Washington Report
December 8, 2020

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FY 2021 Appropriations Update--CR Expires December 11, 2020

  • This Friday at midnight, the current continuing resolution (CR) funding federal government operations and programs expires;
  • The need for another short-term CR, likely 1-week in length, will be needed to allow more time for Congressional action;
  • Attaching COVID-19 relief funding has been one reason for slowed negotiations, however, last week a bipartisan plan for a $908 billion COVID-19 package being attached to a $1.4 trillion FY 2021 omnibus appropriations measure gained support;
  • The bipartisan, compromise COVID-19 relief proposal reportedly includes:
    • $160 billion in aid for state and local governments
    • $45 billion for transportation
    • $10 billion for broadband
    • $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution, among other proposed provisions.

APWA Advocates for Public Works Vaccination Priority

  • APWA President Mary Joyce Ivers and CEO Scott Grayson sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention advocating for frontline public works professionals to be included as a high priority group to receive approved CDC COVID-19 vaccines;
  • President Ivers and CEO Grayson emphasized the critical role public works professionals play, tasked with operating and maintaining critical infrastructure services including transportation, solid waste and refuse disposal systems, providing a clean and safe water supply, safe and clean public buildings, spaces and facilities, as well as assisting with logistical efforts in setting up COVID-19 testing sites.

House Releases WRDA Legislation

  • December 8, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure released Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 text;
  • Reduced in scope compared to previous iterations, the bill authorizes construction of 34 projects studied and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the previous WRDA was signed into law in 2018, in addition to authorizing 35 new Corps feasibility studies and directing the Corps to expedite the completion of 41 ongoing studies;
  • However, all provisions related to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater were left out of the final legislation;
  • Two bills passed by the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Committee, S. 3590 and S. 3591, included multiple provisions that APWA supports, such as language related to public works and water workforce grant funding, as well as the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs;
  • The House is expected to vote on the slimmed down version of WRDA as early as December 8, and the Senate is expected to vote soon after, prior to adjourning the 116th Congress;
  • APWA will continue to work with both parties and both chambers to ensure the provisions important to APWA members are considered in the 117th Congress.

 Defense Bill Includes PFAS Provisions

  • December 3, the House and Senate released the Fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes several provisions related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS);
  • The NDAA includes $1.4 billion for remediation and cleanup at military sites, which have used the chemicals in firefighting foam, with some of that money dedicated to PFAS;
  • The bill would establish an interagency body to research PFAS, and would increase funding to $15 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct an assessment on the chemicals, authorize $17.5 million for research on PFAS in gear and equipment worn and used by firefighters, and includes a provision requiring the Department of Defense and Department of Agriculture to inform agriculture operations about any potential exposure to PFAS;
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to set standards for PFAS in drinking water, as a final regulatory finding would for the first time set limits in drinking water for the two PFAS chemicals that would apply to all water utilities across the country;
  • The agency released nonbinding cleanup guidance for groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion last year, though health experts have expressed concern that those limits are too high to protect public health;
  • Numerous states with PFAS contamination have issued state regulations to prevent additional contamination.

NEPA Revisions See Court Action

  • The Trump Administration has asked a court to dismiss a legal challenge to its proposed revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA);
  • The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) asked the District Court for the Northern District of California to toss out a lawsuit to the proposal, stating the plaintiffs (environmental groups) do not have standing;
  • CEQ previously asked the District Court for the Southern District of New York to dismiss a separate case on similar grounds;
  • These actions come directly after three Democratic lawmakers filed a “friend of the court” brief in a separate case in the District Court for the Western District of Virginia;
  • The brief was filed by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), all ranking Democrats on Congressional committees with jurisdiction over NEPA, expressing their opposition to the revisions;
  • Revisions to NEPA took effect September 14, but agencies are working to implement;
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its proposed rules to the White House for review on December 4, the first agency to do so;
  • Agencies are expected to align their environmental review practices with the NEPA revisions by fall 2021;
  • The major change to NEPA under this final rule would be the removal of "cumulative impacts" as a consideration for review of infrastructure permits; 
  • APWA submitted comments in March reiterating the need for streamlining environmental regulations wherever possible while still protecting the environment, preserving state/local control, and avoiding any shot-clock regarding permit review;
  • Additionally, the comments make clear the need to keep “cumulative reviews” as a part of NEPA to accurately assess environmental impacts and resiliency of infrastructure;
  • To read a copy of APWA’s comments, please click here.

NHTSA Releases Proposal for Framework on Automated Driving Systems

  • Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM);
  • The Agency is seeking comments on developing a framework for Automated Driving Systems (ADS) safety;
  • NHTSA is intending to ‘define, assess, and manage safety’ of ADS while balancing the need for flexibility to continue supporting innovation;
  • Comments are due by February 1, 2021, and the full ANPRM may be viewed in the Federal Register.

FEMA Seeking Comments on Emergency Operations Center Toolkit Documents