February 11, 2019 Share:
Due to the Congressional district work period scheduled for the week of February 18, the next edition of the APWA Washington Report will be sent out on February 25.
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.
CR Set to Expire February 15
• Currently, the departments of the federal government which previously had non-essential services shutdown during the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history are operating on a continuing resolution (CR) set to expire at midnight this Friday, February 15;
• On January 28, and after 35 days, the non-essential services for the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Commerce, Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were reopened;
• Appointed conferees from both the House and Senate have since been working to find a compromise to fund the above-mentioned departments for the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2019 which runs through September 30, 2019;
• The primary sticking points in the negotiations are how much money will be agreed to for President Trump’s proposed border wall/barrier on the U.S. Southern Border, and a proposal which emerged over the weekend to cap the number of immigrants entering the U.S. illegally that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can detain;
• APWA will continue to monitor the situation and work with the Administration and Congressional offices to ensure public works interests are represented;
• Please continue following these developments through APWA Advocacy News and @APWAGOVAFFAIRS on Twitter.
Infrastructure Discussed in SOTU & Committee Hearings
• In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Trump stated that infrastructure legislation is a necessity for the nation;
• “Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure,” said the President;
• Prior to the speech, Republican Congressional leaders, including Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that could move this Congress;
• After the speech, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) stated the President’s speech lacked “sustainable, long-term Federal funding”;
• Both Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) cited the need for funding at a Committee hearing on the subject two days later;
• Chairman DeFazio called for increasing the federal gas tax, which has been at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, citing Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a former member of the Committee, who campaigned on raising the tax and won his election;
• Walz himself said that raising the gas tax might not be enough to cover the funding gap with the rise of electric vehicles;
• Another option discussed was Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), which involves charging users based on the distance they drive, with Ranking Member Graves saying it’s the “best way to ensure that everyone contributes to the Highway Trust Fund”;
• Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated that VMT must be one of several strategies used to raise revenues, along with a gas tax increase, and public-private partnerships;
• Lawmakers feel they have an opportunity to put these strategies into action while reauthorizing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Public Law 114-94) which expires in September of 2020.
EPA Likely to Issue Groundwater Discharge Policy This Spring
• EPA is expected to issue regulations related to discharges into groundwater sometime this spring;
• The question to be decided is whether the Clean Water Act (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, but the Agency called for a review of that policy last year, accepting public comments on the matter;
• Any guidance issued by EPA would likely be of interest to the Supreme Court, which is reviewing two cases centering on whether pollution traveling through groundwater is covered under CWA;
• In both lower court cases, the courts found that violations occurred when untreated groundwater reached a protected body of water;
• The Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to review both petitions, signaling the interest of the Court;
• The Trump Administration has urged the Court to take up one of the cases in the hopes of reversing the lower court decisions, however plaintiffs in the lower court cases have argued against the Court taking up either case;
• The Court is next scheduled to issue case orders on February 19, and if the justices decide to take up the cases, it would be a very short timeline to hear them prior to adjournment.
APWA Joins Infrastructure Working Group Advocating for Infrastructure Investment
• On February 6, APWA and over 140 other organizations representing state and local government, industry, and trade associations sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging the 116th Congress to pass a bipartisan infrastructure investment package;
• This broad coalition known as the Infrastructure Working Group (IWG) was formed during the previous Congress specifically to bring together a broad representation of infrastructure interests;
• You may view a copy of the letter here;
• Please share this letter broadly with your U.S. Senators and Representatives.
U.S. DOT Announces Transportation Research Funds
• Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that over $60 million in grant funds (authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act) will be available for 32 University Transportation Centers (UTC);
• UTCs are compromised of groups of universities seeking solutions to national, regional, and local transportation issues;
• For additional information on UTCs and the funding announcement, please click here.
Public Hearing Set for WOTUS
• Last week, the Trump Administration announced a rescheduled public hearing for the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, February 27-28 in Kansas City, KS;
• The original January date was canceled due to the partial government shutdown;
• There will also be an “informational webcast” on the rule on February 14;
• Late last year, the Administration released the new proposed WOTUS rule 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, arguing that 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;
• 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;
• Both EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will be accepting comments on the proposed rule for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but it is likely that the comment period will be extended;
• 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;
• APWA will be submitting comments;
• Please contact APWA Government Affairs Manager Sean Garcia if you have questions or comments about the proposed rule.
NIST Seeking Comments on Infrastructure Security
• The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting comments on a draft project description, “Security for IoT Sensor Networks”;
• Goals of the project include testing the cybersecurity controls of the building management system sensor network, to verify that they mitigate any identified cybersecurity risks;
• Additionally, the project would analyze and understand the performance implications of adding these controls to the building management system sensor network;
• If you would like to submit comments, please send those to APWA Government Affairs Manager Marty Williams before March 12;
• If you wish to send comments directly to NIST, you must do so by March 18;
• For additional information and to submit comments directly to NIST, please click here.
DOT Releases Pocket Guide with Transportation Statistics
• Last week, DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics released the “Pocket Guide to Transportation 2019”;
• The guide provides a tool to reference statistics including information on various modes of transportation and infrastructure trends;
• To access the guide, please click here.
FEMA Announces 2019 CPI Adjustments
• Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released revised Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments for the statewide per capita impact indicator used for recommending cost share adjustments for major disasters;
• The statewide per capita indicator for recommending cost share adjustments for any major disaster declared on or after January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019, is now $146 per capita of the state or tribal population;
• This adjustment is based on an increase of 1.9 percent in the CPI for all urban consumers for the 12-month period that ended December 2018.
On the Horizon
• February 13 at 10:00 am ET, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs is scheduled to conduct a business meeting which includes a mark-up of S. 333, the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act of 2019 – click here for more information;
• February 13 at 10:15 am ET, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation has scheduled a hearing titled, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy” – click here for more information;
• February 13 at 1:30 pm ET, FEMA is scheduled to conduct a webinar on the National Exercise Program (NEP) – click here for more information;
• February 14 at 10:00 am ET, the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources is scheduled to hold a hearing on the current status and outlook for cybersecurity efforts in the energy industry – click here for more information.