Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Bush Opposes HR 3930: Added Funding for Water Needs, Wants Money to Go to Military

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration said
Wednesday it opposes a House plan to make billions more
available to help states with clean water projects because
defense spending must take priority.

Legislation would set aside $20 billion over five years for
Clean Water Act projects to improve sewage treatment
systems and reduce stormwater runoff.

Congress has funded such projects at $1.35 billion annually
for the past five years. The president, in his budget for the
fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, is seeking $1.21 billion.

The administration has not offered a five-year plan that could
be compared with the bill sponsored by Reps. John Duncan,
R-Tenn., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

``The administration would oppose the funding levels in this
bill,'' Benjamin Grumbles of the Environmental Protection
Agency told a House Transportation and Infrastructure
subcommittee.

``The president clearly defined his priorities in the State of the
Union as defense and homeland security,'' said Grumbles, the
agency's deputy assistant administrator for water.

But Grumbles said the administration agrees with many of the
other elements in the bill.

Congress created a loan fund in the late 1980s that states can
drawn upon for their similar funds, which help pay for
wastewater and sewer projects. The government has provided
states with almost $20 billion. Last year, state funds handed
out $3.8 billion in 1,370 loans, the most loans in a single year.

Despite its opposition to the $20 billion over five years House
plan, Grumbles said the administration has a ``continuing
commitment'' to ensure that state funds can indefinitely offer
$2 billion a year in loans.

The EPA is developing an estimate of what it will cost to
properly protect rivers, lakes and streams - a figure that
probably will exceed $300 billion over the next 20 years,
according to the subcommittee staff.

Other groups have put the figure at more than $400 billion.

Since 1972, the government has spent at least $90 billion to
help improve water quality, Grumbles said. Bush wants to
focus on pollution from runoff such as melted snow or rainfall
when it collects natural and man-made pollutants on the
ground and flows into waterways.

Bush's budget proposal includes $238 million for grants to
states to address this kind of pollution, an increase of less
than 1 percent from the current year.

On the Net:

Information on the bill, H.R. 3930, can be found at
http://thomas.loc.gov