Congress Closer To Approving SRF Boost In 2010

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | August 2009 Vol. 64 No. 8

The Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to approve a $3.6 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds in fiscal 2010, which begins Oct. 1.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), called the 119 percent increase over fiscal 2009 “the largest infrastructure bill in the committee’s history.” Feinstein chairs the subcommittee with responsibility for funding the SRFs. Her subcommittee’s action is likely to carry through and be rubber stamped by the full Senate.

The Senate would then have to reconcile its SRF appropriation with those of the House, which is almost identical.

However, those large appropriations are probably unsustainable beyond 2010, given the projected federal deficit. In an effort to shift the funding source for the SRFs from the federal budget to a trust fund, which would be filled with some variety of user taxes as opposed to income tax revenue, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held hearings in July on possible approaches. The trust fund idea has been around for some time, but congress now seems more serious about it, having commissioned and received a report on the topic from the Government Accounting Office. That report was the centerpiece of the hearings.

Climate Change Bill To Enhance Gas Industry?

The climate change bill the Senate will consider in September – which the House passed by a narrow 219-212 vote in late June – could have a significant impact on various players in the natural gas business; but the key word is “could.” The Senate may change some of the provisions in the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009, and may or may not pass the bill even after making changes. A number of Democrats have threatened to defect because of the potential impact of mandated carbon emission reductions on their states.

The legislation would force compressor stations emitting more than 25,000 metric tons a year of carbon equivalent emissions to reduce those emissions 17 percent by 2020. It is not clear how many compressor stations are above that level. The EPA proposed a rule earlier this year that would require all sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to report on facility based emissions above 25,000 metric tons starting on Jan. 1, 2011. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) has been pressing the EPA to make changes in that proposal, including delaying reporting for one year.