have endorsed the legislation.