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APWA – Washington Report – February 25, 2019

February 25, 2019                                     

To stay informed about happenings on Capitol Hill please be sure to follow APWA Government Affairs on Twitter @APWAGOVAFFAIRS and check Advocacy News on www.apwa.net.

LATEST NEWS

WOTUS Rule Released by EPA and Corps

  • The Trump Administration has issued a proposed rule for the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which would overwrite a more stringent rule written by the Obama Administration in 2015;
  • The Trump Administration sought to delay implementation of the 2015 rule while they wrote a new rule, which argues that the Clean Water Act (CWA) should only apply to major rivers, their primary tributaries, and wetlands along their banks;
  • Under this new definition, CWA jurisdiction would be removed for tens of thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands;
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler told reporters that the “new, more precise definition means that hard-working Americans will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit”;
  • Mr. Wheeler also stated that the new proposed rule will save regulatory costs for industries such as mining and homebuilding, while having little impact on the nation’s water quality;
  • EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will be accepting comments on the proposed rule through April 15, but it is likely that the comment period will be extended due to the volume of comments expected;
  • After the comment period, the agencies will be required to revise the proposed rule, and make public a final rule;
  • The Trump Administration has stated that it plans to release the final rule in November 2019;
  • Earlier this month, a rescheduled public hearing for the WOTUS rule, February 27-28 in Kansas City, KS, was announced;
  • APWA will be submitting comments on the proposed rule;
  • If you have questions or comments, please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia.

Supreme Court to Review Clean Water Act Case

  • The Supreme Court is set to take up a lower court case regarding the scope of federal water protections;
  • The question to be decided is whether the CWA should apply to pollution that moves through groundwater before reaching a federally regulated waterway;
  • EPA previously supported a broad interpretation that required increased permitting, however they called for a review of that policy last year, accepting public comments on the matter;
  • In both lower court cases, courts found that violations occurred when untreated groundwater reached a protected body of water;
  • The Trump Administration has urged the Court to take up one of the cases in the hopes of reversing the lower court decisions;
  • EPA is expected to issue regulations related to discharges into groundwater sometime this spring;
  • Any guidance issued by the Agency would likely impact the Court deliberations.

House Plans Vote on National Resources Management Act

  • The House is expected to vote on S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, this week under suspension of the rules;
  • The bill, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), was passed by the Senate earlier this month;
  • Included in the bill, is language that would expand the use of drones to monitor and respond to wildfires;
  • Additionally, the measure would authorize the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System.

Coalition Against Bigger Trucks

  • On February 21, several organizations, including APWA, that are part of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), sent a letter to Congress urging that any transportation infrastructure legislation not increase maximum truck size or weight limits;
  • APWA is an active member of CABT, and joined the coalition to speak out on the fact that infrastructure damage caused by increasing weight and length of trucks is a serious concern as we advocate for increased investment in our country’s transportation infrastructure;
  • For additional information on CABT, please visit www.cabt.org, and for questions about APWA’s involvement in CABT, please contact APWA Director of Government Affairs Andrea Eales at aeales@apwa.net.

EPA Releases PFAS Action Plan

  • EPA has released its Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS) Action Plan;
  • According to the plan, the Agency will propose maximum contaminant level (MCL) regulations for two types of PFAS;
  • The plan does not necessarily mean that the Agency will actually set MCL regulations for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOA);
  • Without a specific numeric limit on PFOS and PFOA under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), water providers face no federal requirements for testing for, and removing, the chemicals from drinking water;
  • Several states have independently enacted, or are enacting, numerical limits on the substances for drinking water;
  • In 2016, EPA issued a lifetime health advisory (LHA) of 70 parts per trillion (PPT) for PFOS and PFOA, but these LHA’s are not enforceable, and have been criticized as being dangerously high;
  • Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler did not commit to setting a numerical standard for the chemicals during his testimony earlier this month before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works;
  • A bipartisan group of 20 Senators wrote a letter to Mr. Wheeler, urging the Agency to “develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOS and PFOA”.

FEMA Releases Updated IPAWS Report

  • Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Subcommittee Final Report titled, “Modernizing the Nation’s Public Alert and Warning System”;
  • IPAWS provides public safety officials with an effective way to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies using the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and other public alerting systems from a single interface.

CISA Letter to the Emergency Services Sector

  • Last week, Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Brian Harrell sent out a letter providing a summary of CISA activities for members of the Emergency Services Sector (ESS);
  • DHS considers components of ESS, including public works, as highly-skilled, trained personnel, which provides a wide range of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery services during both day-to-day operations and incident response.

FEMA Seeks Youth Leaders for National Youth Preparedness Council

  • Last week, FEMA announced that they are seeking applicants for their 2019 National Youth Preparedness Council (NYPC), open to students grades 8-11;
  • The Council, first established in 2012, is designed to bring together teens who are interested and engaged in community preparedness;
  • Members are selected based on their dedication to public service, their efforts in making a difference in their communities, and their potential to expand their impact as national leaders for emergency preparedness;
  • The deadline to apply is March 31 at 11:59 pm ET, and new members are expected to be announced in May;
  • For additional information, please click here.

On the Horizon

  • February 26 at 9:00 am ET, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment & Related Agencies is scheduled to hold a public witness hearing – click here for more information;
  • February 26 at 10:00 am ET, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “EPA’s Enforcement Program: Taking the Environmental Cop Off the Beat” – click here for more information;
  • February 26 at 10:00 am ET, the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Securing U.S. Surface Transportation from Cyber Attacks” – click here for more information;
  • February 26 at 10:00 am ET, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Examining How Federal Infrastructure Policy Could Help Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change” – click here for more information;
  • February 26 at 2:30 pm ET, the Senate Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation & Safety is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Connecting America: Examining Intermodal Connections Across Our Surface Transportation Network” – click here for more information;
  • February 27 at 10:00 am ET, the House Committee on Homeland Security is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Securing Our Nation’s Chemical Facilities: Building on the Progress of the CFATS Program” – click here for more information;
  • February 27 at 10:30 am ET, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Clean Energy Infrastructure and the Workforce to Build It” click here for more information;
  • February 27 at 1:00 pm ET, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Emergency Partners Information Connection (EPIC) is scheduled to hold a webinar titled, “Communications for a Nuclear or Radiological Disaster” – click here for more information;
  • February 27 at 1:00 pm ET, FEMA is scheduled to hold a webinar titled, “Resilience Starts with Financial Preparedness-Save For the Unexpected” – click here for more information;

February 27 at 2:30 pm ET, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Perspectives on Protecting the Electric Grid from an Electromagnetic Pulse or Geomagnetic Disturbance” – click here for more information.