Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill

Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday unanimously passed its bipartisan water infrastructure bill, putting the biennial legislation on track in the upper chamber.

The panel’s bill, unveiled earlier this month, comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE’s sweeping infrastructure plan appears to be on ice.

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Lawmakers are now turning to their biennial pursuit of water infrastructure legislation, a bill Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi slated to deliver remarks during panel hearing on poverty Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection MORE (R-Wis.) referenced when discussing how Congress would work towards achieving the president’s rebuilding framework.

“Our committee has taken an important step towards improving America’s water infrastructure,” Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.

“This legislation will cut Washington red tape, create jobs, and grow our economy. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will increase water storage in the West, protect communities from dangerous floods, and upgrade old drinking water systems.”

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 calls upon the National Academy of Sciences to produce reports examining how the Army Corps of Engineers can improve transparency to work with stakeholders, Congress and local governments.

“Investing in our water infrastructure will grow our economy and help create jobs right here at home,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Prosecutors drop charges over Flint water crisis | US blames Iran for attack on oil tankers | Air Force diverted M for chemical cleanup costs | Criminal cases referred by Interior at near 25-year low MORE (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, said Tuesday.

“While there is more work to do to move these bills across the finish line, today is an important first step, and if we continue to work in a bipartisan fashion, this legislation will serve as a model for the rest of Congress.” 

The bill calls for a drinking water pilot program, under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, in certain regions for Indian tribes. It also requests studies on the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, including one by the Governmental Accountability Office to assess how the law could be used better in both rural and small communities.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who chairs the panel's Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and subcommittee ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the legislation with Carper and Barrasso. 

Several senators in both parties have since signed on as sponsors, including Sens. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanMcConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (R-Ark.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach MORE (R-Miss.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanSenators weigh potential security risks from Chinese-made drones August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up MORE (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up MORE (R-W.Va.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe DNC's climate problems run deep The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? MORE (D-R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenTrump planning Air Force One flyover during July 4 celebration at Mall: report Trump planning Air Force One flyover during July 4 celebration at Mall: report Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (D-Md.). 

The House last week unveiled its own water resources legislation, which calls for a study to examine the effects of moving the Corps’ civil work out of the Department of Defense and to a wholly new entity or into another agency.

The lower chamber’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up its bill Wednesday.