The Clean Water Affordability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3862), introduced on Jan. 14 by Representatives Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), would create a law around the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) integrated planning framework.
Integrated planning allows communities to modify consent agreements and prioritize National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) projects and spending. For communities with approved integrated plans, H.R. 3862 also would extend current five-year NPDES permit terms to no more than 25 years. Further, it would require EPA to update its financial affordability guidance within a year. According to the currently used 1997 guidance, it is reasonable for taxpayers to spend as much as 2% of median household income on clean water projects. H.R. 3862 would require that financial assessments include other factors, such as poverty rates, site-specific financial conditions, and local and state tax rates. Under the proposed law, implementation schedules also would be structured reduce impacts on “distressed populations,” and permitees could be given up to 30 years to implement water quality improvements. The bill also proposes a 30-year repayment period for State Revolving Fund (SRF) loans as well as 30% additional subsidies in the form of principal forgiveness for communities that meet the affordability criteria. Further, it would ensure that small communities receive up to 15% of available SRF funding.