Governor Baker Proposes, and Massachusetts Legislature Embraces, Additional Water Infrastructure Funding
October saw a flurry of activity on water infrastructure initiatives. Governor Charlie Baker, who filed an “end of year” supplemental budget to close out fiscal year 2019, included funding for the Commonwealth’s overall water infrastructure needs, addressed the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in certain water supplies, and the discovery of lead in school water fountains. Specifically, the Governor proposed allocating $8.4 million to test for PFAS in local communities as well as $20 million to begin to address the same. The Governor also reiterated his commitment to closing the water infrastructure funding gap by including an additional $35 million for the Clean Water Trust’s contract assistance line-item. Finally, the Governor indicated his interest in allocating $5 million of previously appropriated funds to address lead in schools throughout the Commonwealth.
In supporting these initiatives, the Water Infrastructure Alliance (WIA), comprised of approximately 30 organizations ranging from engineers and contractors to planning organizations and environmental groups, strongly urged the respective Ways and Means Chairs to include this important funding in the final fiscal year 2019 budget. Specifically, the WIA wrote:
“[T]he Governor’s recently filed supplemental budget request (HB4067) will help address the needs of our water infrastructure systems. In particular, we urge you to include funding for the Clean Water Trust’s efforts to meet the Commonwealth’s overall water infrastructure needs, address the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in certain water supplies, and the discovery of lead in school water fountains. … Massachusetts has a significant funding gap in addressing its water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years. The 2012 report of the Massachusetts Water Infrastructure Finance Commission and a 2017 report from the Office of the Auditor found that the Commonwealth and its municipalities have an $18 billion to $21 billion funding gap in meeting their drinking and wastewater infrastructure needs. Recognizing the need to assist municipalities and regional water authorities in addressing this problem, the Massachusetts legislature has given greater flexibility to the CWT in recent years to provide additional financial assistance for eligible projects that have met a series of reasonable best management practices (i.e. development of an asset management plan, etc.). The additional funding proposed in [this bill] will allow the CWT to work with municipalities and regional water systems to meet our shared water infrastructure needs.”
For their part, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Massachusetts Senate immediately saw the value of these appropriations and included the same within their supplemental budget proposals. The House, in a move to capture the extent of the PFAS problem, included language relative to the creation of a PFAS task force to offer a framework for addressing this newly discovered concern. The Senate, in an attempt to ensure that lead water fountains in lower income communities are prioritized, included language to accomplish the same. The supplemental budget, which is still awaiting both branches to iron out differences apart from the water infrastructure items listed above, will soon be forwarded to the Governor for his approval.
Water Infrastructure Announced As Top Initiative for Mass. Municipal Association; Groups Support Funding for Water Infrastructure
The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) recently announced that it has listed water infrastructure as one of its top three pressing matters for 2020. Testifying before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Ms. Ariela Lovett, Legislative Analyst for MMA, was testifying in support of House Bill 769, An Act Relative to Municipal Assistance for Clean Water and Economic Development Infrastructure.
The legislation, filed by Representative Carolyn Dykema, would establish a Water Infrastructure Improvement Fund for purposes of improving drinking water, wastewater and stormwater capital assets, through loans and grants, for which bonds may be issued for local or regional projects that meet certain criteria. The legislation, which would authorize $1 billion of bonding with a $100 million bond issuance every year for 10years, is geared towards closing the Commonwealth’s $17 billion to $21 billion water infrastructure funding gap.
While MMA has always been a supporter of addressing the Commonwealth’s water infrastructure funding gap, the issue has not generally been listed as one of the association’s top three focal points. As reported by the State House News Service, Ms. Lovett testified that “[m]unicipalities are dealing with aging water infrastructure and a desperate need for finding other resources to support construction improvements, especially with the realities and threats of climate change.”. In addition to MMA, the Massachusetts Water Works Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies, Massachusetts testified in strong support of the legislation, which has 30 co-sponsors.
In written submission before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, UCANE stated:
For an extended period of time, the Commonwealth relied on substantial funding from the federal government. This is no longer a feasible option. Likewise, the Commonwealth, through the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (MCWT) has tried to fill the gap by leveraging federal dollars to provide contract assistance to municipalities and regional water authorities. Over the years, with state fiscal challenges, however, the ability to meet all water infrastructure needs has been restricted. Municipalities that have undergone maintenance and upgrades in the past are still struggling with existing debt and cannot finance new projects regardless of needs. Other municipalities have ever-growing needs, but insufficient capital available to get any new projects off the ground. A new solution is needed.
House Bill 769 is one of a number of water infrastructure funding vehicles the Massachusetts legislature is currently considering. Already, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a climate resiliency bill (HB3997) that would provide significant funding for water infrastructure. The Governor, under the same auspices, filed a funding mechanism that would utilize increased excise fees on property, to address climate resiliency efforts, including water infrastructure. UCANE has filed funding legislation (HB2472(Garballey)/SB1625(Crighton)) that would fund water infrastructure through additional water and sewer connection fees. Finally, additional consideration is provided by measures like Senator Jamie Eldridge’s legislation (SB460) that would add an additional surcharge on water withdrawals and then redistribute it back to municipalities accordingly.
Mayor Walsh Announces New Executive Order to Support Equitable Procurement Process
According to a press release from his office, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced an Executive Order designed to support equitable procurement in the City of Boston. This Executive Order builds on the 2016 Executive Order, and the Walsh Administration’s policies and initiatives to address racial and economic disparities in order to expand opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses. Mayor Walsh’s Executive Order aims to ensure the full participation of all enterprises in City spending, focused on small and local, minority-, women-, and veteran- owned small businesses.
The Executive Order has three key aspects:
- Modernize a public-facing directory of small and local businesses including minority-owned businesses (MBEs), women-owned businesses (WBEs), and veteran-owned small businesses. This directory will serve as a guide and resource for both departments within the City of Boston, and external businesses who manage procurement.
- Create a training program for City employees and departments who manage procurement as part of their roles.
- Require each department to create a procurement plan that prioritizes equitable business practices. In addition, employees will be required to verify they have utilized the City’s procurement directory when soliciting bids.
In order to make procurement opportunities more accessible to a wider audience, the Department of Innovation and Technology and the Procurement Department will also update the City’s procurement website so that businesses are able to view and filter all city contracts and opportunities.
In coordination with the implementation of this Executive Order, Mayor Walsh also established the City of Boston’s first-ever Supplier Diversity Advisory Council. A team of leaders in both the public and private sectors, this group brings expertise in supplier diversity best practices, technical assistance, community economic development, and equity programs to work alongside the Mayor’s Office staff and make policy and programming recommendations.
“Imagine a Day Without Water” Campaign Raises Awareness in the State House
On October 23, the “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign held its fifth nationwide awareness event to highlight the importance of the Nation’s water infrastructure. The event is billed as an opportunity for diverse organizations, from environmental advocates to coffee shops, aquariums to car washes, city halls to water utilities, to talk about why water is important to them. Over the past five years, it has provided a platform for educating the public and advocating for leaders to prioritize investing in water today, so in the future no American will have to imagine a day without water.
To acknowledge the event, various organizations and legislators shared their stories about the importance of water infrastructure and clean drinking water. Representative Carolyn Dykema, House Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, reached out to colleagues throughout the State House. In her letter to colleagues, Representative Dykema shared the purpose of the day and the important steps the House has taken to address the water infrastructure-funding gap. Highlighting the House of Representative’s current work, Representative Dykema wrote:
“Recent House initiatives have taken steps to close our $17 billion water infrastructure funding gap, although significant work remains to fully fund our water system. Under Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Michlewitz, we have worked to provide funding to address our critical public health, environmental, and economic development needs:
- The GreenWorks, bill passed unanimously by the House, allows for funding to be used for water-related resiliency projects, thanks in part to an amendment filed by Rep. Paul Brodeur.
- The supplementary budget we voted to pass last week included a $35 million transfer to the Clean Water Trust for infrastructure projects, a $24 million investment in testing for potential PFAS contamination in water supplies, and $5 million for de-leading projects in schools, thanks to the leadership of Rep. Kate Hogan and Rep. Lori Ehrlich.
- In the first round of Housing Choice Initiative grants, 35% of projects awarded funding that included a water infrastructure component, highlighting the important role that water plays in meeting our planning and development needs.”
UCANE appreciates the work of the Massachusetts legislators and their support for improving the Commonwealth’s water infrastructure. As the legislative session continues, UCANE looks forward to more opportunities to work with the Massachusetts legislature. To learn more about the Value of Water and the “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign, please visit: imagineadaywithoutwater.org.
EPA Awards Funds to Select Massachusetts Cities and Towns to Test Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities
As announced in a press release in early October, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New England office awarded a $967,000 grant to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to support testing drinking water in schools and child care programs, to ensure that children are not being exposed to lead in the water they consume.
The funding, authorized under a section of the national Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (the WIIN Act), aims to reduce children’s exposure to elevated lead in drinking water. The EPA grant is an important piece of an overall Lead Action Plan to reduce lead in all media, including where children live, play, and learn.
The EPA grant will continue and expand the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Assistance Program for Lead in School Drinking Water, a nationally-recognized program that has already helped almost 1,000 public schools and child care programs take proactive steps to find and get the lead out of drinking water. MassDEP, in collaboration with UMass-Amherst, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and other partners, will use the funds to communicate, train, test, and take action in schools in high risk communities throughout the Commonwealth.
More information on WIIN grants: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity/wiin-grant-lead-testing-school-and-child-care-program-drinking-water
News in Brief
Pinaud Named Director of Division of Municipal Services. MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg recently announced that he has appointed Ms. Maria Pinaud as the Director for the Division of Municipal Services. In her new position, Ms. Pinaud will oversee two State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. These SRF programs provide several hundred million dollars annually to local government entities to support planning and construction of water and wastewater treatment infrastructure for the protection of public health and the environment. Ms. Pinaud has over 30 years of environmental engineering and regulatory experience having served in several technical and management roles during her career at MassDEP, including implementing the overall compliance assurance and enforcement of multiple regulatory programs as the Deputy Regional Director for the Bureau of Air and Waste in the southeast regional office and as the Audit and Enforcement coordinator for MassDEP’s Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup. Ms. Pinaud earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is a Licensed Site Professional.
Ismay to Tackle Climate Change. In October, Executive Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides named Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) senior attorney Mr. David Ismay as Undersecretary of Climate Change, the position Secretary Theoharides held before she was promoted. At CLF, Mr. Ismay specialized in state energy and climate policy and New England’s wholesale electricity and gas markets. Before joining CLF, he was a senior associate at Farella Braun + Martel LLP in San Francisco. Mr. Ismay earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the U.S. Naval Academy, a masters in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a law degree from Berkeley Law School.
Miller to Charles River Watershed Association. According to a press release by the organization, the Charles River Watershed Association has announced that Ms. Heather Miller, an environmental attorney, is the non-profit association’s general counsel and policy director for the Charles River Watershed Association. She joins the association from the CLF, where she worked on litigation against ExxonMobil over its Everett oil terminal. Ms. Miller also previously worked for the Southern Environmental Law Center in South Carolina and Defenders of Wildlife in Washington D.C. A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Ms. Miller earned her bachelor of science in political science from Clemson University.
DeMacedo Accepts Position at Bridgewater State University. Republican State Senator Viriato deMacedo plans to resign his position to become the Director of Regional Partnerships at Bridgewater State University. A well-respected elected official, Senator deMacedo has developed a strong rapport with Democrats and Republicans alike. As a longtime member of the respective Ways and Means Committees, Senator deMacedo was considered a pragmatic voice of reason on a wide variety of issues. No date has been set for the special election to replace Senator deMacedo.