WASHINGTON -- House and Senate conferees agreed last week to provide $2.74 billion in fiscal 1995 for the state revolving loan fund programs that help finance drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.
The spending bill would provide a total of $2.96 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency's water infrastructure initiatives, including the $2.74 billion for the revolving loan funds. Of the $2.74 billion, $2.14 billion would go to help finance state wastewater treatment plants and $700 million would go to a proposed revolving fund for drinking water facilities.
A final vote on the spending bill is not expected in the House and the Senate until after Labor Day because the conference report is not expected to be printed until Sept. 2, a House staff member said.
Meanwhile, Congress is working on two separate bills to reauthorize the wastewater and drinking water programs. Funding for both bills expires at the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.
One bill is a six-year reauthorization of both federal standards for wastewater and the revolving loan funds that many states use to stretch their federal dollars through leveraging. The other bill is a six-year reauthorization of drinking water regulations that also would create a new state revolving loan fund.
Both bills have been moving rather slowly because of various environmental controversies, but they were expected to pass before Congress adjourns in early October.
In midsummer, several sources said that August was the make or break point for beth pieces of legislation this year.
But movement on the bills has ground to a halt because of the environmental controversies as well as Congress' preoccupation with other Clinton Administration initiatives, a House staff member said.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., chairman of the House and Public Works Committee, is considering attempting to bypass the environmental snags the bill faces this session by introducing a scaled-down wastewater financing bill that the House can approve quickly.
The chairman is looking at several options to get a bill passed this year to keep the wastewater revolving loan fund program going, said Eric Federing, communications director of the House Public Works Committee.
One option could be to introduce a bill that contains only the funding mechanisms for the state revolving loans. Once passed, the committee would have the next legislative session to "wrestle with" the wetlands controversies, Federing said.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has said repeatedly that he would not allow a "Clean Water Lite" bill to pass through his committee. Any bill he approves will tackle the tough environmental issues in the bill.
But the Mineta bill may be acceptable if it is used as a "place holder" to keep the revolving fund program intact and gives the committees time to make the broad changes that are necessary, said Deborah DeYoung, press secretary to Baucus' committee.