On March 16, President Trump revealed his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
Despite considerable cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the State Revolving Funds- which provide bloc grants to States for clean water and drinking water infrastructure- received a $4 million increase. This is somewhat of a surprise after news reports, which were reported here, indicated deep cuts to EPA’s budget. Those cuts came true to the tune of 31% or $2.5 billion from last year’s budget. The EPA’s cuts would reduce the EPA’s employment ranks by about 3,200 employees, and eliminate more than 50 programs including the Energy Star Program and the Clean Power Plan, which regulates airborne emissions at power plants.
The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) Water and Environmental Program, which provides loan, loan guarantees, and grants for drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facility infrastructure upgrades in rural areas with a population of 10,000 or less, was eliminated within President Trump’s proposed budget. This amounts to nearly $500 million in water infrastructure financing for small rural communities that often do not have the financing capabilities to undertake needed water infrastructure upgrades, repairs or expansions.
Additionally, the Department of Transportation’s TIGER grants program was cut by nearly $500 million. Tiger grants finance road and transit projects, which do not directly impact water infrastructure, but do create cite development and utility relocation work that can be significant.
We at the Clean Water Council applaud the administration for recognizing the value of the SRF programs, but believe the RUS programs remain essential to rural communities. Our partners throughout the infrastructure industry rely on TIGER grants, and we believe a comprehensive infrastructure approach, one that includes water, transportation, energy, and navigation infrastructure, is the best approach to addressing America’s infrastructure woes.
As the annual budget and appropriations process moves forward, the Clean Water Council will continue to push for water infrastructure financing. We understand the President’s budget is only a proposal, but also know Congress has the ultimate responsibility of appropriating funds. CWC will be advocates of robust infrastructure financing as Congress begins crafting appropriations legislation.