Taxpayer's Tab: H.R. 3449/S. 1677, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2013

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Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 3449/S. 1677, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2013

Cost Per Year: $350 million ($1.4 billion over four years)

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD)While California has been mired in a drought, 2014 has started off relatively cold and wet for much of the rest of the country with a winter that wouldn’t go away quietly and a dose of late April showers. The immediate concern following heavy downpours is flooding and the possibility of downed trees or landslides due to oversaturated soil. A longer-term concern is the quality of stormwater runoff. According to Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), “[p]olluted stormwater runoff is caused when rain or snow flows over roads, roofs, parking lots and other surfaces, picking up toxic chemicals and sediment and carrying them to rivers and streams.” Such chemicals have the potential to make their way into municipal water systems.

To improve water quality and create jobs, Rep. Edwards and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act. The bill would establish between three and five Centers of Excellence, dedicated to developing innovative new ways to manage stormwater infrastructure. Each center would research and develop new methods to direct, clean, and use stormwater through the use of federal grants. These matching grants would be awarded to state and local governments to survey and identify existing problems, build new systems, and improve existing networks.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)The texts of H.R. 3449 and S. 1677 would authorize “such sums as are necessary.” Previous versions of the legislation introduced by Rep. Edwards in the 111th and 112th Congresses in the form of the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, specified funding of $1.4 billion over four years. According to the text of both previously-introduced bills, each year $300 million was authorized to be spent on infrastructure grants, $25 million for the Centers, and $25 million for additional duties and personnel within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Funds would be in addition to the EPA’s $1.9 billion Clean Water State Revolving Fund that finances “water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, nonpoint source pollution control, and watershed and estuary management.” capitol_dome_tinycapitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

The Bottom Line: The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act would award new federal grants to build new and improve old water infrastructure to deal with runoff pollution. It would increase spending by $1.4 billion over four years.


Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 4482, a bill to prohibit any appropriation of funds for the Science and Technology Account of the Environmental Protection Agency

Savings Per Year: $766 million (one-year savings)

Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ)The EPA is tasked with drafting and enforcing the environmental codes and regulations that affect everything from the gas Americans are allowed to put into their cars to the fertilizers farmers can use on their land. Ever since its founding in 1970, the Agency has sparked debate on whether or not the regulations it enforces are effective. Proponents of the EPA’s actions stress the importance of environmental standards for public health and energy and resource management, especially as climate change remains a public policy focus for lawmakers at all levels of government. However, there are many who feel the Agency’s convoluted and complex system of regulations are either too far-reaching or insensitive to local concerns, and end up doing more harm than good.

In addition to writing and enforcing regulations, the EPA devotes significant time and money in conducting its own scientific research on environmental issues. For example, as part of its clean air programs, the EPA monitors air quality from several regional laboratories and conducts experiments on how certain pollutants like lead, sulfur, and carbon dioxide interact with the atmosphere. It uses this data to track the progress of its policies as well as develop future initiatives that might be more effective. The EPA also uses the research it does on issues like ambient air quality to inform debate on other public health issues that may be connected, such as obesity and asthma.

These large-scale research projects are, obviously, very expensive to sustain. In 2013 the EPA spent about $773 million on science & technology initiatives, which encompasses its research and development programs. That year, the Agency had over 2,250 full-time employees working on those projects, and estimates similar numbers will be needed through 2015.

That is troubling for Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ), who feels that the EPA should be focused on enforcing its regulations rather than conducting the research used to write them. To that end, Rep. Salmon introduced H.R. 4482, which would end science and technology R&D funding within the EPA. “The EPA’s Science and Technology Account is used to direct funding for climate change research. Regardless of what you think about climate change, this research should actually be -- and in fact already is -- done through the Department of Energy and not the agency charged with regulation enforcement,” he noted in a press release.

The bill is one of four in Rep. Salmon’s “Shrink Our Spending” (SOS) initiative, legislation aimed at reducing duplicative and/or inefficient spending at the federal level. NTUF covered another of his “SOS” bills in last week’s Taxpayer’s Tab. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the EPA’s Science and Technology Account will spend an estimated $766 million in Fiscal Year 2014. NTUF will count the bill as a one-year savings equal to that amount. capitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

* NTUF does not have a current BillTally report for Congressman Salmon. BillTally reports for Congresses prior to 2001 are available upon request.

The Bottom Line: H.R. 4482 would prohibit funding for the EPA’s Science and Technology Account for a one-year savings of $766 million out of the EPA’s total $8 billion budget.


The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 4407, a bill to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to set reasonable limits on the stringency and timing of proposed regulations for new residential wood heaters, new residential hydronic heaters, new forced-air furnaces, and new residential masonry heaters, and for other purposes

Cost Per Year: “No Cost” -- Regulation

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)This week’s Wildcard bill is another legislator’s response to certain EPA policies, but instead focuses on one very specific regulatory burden the Agency has proposed.

One of the problems any regulatory agency faces in enforcing its standards is the “ripple effect” that any one rule might create. A seemingly benign regulation meant to address a larger problem can force those it affects to find new ways to do otherwise mundane things. From large soda bans in New York City to vehicle recalls for peeling-prone labels, there are many examples of government regulations that make it difficult for consumers and retailers alike to go about their business.

Now some lawmakers are opposed to new EPA regulations that while designed to improve air quality, could pose significant financial costs for anyone who uses wood-burning stoves to heat their homes. The standards were proposed in January (all 91,000-plus words of the regulation are available as an 88 page document from the Federal Register). The new standards, which would go into effect in 2015 and would then be toughened in five years, require manufacturers to produce stoves that emit fewer particle pollutants into the air. According to Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), that would mean more expensive stoves for both manufacturers and customers.

“... [T]he U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 2.4 million households, 12 percent of all homes, burn wood as their primary heating fuel. ... Limiting consumer choice by drastically increasing costs will have a disparate effect on rural and low-income households that rely on this economically-feasible heating solution,” Rep. Luetkemeyer said. He commended on the EPA’s intent to reduce air pollution as “laudable” but argued that any potential benefits of the regulations would be outweighed by the costs, which include higher prices for those using wood-burning stoves to heat their homes and manufacturers forced to abandon inventory that isn’t up to code.

The EPA has claimed that 13 percent of all soot pollution in the U.S. can be attributed to inefficient wooden stoves. The emissions standards would not be retroactive – meaning that those who own older stoves could keep using them. However, manufacturers would not be able to sell any new stoves that don’t meet the new standards. According to Think Progress, the founder of Earth Outdoor Furnaces testified that no current stoves would meet the standards set in the proposed regulation.

NTUF estimates that H.R. 4407 would not significantly impact the budget, as it is regulatory in nature. capitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

The Bottom Line: H.R. 4407 would repeal newly proposed EPA regulations that prevent manufacturers from selling certain wood-burning stoves. It likely will not significantly affect the budget.