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EPA Appropriations Update

The House and Senate released their conference report on VA-HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations on Monday, October 1, 1998. The House passed the bill on October 6, 1998, and the Senate passed it on October 8, 1998. Though originally the White House had several objections to this appropriations bill, compromises on these issues were obtained in conference. Therefore, the President is expected to sign the bill.

Summary of Great Lakes Related EPA Appropriations

The Great Lakes region faired well in the EPA appropriations with national and regional programs obtaining funding equal to or greater than the administration's request. But for a few exceptions, recommendations from the Great Lakes Task Forces were also met or exceeded. Noteworthy successes include the following:

Nonpoint Source Pollution

- Funding for Nonpoint Source Grants (Section 319) is $200 million (a $95 million increase from FY98).

- In response to a Great Lakes Task Force request, report language was included which directs EPA to "work with a Great Lakes State, non-governmental organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to demonstrate how the total maximum daily load process can be implemented, including options for measuring and monitoring nonpoint sources of pollution."

Clean Lakes Program

- Due to Great Lakes Task Force efforts, activites performed under the Clean Lakes Program can receive funding under Sec. 319.

Great Lakes National Program Office

- The Great Lakes Task Force requested funding for GLNPO was granted - $14.7 million. Because of this funding level, GLNPO will be able to fund many programs that had been threatened with cuts including: environmental indicator monitoring, toxics reduction, information management, and habitat restoration. In addition, the funding level will enable GLNPO to continue funding exotic species research through the grants program.

As can be expected, other programs did not receive the full Great Lakes Task Force request. However, to the extent that Congress provides level funding for these programs, the Great Lakes Task Forces efforts in the appropriations process can be credited with preventing funding cuts.

Great Lakes Fish Consumption Study

- Even though the GLTF requested $3 million, ATSDR's Great Lakes fish consumption study was level funded at $2.5 million. At this level, some delayed activities such as recruitment of minority populations and examination of transgenerational effects and other sensitive health indicators may not be able to proceed.

Great Waters Program

- The Great Waters Program was level funded ("at least $3 million") without receiving the $0.5 million increase requested by the Task Force.

Aquatic Nuisance Species Control

- The dispersal containment analysis authorized in the National Invasive Species Act did not receive any funding despite a Great Lakes delegation letter requesting $500,000.

The funding chart for EPA programs is located below, as well as summaries of conference report language pertinent to the Great Lakes region.

Funding (in millions of dollars) for Select EPA Programs
of Interest to the Great Lakes

House Senate Conference

Clean Water SRF 1,250 1,400 1,350
Drinking Water SRF 775 800 775
Water Quality Grants (S. 106) 115.5 100.5 115.5
Nonpoint Source Grants (S. 319) 200 155 200
Pollution Prevention State Grants 6 6 6
ATSDR 74 74 76
Great Lakes Fish Consumption Study 2.5 2 2.5
Great Lakes National Program Office 14.7 14.7 14.7
Dispersal Containment Analysis (ANS) 0 0 0
Great Waters Program 3 3 3
Environmental Research Labs ** ** **

** Funding for the Duluth and Grosse Ile Environmental Research Labs is not specified in House, Senate, or conference report language. EPA staff indicate that a funding level will be determined by EPA budget staff.

Conference Report Language Pertinent to the Great Lakes

Dredging of Contaminated Sediment Put on Hold

Despite the efforts of 52 House and Senate members, conferees reiterated House report language that prevents EPA from spending Superfund money on dredging, intiating any new dredging action, or issuing any dredging orders until a National Academy of Sciences report on the topic is released. Led by Senator Moynihan (D-NY), several Great Lakes congressional members signed a letter to conferees opposing the House language: Senators Levin (D-MI), Glenn (D-OH), DeWine (R-OH), D'Amato (R-NY), and Lugar (R-IN); and Representatives LaTourette (R-OH), Oberstar (D-MN), Bonior (D-MI), Hinchey (D-NY), Levin (D-MI), and Kildee (D-MI).
The NAS study (requested to be completed by April 1, 1999) is tasked to evaluate the availibility, effectiveness, costs, and effects of technologies for the remediation of PCB contaminated sediments, including dredging and disposal. The following exceptions apply to the dredging moratorium:
- if EPA has found on the record that the contaminated sediment poses a significant public health threat which requires an urgent response,
- if remedial and/or removal alternatives to dreding have been fully evaluated,
- if an appropriate disposal site has been selected, and
- if the potential impacts of dredging, associated disposal, and alternatives have been explained to the affected community.
These exceptions include activities performed normally for Superfund dredging. However, the moratorium could effect the progress of nonsuperfund-related remediation activites throughout the Great Lakes region.
It is yet to be determined whether the NAS study is underway and/or on track with the April 1st request. Thus, the moratorium could continue until either (1) the NAS study is released, or (2) October 1, 1999 (the new fiscal year and extent of the FY'99 Appropriation legislation), whichever comes first.
On a positive note, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) entered into a colloquy with Senator Bond (R-MO) on the conference report language. This language provides more leeway for EPA: "The statement of the managers is not intended to limit EPA's authority with respect to dredging contaminated sediments that pose a substantial threat to public health or the environment where EPA has found that dredging is an appropriate response action."

Dioxin Reassessment Guidance

The EPA is currently preparing a revised dioxin reassessment and plans to release it for review by the public and the Science Advisory Board (SAB). The 1994 draft of the dioxin reassessment was criticized by the SAB. The House and Senate conferees state that "it is essential that EPA fully address concerns raised by the SAB and recommend that the Agency reconvene a SAB panel which would include those members of the original Panel whose expertise is germane to the redrafted portions of the reassessment."

Mercury Study to Delay EPA Action

In April of this year, EPA entered into a settlement agreement to make a regulatory determination regarding the potential need for controls on utility mercury emissions by November 15, 1998. However, conferees have added language directing EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to "perform a comprehensive review of mercury health research and prepare recommendations of the appropriate level for a mercury exposure reference dose." Furthermore, conferees stressed that EPA not make a regulatory determination until they review this study. Given the timeline provided in the conference report, the earliest possible date that the NAS study could be available is June/July of 2000.

Ground Water and Source Water Protection Funding

EPA is directed to use $3.5 million of the amounts provided for the Clean Water Action Plan for ground water and source water protection in priority watersheds in small communities and rural areas. The resources can be used for the following:
- source water assessment and protection activities at the local level,
- integration of ground water concerns into watershed assessment and restoration plans,
- implementation of wellhead protection ptrograms locally, and
- field technicians supporting communities considering new ground water/source water ordinances targeted at high risk watersheds.
The funds, which are to be distributed on a competitive basis, are intended to assist small communities in meeting Federal drinking water standards and to assist those communities in contributing to the achievement of state water quality standards.

For more information on EPA appropriations, please contact:
Patricia Cicero
Northeast-Midwest Institute