Obama 2013 Budget Boosts PMHSA, Cuts Clean Water, SRF

April 2012, Vol. 67 No. 4

But even the most deficit-sensitive Republicans are complaining about the Obama administration's second straight proposed annual reduction in SRF funding. "Given the incredible need, the incredible benefits from investment, I was extremely disappointed to see that EPA's FY13 Budget requested a decrease in funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs for the second year in a row," says Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). "Every federal dollar that EPA directs away from addressing the primary goal of the SRF programs reduces the capacity of a state to leverage federal funding and address infrastructure needs."

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, complained to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Feb. 29 that while state grants get hacked by 7 percent, sector-specific grants for Administration pet projects are up 14 percent, and funding for climate change research is up 19 percent, reflecting a centralization of funding for the administration’s favored projects.

Adam Krantz, managing director of government and public affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, acknowledges that the SRF budgets will be cut in fiscal 2013. The question is whether Congress restores some of the $359 million the Obama administration proposes to cut. "The troubling aspect is that the SRFs, the EPA programs with the most impact on job creation, are being cut so that the EPA can use those funds for other priorities, be that enforcement, or moving funds within programs, be that from drinking water to superfund, or whatever," explains Krantz. "Congress may look closely at why infrastructure programs are the focus on the redistribution of funds within the agency."

FERC begins to examine gas, electric utility integration

FERC is starting to look at the issue of whether natural gas pipelines and electric utilities are working smoothly together. That general question was at the center of a meeting at FERC during February. Commissioner Philip Moeller is apparently the man behind the FERC initiative in this area, which looks at the growing reliance of generators on natural gas as they switch out of coal. The FERC commissioners are asking a lot of questions, such as to what extent FERC should consider modifying its existing Standards of Conduct with regulated utilities -- either on an emergency basis or in a more fundamental manner -- to assure greater coordination of the two industries.