WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., introduced legislation on Thursday that would extend the repayment period for clean water state revolving fund loans to 30 years from 20 years.
“The Clean Water Affordability Act” would also provide $1.8 billion over five years for a grant program to help financially distressed communities update aging infrastructure.
Communities may use the grants in connection with SRF loans, according to a Senate staffer. Drinking water SRF programs already permit loans to be repaid in 30 years.
The program would provide a 75%-25%, federal-local government sharing of the costs of the planning, design, and construction of treatment works to control combined and sanitary sewer overflows.
Brown initially introduced the bill in 2009 but failed to get enough support from Congress. He reintroduced it in part because of concerns about declining revenue funds at the state and local levels, the staffer said.
“Water and sewer infrastructure is critical to economic competitiveness,” Brown said in a press release. “Too many communities are struggling to afford costly, but necessary, upgrades to sewer systems. This bill is about helping local governments make these renovations.”
Brown pointed to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency that found communities across the nation face an estimated $63 billion in needed combined sewer overflow renovations.
In 1987, Congress enacted the clean water SRF program. The drinking water SRF was enacted in 1996. Under the programs, EPA awards each state and Puerto Rico annual capitalization grants. The states use the grants plus a 20% state match to provide loans for public water systems. Communities repay the loans into the fund and then are recycled to make projects available in other communities.
Over the past few years, Congress has slashed SRF funding levels. In fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1, Congress reduced funding for the SRFs by $101 million. The clean water fund was provided with $1.46 billion and the drinking water fund $919 million, according to budget documents.