President Signs Portman, Brown Bill to Help Ohio Communities Support Jobs, Clean Up Lakes and Rivers

January 15, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the President signed U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act into law that would provide local communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water systems. The Senate passed the final version of the bill in December. 

The bill would also encourage cost-saving green infrastructure and give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.  

“Many local communities with aging water infrastructure systems are working to upgrade them but too often struggle with the costs of inflexible government mandates, and families are forced to pay higher utility bills as a result,” said Portman. “This legislation would give local communities more flexibility in ensuring they meet Clean Water Act requirements 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.” 

“Red tape shouldn’t force communities to spread their resources thin just to meet an arbitrary timeline,” said Brown. “Let’s be smarter and work with communities so they can prioritize their wastewater investments while reducing pollution. This bipartisan bill will help support jobs and protect local drinking water.” 

Many state and local governments face difficulties meeting Clean Water Act requirements for critical storm water and wastewater upgrades. 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 will: 

  • 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. 
  • Encourage 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. 

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