EPA Extends Deadline to Apply for a WIFIA Water Infrastructure Loan

There’s still time to apply for a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced an extended deadline of July 31, 2018 to submit letters of interest for WIFIA loans. Administrator Pruitt also sent a letter highlighting the deadline extension to governors of 56 states and territories as well as tribal leadership.

The EPA’s announcement comes as part of Infrastructure Week. It highlights the importance of working together with the water sector on a variety of topics including; affordability, governance and the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Also, in conjunction with Infrastructure Week, the Agency released a new interactive website that showcases leading efforts by states, public water systems and communities to replace lead service lines.

“By extending the deadline to apply for a WIFIA loan, even more entities will be able to bring critical water infrastructure improvements to their communities, including projects that keep lead and other contaminants out of drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These projects create jobs, protect public health and help ensure that all Americans continue to have access to clean and safe water.”

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA. It aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regional and national significant projects. WIFIA can provide up to 49 percent of the financing for a project and a state SRF can provide additional financing for remaining eligible project costs. The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23, 2018.

On April 4, 2018, the EPA announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, leveraging over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. This year’s WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability highlights the importance of protecting public health including projects to reduce exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and update the nation’s aging infrastructure.

On April 20, 2018, EPA issued its first WIFIA loan to King County, Washington. The $134.5 million loan will help finance a new wet weather treatment station that will better protect public health, improve water quality and create more than 1,400 jobs, all while saving up to $32 million compared to standard financing over the life of the loan.

According to EPA’s estimate of drinking water and wastewater needs, over $743 billion is needed over the next 20 years for water infrastructure improvements. WIFIA financing and the SRFs will play an important part to fulfill this need. With the latest two appropriations totaling $93 million, WIFIA loans can be combined with other public and private funding to finance approximately $16 billion in infrastructure needs. EPA’s FY2018 budget includes $2.9 billion for the SRFs.

Visit www.epa.gov/wifia for more information about the WIFIA program and applications resources.

 

America’s Water Infrastructure Act Moves out of Senate Committee

Last week the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S. 2800). This legislation includes CASA endorsed provisions to allocate $100 million per year for two years for a new federal program. The program will leverage power of the WIFIA program to provide additional assistance to State Revolving Fund program.

This supplement to the SRF might spur as much as $10 billion in new project spending nationally.  In addition, the legislation incorporates integrated planning provisions (from S. 962) designed to assist communities. The provisions address multiple water quality compliance challenges over longer time frames including stormwater, CSOs and traditional wastewater treatment needs.  S. 2800 goes to the Senate floor for a vote later this summer.

 

CASA Continues to Weigh in on CalRecycle Regulations

SB 1383:  We recently summited comments to CalRecyle on their draft proposed regulations to implement SB 1383. The legislation set targets to reduce methane emissions 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. The legislature also set targets to divert 50 percent of organic waste from landfills by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025 to achieve the targets.

Our comments emphasize the wastewater sector can be collaborative partners to help meet the mandates through the use of existing anaerobic digestion capacity for co-digestion of food waste but only if markets are assured for the products of digestion (biogas and biosolids). CalRecycle has taken significant strides to provide such assurance. It includes disallowing local ordinances to prohibit or limit land application of biosolids and to establish a procurement requirement for jurisdictions to purchase set volumes of transportation fuel from biogas produced from diverted waste and/or compost. It  will be up to individual plants to negotiate with their counties to determine if biosolids can still be managed at landfills (e.g., whether they can be part of the 25 percent of organic waste still allowed at landfills).

AB 901: On May 16, CalRecycle released the next iteration of draft regulations to implement the reporting requirements of AB 901. This began a 15 day comment period with comments due before midnight on May 31. The legislation passed to track the flow of solid waste, including biosolids, in California. The draft regulations now reflect the proposed changes made after the initial comment period. Text shown in double underline reflect additions while text shown with a double strike reflect deletion. We also provided comments on the previous draft.

 

Air Resources Board Sets Workshop to Review Latest LCFS Draft Regulation

The California Air Resources Board had released proposed regulatory changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program. The board will hold a public workshop on a new, unseen draft of the regulation on June 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the CalEPA building in Sacramento. You can participate in person via webinar or phone.

Board staff informed us that they are moving wastewater plants into Tier 1 in the LCFS regulations as we requested in previous comments. This will allow us to use their simplified calculator as we expected. Furthermore, the board released a new draft calculator for the wastewater sector. You can find the calculator (May 21 Simplified Calculator for Wastewater Sludge) on the middle of the page. The calculator is available to download and includes instructions. The board will introduce this around June 19 for a 15-day public comment window.