Ocean Discharge Legislation Dies
SB 332 (Hertzberg & Wiener) was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee during the “suspense file” hearing conducted on May 16 and will not move any further. The action by the Committee was preceded by several months of substantial lobbying by CASA and other stakeholders in opposition to the bill.
SB 332 proposed mandated reductions to ocean discharges of 50 percent by 2030 and 95 percent by 2040. It subjected both the wastewater entity and affiliated water suppliers to non-compliance penalties. CASA and others in the water community argued the mandated reductions were technically infeasible, would impose an incredible ratepayer burden and did not consider regional variations in water supply management.
CASA-Sponsored Wipes Labeling Legislation Held as “Two-Year Bill”
CASA’s sponsored bill on wipes labeling, AB 1672 (Bloom) was held over as a “two-year bill” during the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s hearing on May 16. This is an unusual procedural move from the Appropriations Committee which typically holds bills “on suspense,” rendering them dead indefinitely. However, by making the bill a “two-year bill,” AB 1672 will be eligible to move again at the beginning of the 2020 legislative session.
There was very little explanation about why our sponsored bill was among a handful of other bills also held over. Most likely, there were simply a record number of bills heard in the committee this year and rather than hold them on suspense and render them dead, many held over were good pieces of legislation that warranted further consideration next year.
CASA was joined by more than 50 public agencies and NGO groups in supporting the bill this year and the legislation received strong votes in both policy committees where it was heard. However, there was strong and persistent opposition from the non-woven fabrics industry and individual companies. Over the next few months, we will be re-focusing our efforts on wet wipes toward activities that will bolster our advocacy on AB 1672 next year.
Concerning Denitrification Provisions Amended Out of SB 69
SB 69 (Wiener) was significantly amended in order to be passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 16. CASA had been strongly opposing the bill because of provisions requiring the State Water Resources Control Board to amend the California Ocean Plan and California Enclosed Bays and Estuaries Plan to include specified water quality objectives and effluent limitations and specifically require all ocean and bay dischargers to adopt, incorporate or improve denitrification protocols. The most recent amendments removed several sections of the bill including the provisions CASA was strongly objecting to which allowed us to move to a neutral position.
Federal Funding Package Moves Out of Appropriations
This week, the House Committee on Appropriations approved the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill by a party line vote of 30-21. The bill now heads to the House floor for debate. It will fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its crucial water infrastructure programs that CASA agencies rely upon for assistance.
The total budget is just over $9 billion with these provisions:
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.8 billion
- Continued support for the WIFIA Program by funding it at $50 million
- Support for ongoing activities related to integrated planning
- Language directing USEPA to focus on addressing and treating PFAS contamination in drinking water with various programmatic funding resources to support such actions
Similarly, the House Committee on Appropriations also approved the Energy and Water Development FY 2020 spending bill by an identical vote. In total, the Energy-Water spending bill provides $46.4 billion in funding, representing a 4 percent increase over current enacted levels.
The bill provides funding for two key U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure programs, WaterSMART and Title XVI, which are critical funding sources for CASA agencies. The WaterSMART Program is funded at $63 million to support and enhance the development of water conservation and innovation practices and Title XVI is funded at $64 million. The Energy-Water bill now heads to the House floor for debate and a vote.