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How Will Obama's EPA Budget Proposal Affect Water Quality Programs?

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

President Obama’s FY2013 EPA budget proposal targets nutrient pollution, sedimentation and loss of shoreline vegetation as major water quality concerns, with a focus on agriculture as a major contributor to water degradation. To address this problem, the proposal directs U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase their coordination using Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source grants and USDA’s Farm Bill conservation programs in high priority watersheds to address agricultural nonpoint source pollution. The proposal emphasizes this coordinated approach in dealing with nitrogen and phosphorus loading in the Mississippi River Basin.

In addition, one of the two EPA priority goals for FY 2012-2013 is to improve, restore or maintain water quality by enhancing nonpoint source program accountability, incentives, and effectiveness. The agency plans to release new Section 319 grant guidelines in November 2012 and to require that 50 percent of the states revise their nonpoint sources programs according to the new guidelines by November 2013.

The budget proposal also includes a total of $265 million for the Clean Water Act Section 106 water pollution control grants to the states, an increase of $27 million over funding provided in FY2012. Of that increased amount, $15 million would designated for states that commit to strengthening their nutrient management efforts consistent with EPA Office of Water guidance issued in March 2011.

EPA regional water quality programs also provide funds for dealing with nonpoint source agriculture pollution. Both the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Program are provided with additional funding in the budget proposal. The Great Lakes Restoration Program funding increases by a modest $480,000 to a total of $300 million. The Chesapeake Bay Program receives an increase in the proposal of $15 million to a total in FY2013 of $73 million. Most of the other geographic programs are targeted for funding cuts, including the Puget Sound, South Florida, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Champlain Programs.

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund receive the most significant cuts to water programs in the proposal. Total funding is decreased from $2.38 billion in FY2012 to $2 billion in the budget proposal. The Clean Water State Revolving fund would be cut $0.291 billion, receiving $1.175 billion and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would be cut $68 million from FY 2012 levels to $850 million. These programs provide funds to states to capitalize their own revolving funds, which in turn provide loans to support improvements in municipal wastewater and drinking water systems.

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