SCHUMER: JUST-UNVEILED OMNIBUS BILL RESTORES UNWISE CUT PROPOSED FOR OVER 315 UPSTATE NY WATER & SEWER PROJECTS – ADMINISTRATION ORIGINALLY PROPOSED A DEVASTATING $40 MILLION CUT TO NYS SEWER PROJECTS, BUT SCHUMER SUCCESSFULLY PROTECTED FUNDING
Omnibus Budget Bill That Funds Fed Gov Through End of FY15 Makes Funding Available for 315 NY Sewer & Water Projects Awaiting Grant & Loan Funding, Many Mandated By Feds – But The Administration Proposed a $40 Million Funding Cut for NYS Earlier This Year
In March, Schumer Urged His Colleagues to Preserve Funding in FY2015 for Critical Sewer Infrastructure Upgrades After President’s Budget Threatened Devastating Cut – Failure To Preserve Funding Could Harm Local Budgets & Property Taxes
Schumer: Omnibus Bill Would Help Upstate NY Municipalities Keep Vital Water-Sewer Projects On Track
Today, on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the just-unveiled omnibus budget bill, legislation that could clear Congress this week, preserves over $154 million available for critical, and often mandated, sewer upgrade projects throughout New York State. Schumer explained that there are over 315 sewer projects in New York awaiting funding, and the omnibus bill – which funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – will help get a number of these projects underway. In March, after the Administration proposed a $40 million cut to the funding available for New York State sewer projects in this year’s budget, Schumer urged his colleagues to maintain or increase the funding level, especially because the sewer program is already woefully underfunded. Schumer said that, after his push, sewer funding is set to remain steady for the rest of this fiscal year, enabling municipalities across the state to use federal funds to make much-needed repairs to aging sewer systems, create jobs and protect public health and environmental quality. Schumer urged his colleagues to vote for the omnibus bill and send it to the President’s desk.
“The government funding bill contains an important victory for New York’s water infrastructure: we were able to stave off a proposed $400 million cut to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that would have limited federal support to sewer projects already long overdue. I made fighting off this proposed cut – which equates to $40 million for New York – a top priority for two reasons: New York has some of the oldest sewer systems in the country; and the Clean Water Fund can be highly leveraged to garner significant resources for municipalities to invest in water infrastructure,” said Schumer. “We have 315 sewer projects in Upstate New York that are awaiting funding and any cut to the amount of money available would have been completely unacceptable. Having effective sewer systems are critical to public health and helping New York towns and villages grow and prosper, and I was proud to go to bat for this program to ensure that projects across the state were not scrapped or put on the back burner.”
Schumer explained that the Administration’s FY2015 budget initially requested $430 million in cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which is funded through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This translated to an approximately $40 million cut for New York alone. The House of Representatives also proposed this same cut to the CWSRF program in their budget proposal. In March of this year, Schumer criticized the Administration’s budget request, saying that it would slash funding for over 315 critical, and often mandated, sewer upgrades in New York. Schumer said it was an unacceptable hit to local budgets, property taxes, the environment and New York’s aging infrastructure. Schumer then urged his colleagues to maintain the funding level. Following this push, Schumer is now announcing that sewer funding will remain steady for the rest of this fiscal year, enabling municipalities across the state to use federal funds to make much-needed repairs to aging sewer systems, create jobs and protect public health and environmental quality.
Schumer said there were a total of 315 sewer projects throughout Upstate New York that are awaiting funding:
- In the Capital Region, there are a total of 38 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In Central New York, there are a total of 60 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In Western New York, there are a total of 25 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are a total of 26 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In the Southern Tier, there are a total of 25 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In the Hudson Valley, there are a total of 75 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
- In the North Country, there are a total of 66 sewer projects that are awaiting funding.
Schumer said that if sufficient funding for these key programs was not held at current levels, sewer systems throughout the state could fall into further disrepair, creating another pressure on local property taxes. Schumer has long been a proponent of federal aid to repair New York’s aging sewer systems, which are among the oldest in the country, because each dollar invested helps to create jobs, repair crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure, and protect public health and environmental quality.
For years, Upstate New York communities have been grappling with aging sewer infrastructure that threatens the environment and public health. As sewage systems age, contaminants are more likely to leak into soil and waterways; and pathogens and viruses are more likely to be released, which can affect local wildlife and fisheries and threaten drinking water. To make the upgrades that are needed, villages, towns, and cities must make billions of dollars’ worth of investments over the coming decades, something that is difficult for many smaller municipalities to afford. It is particularly difficult for small suburban and rural areas because they tend to have a smaller tax base and population, making the high cost of repairing or upgrading sewer systems a major strain on local budgets.
Not only do local governments repair and upgrade their sewer infrastructure due to concerns about the environment or public health, but often they are mandated to do so in order to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act requires communities to improve water quality, achieve and maintain compliance with environmental laws, protect aquatic wildlife, protect and restore drinking water sources, and preserve our nation's waters for recreational use. In order to comply with the Clean Water Act, local governments must invest significant funds into sewer repair and upgrade projects. Schumer warned that if a funding cut were to go into effect these cities and towns would have an even harder time complying with the law than before. Specifically, many communities, especially those under a legally binding Consent Order, have to upgrade sewer infrastructure due to federal requirements limiting nitrogen discharge and combined sewer overflow (CSO), a type of sewer system common in New York that collects wastewater and storm-water in a single pipe system.
In order to help local governments afford these major sewer infrastructure projects, the EPA provides funding to states through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. CWSRF funding allows each state to maintain a revolving loan fund that provides independent and permanent sources of low-cost financing to local cities and towns for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. This low-cost financing enables local governments to access loans with significantly lower interest rates (1.7% on average) for their sewer infrastructure projects than the market rate (3.7%). These low-interest loans make it easier and more affordable for states to undertake major sewer infrastructure projects.
CWSRF is particularly important to New York because the state gets approximately 11% of the program’s funding level every year. New York’s funding level is so high due to a combination of population, age of infrastructure and cost to undertake major infrastructure projects. In the 25 years CWSRF has been in existence, the program has financed nearly 1,650 projects and New York has benefitted from close to $13.6 billion in leveraged financing from just $1.95 billion in federal investment. According to Schumer, failing to provide robust funding for CWSRF would have been a missed opportunity to create jobs and spur economic development. Studies indicate that for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure projects, over 26,000 jobs are created. Beyond job creation, investment in sewer infrastructure meets public health and safety needs and helps communities attract new businesses and residents.