EPA Seeks Nominees for Advisory Council

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register seeking nominations to fill vacancies on EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC). EPA requests nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for a three-year appointment. The 15-member NDWAC was established by the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide practical and independent advice, consultation, and recommendations to the EPA’s Administrator on the activities, functions, policies, and regulations required by the bill. EPA’s notice solicits nominations to fill four vacancies from August 2018 through December 2020, and five vacancies from December 2018 through December 2021. To maintain the representation required by statute, nominees will be selected to represent state and local agencies concerned with water hygiene and public water supply (two vacancies) and the general public (two vacancies). Nominations are due by May 31, 2018.

Energy Secretary Perry Announces Funding for Advanced Vehicle Technologies Research

Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently announced $68.5 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for early-stage research of advanced vehicle technologies. Projects selected through this Vehicle Technologies Office funding opportunity will address one of five topics, including batteries and electrification, technology integration, and co-optimization of engines and fuels. The goals of this opportunity are to improve transportation efficiency and reliability by enhancing economic growth and enabling affordable mobility.

Upcoming Brownfields Tax Legislation

Representatives Elizabeth Esty and Peter King joined forces to introduce the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act of 2018, as referenced in their “Dear Colleague” letter. If passed, the legislation would save a brownfields tax incentive that expired in January 2012. According to the letter, the bill would “reauthorize a tax incentive program that would allow developers to fully deduct the costs of environmental cleanups of brownfields in the year the costs were incurred.” The reauthorization is expected to encourage private sector investment to take on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment projects. NARC, the National League of Cities (NLC), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently produced a letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

FCC Ditches 2 Federal Reviews in 5G ‘Streamlining’

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a wireless infrastructure streamlining order last week to try to speed up American efforts in the race to 5G, exempting small cell deployments from federal historic preservation and environmental reviews. Now only states and localities that have their own review processes in place can mandate them. After a failed attempt to delay the vote for more input from tribal nations, environmental advocates, and local government officials, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that streamlining the installation of 5G networks for the wireless industry will not guarantee improved access to underserved communities, such as rural areas and urban deserts. Read more in this Route Fifty article.

At Long Last, Congress and the President Fund FY 2018

After months of wrangling, five continuing resolutions, two short-term government shutdowns, and much argument over what funding levels and policy riders should make the final cut, Congress voted and the president signed an omnibus appropriations bill that will keep the federal government funded through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2018.

The $1.3 billion appropriation represents a significant success for our members! Many of NARC’s 2018 legislative and funding priorities received substantially more funding than the president requested and more than was appropriated in fiscal year 2017. Areas that saw significant funding increases include:

  • Transportation and infrastructure, including TIGER Grants, AMTRAK funding, and autonomous vehicles;
  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG);
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state workforce formula grants;
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA);
  • Census Bureau;
  • Opioid crisis relief, including funding for prevention, treatment, and law enforcement;
  • Rural water and broadband programs;
  • Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds;
  • Aging programs;
  • Low Income and Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program and other housing assistance programs; and
  • Homelessness assistance.

Several policy riders and authorizations were also adopted as part of the omnibus, including:

  • Reauthorization of the EPA Brownfields Program, including NARC supported language;
  • Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration is now extended through September; and
  • Short-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is extended through the end of July.

For more information, check out our new blog post on the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

Bipartisan Letter for Great Lakes Restoration Funding

Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI) and David Joyce (R-OH) submitted a joint letter to the House Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies requesting an appropriation of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for FY 2019. With 63 bipartisan co-signers joining the effort, this is the largest number of signers supporting GLRI funding. Representative Levin said, “The fact that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative garners such strong, bipartisan support is a testament to the importance it has to our region and the nation. Our public health and regional economic vibrancy is built on the Great Lakes’ ecological wellbeing, which can only be maintained with our sustained and robust commitment.”

Fight Coming Over Clean Air Regulations

The Trump administration signaled this week that it could end California’s long-standing authority to set its own limits on air pollution, largely over a disagreement regarding fuel efficiency standards. The administration faces an April 1 deadline to decide if more stringent fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, established by the Obama administration, are attainable or need to be reworked. The federal government is seeking to leverage the waiver granted by Congress to California in 1970 that allows the state to set pollution standards that are more stringent than the federal Clean Air Act requires, using it as a wedge to convince California to agree to reductions in fuel efficiency standards. Automobile manufacturers are concerned that separate standards at the federal and California level – the state where more cars are sold than any other – would be overly burdensome.