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Chabot, Gibbs Introduce Legislation to Help Communities Comply With Clean Water Requirements

For Immediate Release

Washington, January 12, 2017 | Brian Griffith (513-684-2723) | comments
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Washington – Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) today joined Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) in introducing H.R. 465, the Water Quality Improvement Act of 2017, which would help local communities comply with clean water requirements by fully implementing a federal, state and local community partnership. Additionally, the legislation incorporates Chabot’s proposal to create a pilot program to provide local communities the flexibility to seek innovative and cost-effective approaches to Clean Water Act compliance.

Specifically, the legislation codifies the EPA’s Integrated Planning process, which is intended to allow local governments to seek more efficient and affordable solutions to wastewater and storm water management issues. Although the EPA developed the Integrated Planning process several years ago, the agency has struggled to implement its provisions and has instead continued to enforce costly mandates and consent decrees, depriving local communities the flexibility they need to address their specific clean water issues. The legislation also includes Chabot’s proposal to create a pilot program under which local communities will be allowed more flexibility in their efforts to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Clean Water Act. Chabot introduced stand-alone legislation to create the pilot program in the previous two Congresses, after discussing the issue with Democratic Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune a few years ago.

Under the pilot program, local communities across the country will work with the EPA to craft compliance programs that meet each participating community’s particular needs. The legislation authorizes at least 15 pilot communities each year, and will encourage approved local communities to pursue innovative and cost-effective approaches to Clean Water Act compliance without driving up costs unnecessarily through expensive and, often times, outdated mandates.

“Everybody wins under this common-sense approach,” Chabot said. “By allowing the EPA to work more effectively with local communities, residents of those communities should get cleaner water at a lower cost. And, hopefully, through the pilot program, we will be able to develop some innovative clean water approaches that can be implemented on a broader scale to help achieve the same or better water quality results in more communities for a smaller investment of local taxpayer dollars.”

Under current law, EPA regulatory policies and enforcement-led approaches to Clean Water Act compliance through court-ordered consent decrees often require local communities to pay for massive, one-size-fits-all solutions, which in some instances prove over time to be terribly outdated. Consequently, communities facing Clean Water Act compliance issues are often forced into expensive actions that may not adequately meet their needs or meet most clean water requirements.

In Hamilton County, for example, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati has been required, under a consent decree, to construct over $3.2 billion in sewer improvements in order to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Residents and businesses in Hamilton County are facing higher sewer rates – now and in the future. Sewer rates have more than doubled in the past 10 years, and are expected to increase in the future. The Hamilton County Commissioners estimate this legislation could save county ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars compared to the currently estimated total cost of repairs.

The text of H.R. 465 can be viewed HERE.

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