From Environment & Energy Daily: Senate to offer latest WRDA proposal

Tiffany Stecker, E&E News reporter

Published: Friday, November 18, 2016

The Senate is expected to send the House its latest proposal today in negotiations on the Water Resources Development Act, a new offer in the difficult task of reconciling each chamber’s very different bills.

“We hope they will look on it favorably,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters.

The water resources bills would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to go forward with dozens of water projects – from flood control structures to restoration initiatives. They also include money to help Flint, Mich., address lead problems in drinking water.

But the measures are far from similar. The House’s H.R. 5303 is worth $5 billion. The Senate’s S. 2848 stands at twice the amount.

The Senate version includes $4.8 billion to help communities address water quality problems, drought and other water struggles outside the Army Corps’ purview.

The Senate included $220 million in spending for Flint. The House version, in contrast, includes only $170 million in authorizations for the beleaguered city.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who helped negotiate the Flint package, said he would fight to keep the upper chamber’s deal for Flint intact.

“We will not accept anything that is less than what we agreed to in the Senate,” he told reporters yesterday.

Senators have acknowledged they will likely have to slim down their WRDA in negotiations with the House, but it’s still unclear what cuts they will agree to.

One possibility would be provisions aimed at upgrading drinking water infrastructure and preventing lead contamination around the country. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee does not have oversight over those matters.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, appeared unsure that negotiations would prove successful and that a conference bill would make it to the president’s desk.

Putting the Flint aid on an end-of-the-year spending bill or continuing resolution could make it easier to move to the finish line.

But, he said, “that’s another leadership call.”

Reporter Hannah Hess contributed.