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April 23, 2009 - ASCE Statement - FY 2010 Budget for the EPA and US Geological Survey

Statement of
The American Society of Civil Engineers
on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget for
The Environmental Protection Agency
and the U.S. Geological Survey
Befor the
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives

April 23, 2009

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Simpson, and Members of the Subcommittee:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is pleased to present to the Subcommittee our views on the proposed budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for Fiscal Year 2010.

In its 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure released in January, ASCE said that the nation needs to invest approximately $2.2 trillion over the next five years to maintain the national infrastructure in good condition. Even with current and planned investments from federal, state, and local governments in the next five years, the “gap” between the overall need and actual spending will remain at more than $1 trillion in 2014.

I. The Environmental Protection Agency

A. The Subcommittee should appropriate the president’s full request for $3.9 billion for the Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) and the Safe Drinking Water Act SRF in FY 2010.

In FY 2009, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion for both SRF programs in the annual appropriations act. In February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided an additional $6 billion for these programs, bringing the total FY 2009 appropriation for clean water and drinking water to $7.5 billion (although not all of the ARRA funds need be obligated until the middle of FY 2010).

The president’s budget requests $3.9 billion for the CWSRF and the DWSRF in FY 2010. It is not clear how the money will be divided between the two. Nevertheless, this total represents an essential investment and this Subcommittee should appropriate the entire amount requested. Aging wastewater treatment systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to update or replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demand.

Since 1972, Congress has directly invested more than $77 billion in the construction of publicly owned sewage treatment works (POTWs) and their related facilities. State and local governments have spent billions more over the years. Total non-federal spending on sewer and water between 1991 and 2005 was $841 billion. 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.

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the total investment needs of America's publicly owned treatment works as of January 1, 2004, were $202.5 billion. This reflects an increase of $16.1 billion (8.6 percent) since the previous analysis was published in January 2004.

Many systems have reached the end of their useful design lives. 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. EPA estimated in August 2004 that the volume of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) discharged nationwide is 850 billion gallons per year. Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), caused by blocked or broken pipes, result in the release of as much as 10 billion gallons of raw sewage yearly, according to the EPA.

Wastewater infrastructure is expensive as are the monetary and social costs incurred when infrastructure fails. The nation’s wastewater systems are not resilient in terms of current ability to properly fund and maintain, prevent failure, or reconstitute services. Additionally, the interdependence on the energy sector contributes to the lack of system resilience that is increasingly being addressed through the construction of dedicated emergency power generation at key wastewater utility facilities. Aging, under-designed, or inadequately maintained systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year.

Future investments must focus on updating or replacing existing systems as well as building new ones to meet increasing demand; improved operations processes including ongoing oversight, evaluation, and asset management on a systemwide basis; and watershed approaches to look more broadly at water resources in a coordinated systematic way.

America's drinking water systems face 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. This does not account for growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years. Leaking pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water a day.

Of the nearly 53,000 community water systems, approximately 83 percent serve 3,300 or fewer people. These systems provide water to just nine percent of the total U.S. population served by all community systems. In contrast, eight percent of community water systems serve more than 10,000 people, and they provide water to 81 percent of the population served. Eightyfive percent (16,348) of non-transient, non-community water systems and 97 percent (83,351) of transient noncommunity water systems serve 500 or fewer people. These smaller systems face huge financial, technological, and managerial challenges in meeting a growing number of federal drinking-water regulations.

Federal assistance has not kept pace with demand, however. Between FY 1997 and FY 2009, Congress appropriated approximately $10 billion for the DWSRF. This 12-year total is only slightly more than the annual capital investment gap for each of those years as calculated by EPA in 2002.

Although drinking-water treatment plant operators are often able to provide workarounds during system disruptions, the nation’s drinking-water systems are not highly resilient based on present capabilities to prevent failure and properly maintain or reconstitute services. Additionally, the lack of investment and the interdependence on the energy sector contribute to the lack of overall system resilience. These shortcomings are currently being addressed through the construction of dedicated emergency power generation at key drinking water utility facilities, increased connections with adjacent utilities for emergency supply, and the development of security and criticality criteria within the sector. Investment prioritization must take into consideration system vulnerabilities, interdependencies, improved efficiencies in water usage via market incentives, system robustness, redundancy, failure consequences, and ease and cost of recovery.

B. Congress should appropriate $1 billion for Superfund in FY 2010

The administration’s budget plan released in February did not provide a detailed proposal for Superfund in FY 2010. We support a minimum appropriation of $1 billion for the fiscal year.

The administration’s 2010 budget also proposes to reinstate excise taxes for the cleanup of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. These oil and feedstock taxes will generate more than $1 billion to clean up the sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). The reinstated taxes will not begin until 2011, however.

Between 1980 and 1995, dedicated taxes on petroleum, chemical feedstocks, and corporate income provided the majority of the trust fund’s income. Between Fiscal Year 1981 and Fiscal Year 2005, Congress appropriated $29.3 billion to aid in the cleanup of hazardous waste sites under Superfund. But Congress allowed the taxes to expire in December 1995, and the amount of unobligated money in the fund gradually declined. By the end of FY 2003, the fund’s unobligated balance was zero, down from a high of $3.8 billion in 1996. Since FY 2004, virtually the entire Superfund program appropriation has come from general Treasury revenues.

Cleanup progress under Superfund reflected the dwindling resources. Between 1993 and 2000, construction was completed at 608 sites on the NPL, which comprises the most contaminated sites in the nation. Between 2001 and 2008, the number of construction completions dropped to 303 sites—a cleanup rate 50 percent lower than the previous eight years. Meanwhile, the total number of NPL sites remained relatively constant, and, as of November 2008, there were still 1,255 sites awaiting action on the NPL.

By restoring the federal taxes on chemicals, petroleum, and corporations to finance Superfund, H.R. 564 would satisfy ASCE’s policy goal of maintaining a dedicated federal revenue mechanism to revive the Hazardous Substance Superfund cleanup program and remove the cost of cleanup from the taxpayers at large. ASCE believes that it is long past time to invigorate the federal government’s commitment to cleaning up the nation’s most polluted chemical sites.

II. U.S Geological Survey

The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is to collect, analyze, and disseminate geologic, topographic, and hydrologic information that contributes to the wise management of the nation's natural resources and that promotes the health, safety, and well-being of the people. This information takes many forms, including maps, reports, and databases that provide descriptions and analyses of the water, energy, and mineral resources, the land surface, the underlying geologic structure, and the dynamic processes of the Earth.

The USGS received an appropriation of $1.007 billion in FY 2008. The president has proposed a budget of $968.5 million for FY 2009, a decrease of $38 million. Congress appropriated $1,043,803,000 for FY 2009.

ASCE supports an appropriation of $1.14 billion for FY 2010, an increase of approximately 10 percent over the FY 2009 budget. We recommend that the new money be allocated to the National Water Quality Assessment Program, which is regularly faced with the loss of critically important water-quality data due to reduced appropriations.