“House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves,” said one campaigner. “Their spending proposal threatens the very safety of our country’s water and wastewater systems for the sake of political showmanship.”
By Jessica Corbett
The advocacy group Food & Water Watch on Thursday called out Republicans on a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee panel for pushing a 64% cut to a pair of federal clean water funds in the next fiscal year.
“House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves,” declared Mary Grant, the group’s Public Water for All campaign director, in a statement. “Their spending proposal threatens the very safety of our country’s water and wastewater systems for the sake of political showmanship.”
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), on Thursday marked up a GOP appropriations bill for fiscal year 2024. A Republican fact sheet celebrates proposed “cuts to wasteful spending” and “claw-backs of prior appropriations,” highlighting that it “reins in” the Environmental Protection Agency, “limits abuse of the Endangered Species Act,” and provides protections for the fossil fuel industry.
The GOP proposal would slash appropriations for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The former provides low-interest loans for infrastructure projects like wastewater facilities while the latter provides assistance for initiatives like improving drinking water treatment and fixing old pipes.
Grant stressed that the targeted programs “are widely popular across the political spectrum and have historically enjoyed bipartisan support,” as communities in every state rely on them “to make necessary improvements to keep water and sewer systems safe and reliable.”
For fiscal year 2023, the CWSRF got $1,638,861,000 and the DWSRF got $1,126,101,000, including congressionally directed spending projects; for next year, House Republicans want to allocate $535,000,000 and $460,611,000, respectively—a nearly $1.8 billion cut collectively.
“This far-right radicalism seeks to undermine the essential programs of a functioning government,” Grant charged. “We cannot allow our country to return to an era when rivers were on fire and communities across the country faced unmitigated toxic water threats. The proposed cuts would leave many with unsafe water and exacerbate the nation’s water affordability crisis, adding more pressure on household water bills at a time when families are already grappling with soaring costs for essential services.”
The U.S. Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats, “must reject this outrageous proposal out of hand,” she said. “Safe water should not be a political bargaining chip, nor used to score cheap political points. Safe water is nonnegotiable.”
Total drinking water needs are increasing. Cutting water funding is completely unconscionable. https://t.co/nTHb4WlFSF
— Food & Water Watch (@foodandwater) July 13, 2023
Reintroduced in March by U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the WATER Act is backed by Grant’s group and more than 500 other organizations.
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