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April 24, 2006 - ASCE Statement - FY 2007 Budget for the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey

Statement Of
The American Society of Civil Engineers
Before the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
on the Budgets for
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
and the
United States Geological Survey

For the Fiscal Year 2007

A. The Environmental Protection Agency
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends an annual appropriation of $1.5 billion from the federal general fund for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) program and $1 billion for the Safe Drinking Water SRF (DWSRF) in fiscal year 2007. The need is justified; the nation’s wastewater treatment infrastructure and drinking water systems received a grade of D– from ASCE on our 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure released on March 2005.

B. The United States Geological Survey
ASCE also recommends that Congress approve at least $1.2 billion in new budget authority for the U.S. Geological Survey in FY 2007, including $85.8 million for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. This level would enable the USGS to meet new challenges while continuing to provide data for land-use management, sustainable natural resource development, economic growth, and enhanced security from natural and manmade hazards. More investment is needed to strengthen USGS partnerships, improve monitoring networks, produce high-quality digital geospatial data and deliver the best possible science to address societally important problems.

C. Water Infrastructure Investment Needed
For FY 2007, we support annual appropriations of $1.5 billion from the federal general fund for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program.

For FY 2007, ASCE supports a minimum appropriation of $1 billion from the federal general fund for the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program.

The federal government has directly invested more than $70 billion in the construction of publicly owned sewage treatment works (POTWs) and their related facilities since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Nevertheless, the physical condition of many of the nation’s 16,000 wastewater treatment systems is poor due to a lack of investment in plant, equipment, and other capital improvements over the years.

Numerous wastewater systems have reached the end of their useful design life. Older systems are plagued by chronic overflows during major rain storms and heavy snowmelt and, intentionally or not, are bringing about the discharge of raw sewage into U.S. surface waters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated in August 2004 that the volume of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) discharged nationwide is 850 billion gallons a year. Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), caused by blocked or broken pipes, trigger the release of as much as 10 billion gallons of raw sewage yearly, according to the EPA.

Federal funding under the CWSRF program has been steadily eroding. Congress appropriated between $1.2 billion and $1.35 billion from 1995 to 2004. But in Fiscal Year 2005 Congress cut wastewater SRF funding for the first time in eight years, reducing the total investment to $1.1 billion, and the total was further redueced in FY 2006 to $887 million. The Bush administration has proposed further cuts for FY 2007, with a budget submittal calling for an appropriation of only $688 million, a reduction of nearly 29% from the FY 2006 enacted level.

Funding needs remain very high: the U.S. must invest an additional $181 billion for all types of sewage treatment projects eligible for funding under the Act, according to the most recent Needs Survey estimate by the EPA and the states, completed in August 2003.

In September 2002, EPA released a detailed Gap Analysis, which assessed the difference between current spending for wastewater infrastructure and total funding needs. The EPA Gap Analysis estimated that, over the next two decades, the United States needs to spend nearly $390 billion to replace existing wastewater infrastructure systems and to build new ones. (The total includes money for some projects not currently eligible for federal funds, such as system replacement, which are not reflected in the EPA-state Needs Survey).

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its own gap analysis in 2002 in which it determined that the gap for wastewater ranges, depending on various financial and accounting variables, from $23 billion to $37 billion annually.1

• ASCE supports enactment of the Clean Water Trust Act of 20052, which would establish a federal water infrastructure trust fund act that would provide a reliable source of federal assistance for the construction and repair of POTWs to reduce the enormous funding “gap.” The bill also would authorize Congress to appropriate $37.5 billion over five years for wastewater and drinking water systems.

• We support the establishment of a federal capital budget to create a mechanism to help reduce the constant conflict between short-term and long-term needs. The current federal budget process does not differentiate between expenditures for current consumption and long-term investment. This causes major inefficiencies in the planning, design and construction process for long-term investments. A capital budget system would help increase public awareness of the problems and needs facing this country’s physical infrastructure and help Congress focus on programs devoted to long-term growth and productivity.

In addition, the nation's 54,000 drinking water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Although America spends billions on infrastructure each year, drinking water faces an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. The shortfall does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years.

In 2001, the EPA released a national survey of drinking water infrastructure needs. The survey results concluded that approximately $151 billion would be needed over 20 years to repair, replace, and upgrade the nation’s 55,000 community drinking water systems to protect public health.

A year later, the agency published The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis, which identified potential funding gaps between projected needs and spending from 2000 through 2019. This analysis estimated a potential 20-year funding gap for drinking water capital, and operations and maintenance, ranging from $45 billion to $263 billion, depending on spending levels. Capital needs alone were pegged at $161 billion, a $10 billion increase from the 2001 estimate.3

The CBO concluded in 2003 that “current funding from all levels of government and current revenues generated from ratepayers will not be sufficient to meet the nation's future demand for water infrastructure.” The CBO estimated the nation’s needs for drinking water investments at between $10 billion and $20 billion over the next 20 years.4

Federal assistance has not kept pace with demand. Since FY 1997, Congress has appropriated only between $700 million and $850 million annually for the Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program, enacted in 1987. The enacted funding level for FY 2006 was $838 million, less than 10% of the total national requirements. The Bush Administration has proposed an appropriation of $842 million for FY 2007.

• ASCE supports the establishment of a federal capital budget to create a mechanism to help reduce the constant conflict between short-term and long-term needs. The current federal budget process does not differentiate between expenditures for current consumption and long-term investment. This causes major inefficiencies in the planning, design and construction process for long-term investments. A capital budget system would help Congress to focus on programs devoted to long-term growth and productivity.

D. USGS Programs
ASCE requests that Congress increase the Fiscal Year 2007 budget of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to $1.2 billion. We support full funding for the agency’s vital streamgaging program.

The FY 2007 budget request would cut funding for the USGS by $20.6 million (2.1%) to $944.8 million.

The USGS plays a critical role in protecting the public from natural hazards such as floods and earthquakes, in assessing water quality, in providing emergency responders with geospatial data to improve homeland security, in analyzing the strategic and economic implications of mineral supply and demand, and in providing the science needed to manage our natural resources and combat invasive species that can threaten agriculture and public health. The USGS is working in every state and has nearly 400 offices across the country. To aid in its interdisciplinary investigations, the USGS works with more than 2,000 federal, state, local, tribal and private organizations.

During the past 10 years, total federal spending for non-defense research and development has risen by 64 percent from $45 billion to $74 billion in constant dollars. By contrast, funding for the USGS has been essentailly flat. Even this flat funding for the USGS reflects congressional restoration of proposed budget cuts.

E. National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program
ASCE strongly supports the president’s FY 2007 request of $51.5 million for the Earthquake Hazards Office and $5.7 million for the multi-hazards initiative; these are a positive indication of the Administration’s support in this important area. ASCE remains concerned about the continued under funding of Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), as the $8 million requested for FY 2007 is well under the authorized level of $36 million.

ASCE urges Congress to build on the president’s support and appropriate the fully authorized funding level of $85.8 million, including $36 million for ANSS, for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) functions at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS has the responsibility to monitor earthquakes, assess the seismic hazard for the Nation and research the basic earth science processes controlling earthquake occurrence and effect. The Advanced National Seismic Research and Monitoring System (ANSS), authorized by Congress in 2000, is intended to expand the current monitoring system and provide the needed information to maximize our understanding of how specific buildings performed during earthquakes. Strong motion information is critical to making the next quantum leap in understanding how to economically arrest the growth of earthquake risk.