Water Bills Stagnate

Three water acts trickle through the legislative process.

In mid-April, the “Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act” (formally known as HB 2313) was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill:

“expands the tax exclusion for energy conservation subsidies provided by public utilities to include certain subsidies for water conservation or efficiency measures and storm water management measures. The bill excludes from gross income subsidies provided (directly or indirectly)
(1) by a public utility to a customer, or by a state or local government to a resident of such state or locality, for the purchase or installation of any water conservation or efficiency measure; and
(2) by a storm water management provider to a customer, or by a state or local government to a resident of such state or locality, for the purchase or installation of any storm water management measure.”

Why is this step necessary? According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, “… the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) insists that rebates for homeowners who replace water-thirsty lawns, install ‘gray water’ capture systems or purchase new water-efficient appliances are considered income to the recipient and subject to federal taxes. The IRS and Treasury Department have stated that they cannot grant administrative relief from taxing such rebates and that Congress must act to amend the Internal Revenue Code.”

Unfortunately, the bill has stagnated in the House Ways & Means Committee ever since its introduction. Furthermore, similar legislation was proposed in the past two legislative sessions, with no action taken either time.

To read through the 5-page bill, please click here.

In early April, the Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act of 2019 (formally known as HB 2019) was introduced in the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill “would direct the Secretary of Energy to create a new federal pilot program to demonstrate innovative technology to increase and improve the energy efficiency of water, wastewater, and water reuse systems, to support the implementation of automated systems that provide real-time data on energy and water and to improve energy and water conservation, water quality, and predictive maintenance of energy and water systems through the use of Internet-connected technologies”

The monetary ask for the proposed five-year grant program is a meager $15 million.
According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the bill was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in mid-July. However, the full House has yet to do anything with it.

Similar to HB 2313, this type of legislation has been proposed in the last 2 legislative sessions, with nothing to show for it. The silver lining this time is that at least HB 2019 was approved by a committee. The entire 7-page bill can be viewed here.

SB 2356 was introduced in the US Senate on the last day of July. It’s title, “Define WOTUS Act” is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, some of the language in it is not.

The intent is to significantly narrow the number of waterways that are regulated by the Clean Water Act. To that end, the proposed legislation excludes intermittent streams and those that “stand or have continuous flow for not less than 185 days a year, except in cases of extreme events such as drought.”

There is no mention of appropriated funding for the monitoring systems needed to tabulate those required number of days per year. And clearly, some lawmakers are not well-versed in building code language, because there is some very questionable wording used in the bill that would get roasted at a model code hearing. From the bill’s text:

The term ‘continuous surface water connection’ means a connection with respect to which an ordinary person would not be able to visually determine by the naked eye, by looking at the water surface, where 1 body of water ends and the other begins.

The bill does not define the term “ordinary person.” Unsurprisingly, the bill has not moved out of the Committee on Environment and Public Works since it was introduced.
SB 2356 arrived less than 3 weeks after the EPA sent their revised definition of applicable waters under the Clean Water Act to the White House.

It has also been announced that the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the Clean Water Act on November 6.

Mike Collignon is the executive director of the Green Builder Coalition.