For 2014, OSHA Activity Increases; Infrastructure Funding Proposals In Development

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

Actually, the Senate included creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority as an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. That bill passed the Senate and is currently in conference with the House, which passed a different version which did not include a WIFIA provision. However, even if the House accepts the amendment, Congress would have to appropriate federal funds to seed the Authority. That would be somewhat unlikely, given the congressional opposition to almost all new federal spending programs.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the Water Infrastructure Investment Act with the support of senior Republicans on the water infrastructure authorizing Committees. Blumenauer’s legislation would establish a trust fund and then create a voluntary fee program where manufacturers of products that use significant amounts of water in production or produce materials that require special filtration from wastewater could choose to add a 3 cent surcharge per unit to their product to be deposited in the trust fund. In exchange, manufacturers would be allowed to display on the product a medallion or label indicating that purchase of the product helps contribute to America’s clean water infrastructure. The revenue from this fee would go towards a Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund, of which 85 percent would go towards replenishing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the remaining 15 percent would fund a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority to provide low-cost capital to clean water infrastructure projects. Blumenauer has proposed different forms of this bill in previous Congresses and it has gone nowhere, in good part because water-using industries see it as a tax on them, which they oppose.

The American Beverage Association, which represents soft drink and bottled water manufacturers, has opposed previous iterations of the Blumenauer bill. Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for the group, states, "While we have tremendous respect for Senator Blumenauer's dedication to infrastructure, ABA and municipal water authorities continue to advocate for Senate language authorizing pilot programs on WIFIA.”