From E&E: WRDA deal ‘imminent’; passage expected this week

WRDA deal ‘imminent’; passage expected this week

Tiffany Stecker, E&E News reporter

Published: Monday, December 5, 2016

Congress is on the brink of passing a massive water resources bill this week, as negotiators hammer out the final details on a deal to help Flint, Mich., and other cities with crumbling infrastructure.

As of Friday, the final holdout in finishing the Water Resources Development Act before the end of the year appears to be a push from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to strike a provision that would require only U.S. steel and iron products be used for infrastructure projects funded by the drinking water State Revolving Fund loans. A spokeswoman for Ryan said she was confident the issue would be resolved.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday he hoped to get WRDA and a stopgap spending bill out by Thursday. On the Senate side, Environment and Public Works spokeswoman Daisy Letendre said a deal was “imminent.”

Central to the legislation is an agreement to provide financial help to Flint, where residents are struggling with lead-tainted drinking water. The city’s water was contaminated after state and local officials failed to properly treat the water following a switch from Lake Huron water to Flint River water, which corroded old lead pipes.

While WRDA would authorize the Flint aid, a continuing resolution would probably be the vehicle to appropriate the money, according to a leadership aide. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters last week that key lawmakers had settled on sending $170 million to the city, equal to the amount in the House’s version of the bill, but less than the $220 million agreed to in the Senate legislation.

Michigan Democratic lawmakers balked at the lower amount.

“We’re just continuing to push” for the original package passed in the Senate, said Rep. Dan Kildee (D), who represents Flint.

The upper chamber’s version of the legislation, S. 2848, would put a large chunk of funding to clean up waterways and make drinking water safe as well as authorizing water projects overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Staffers from both chambers are working to reconcile the two very different versions of the water resources legislation. The $6 billion House version, H.R. 5303, does not include the clean water and drinking water sections, which make up almost half of the cost of the roughly $10 billion Senate bill.