January 18, 2000
Legislative Outlook for 2000

Very little environmental legislation is expected to pass in 2000. This is a presidential election year and Congress will be in recess for a large part of the summer. The target date for adjournment of the106th Congress is October 6, so there are actually very few legislative days remaining. Environmental legislation does not appear to be a high priority on the legislative agenda of either party.

Enacting legislation in the 106th Congress may be complicated by partisan polarization and the presidential election campaign in 2000. Environmental legislation in the105th Congress was stalled because many Republicans believed they would have a bigger majority in the 106th Congress and would not have to compromise on some key issues.

The Republican expectations for the1998 elections did not materialize and they actually lost seats in the House.

Democrats now believe they have a chance of retaking the House in 2000 and may be unwilling to compromise and thus lead to the same stalemate on many issues as in the 105th Congress.

Neither party may be willing to give the other a legislative victory to campaign on in 2000. A "do nothing" or an "anti-environment" Congress may be an advantageous issue for the Democratic Party in the 2000 election campaigns.

The only bills expected to pass are the "must pass" bills in which a bipartisan consensus can be reached.

Senate Environmental Priorities
Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), the new Chairman of the Senate Enviornment and Public Works Committee (EPW), intends to conduct vigorous oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency. He plans to take up an authorization bill for EPA, if not in 2000, then in 2001. The EPW Committee will stress the need for sound science, risk assessment and setting priorities in environmental law and regulations.

EPA's use of sound science will face increased scrutiny from the Committee.

Authorization of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project for The Everglades is the only major EPW Committee legislation expected to be enacted.

Senator Smith also would like to make progress on Superfund reform and is interested in relaxation of requirements to use MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) as an additive in reformulated gasoline but neither of these bills have a high probability of passing at this time.

Superfund reform probably will remain stalled in the second session of 106th Congress as in the first session, although many in Congress would like to reform Superfund.

No consensus could be reached on a Superfund bill in the Senate which led the late Senator John Chafee (R-RI) to abandon the effort last year. House Republicans have floated a proposal aimed at funding a reauthorization bill through reinstating the corporate environmental income tax (EIT).

However, early indications are that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX) will not support the proposal. This will continue to keep Superfund reform in a stalemate. But House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) intends to make small business exemption from Superfund liability a priority during this session of Congress although passing any Superfund related legislation will be difficult.

Congressional staff members have said that any language exempting small businesses would have to be coupled with language on brownfields and state programs to have any hope of passing this year. A narrow bill limited to brownfields and small business exemptions would face opposition from those Members of Congress seeking broader Superfund reform.

Appropriations and the budget will be one of the main battlegrounds between the Administration and the Republicans in Congress to shape national public policy and priorities. However, the Administration appears to have the upper hand on key issues because the Republican majority is so small and the Republicans do not want to be blamed for a government shutdown and all members of Congress want to get out early to campaign.

A recently published draft of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) goals for the FY 2001 budget does not provide much indication of where the budget priorities will be for funding drinking water research, the drinking water state revolving fund and state public water system supervision grants (primacy) which are AWWA's major areas of interest.

The President's budget is expected to be presented at the State of the Union Address on January 27 which starts the appropriations process in the Congress.

The EPA appropriations bill probably will also include a large number of congressional "earmark" funding for local drinking water utility projects as in the FY 2000 appropriations bill.

Water Projects
Authorization of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project for The Everglades is expected to be enacted. The Administration, the State of Florida and both parties in Congress support the legislation.

Regardless of the name of the bill, it will in effect be a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2000 and most likely will be laden with many water projects throughout the nations including drinking water projects.

Until WRDA was knocked off cycle in the 105th Congress, WRDA bills were traditionally enacted in election years so that members of Congress could have projects announced in their districts prior to the elections.

The "WRDA 2000" bill based on The Everglades project will get WRDA back on the traditional cycle. Congressional "earmarks" for drinking water projects in appropriations bills have been increasing and there is no indication that Congress will put the brakes on this trend in an election year.

The EPA and HUD FY2001 appropriations bills are expected to have a large number of drinking water projects as in the FY2000 bill.

AWWA 2000 Congressional Priorities
Although there is not a high prospect for enactment of the Clean Water Act, Superfund or the Endangered Species Act,

This is a critical year for drinking water research funding if adequate research is to be accomplished in time to support drinking water regulations scheduled for promulgation in the next few years.

AWWA will make a major effort to educate members of Congress and staff concerning the shortfall in funding drinking water infrastructure and other issues in AWWA's Congresional Information Program.

AWWA will also continue to participate in Congressional oversight of the implementation of the 1996 SDWA Amendments and develop issues for the next reauthorization of the SDWA.

Albert E. Warburton, director of Legislative Affairs
AWWA Government Affairs Office
1401 New York Ave., NW, Ste. 640
Washington, DC 2005
phone: 202.628.8303; fax: 202.628.2846

*Jerry Obrist, chair, Nebraska Section Water Utility Council, 01/18/00

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