WIP III wastewater bills continue to find success in House and Senate

February 4, 2021

Two important bills that save localities money, provide greater certainty to wastewater treatment plants, and still provide a roadmap for achieving the goals and obligations of the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP III) continue to find favor in the House and Senate.

HB 2129 (Lopez) and SB 1354 (Hanger) establish a framework and timeline for wastewater treatment plants to undertake improvement projects in order to achieve specific goals in nitrogen and phosphorous reductions.  These goals, and the specific timelines introduced in this legislation, will ensure the wastewater sector – and the Commonwealth as a whole – will meet their Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction targets by the WIP’s 2025 deadline.

The chief objective of HB 2129 and SB 1354 is to provide greater certainty and clarity to local governments and wastewater facilities while also working to roll out upgrades and improvements in the most cost-effective manner possible.  The total estimated cost of the necessary projects is approximately $800 million over a five-year period via the Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF), but the framework established in these bills will save approximately $173 million compared to what the Commonwealth previously proposed.

HB 2129 was reported out of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, and House Appropriations Committee and was passed by the full House of Delegates by a vote of 58-39.  SB 1354 was heard on February 4 by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, where it was favorably reported and rereferred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, which in turn passed the measure. The bill will now be heard by the full Senate.

VACo supports HB 2129 and SB 1354 and has been pleased to speak in favor of these bills numerous times in subcommittee and committee.

KEY POINTS

  • This is the most significant Chesapeake Bay clean-up bill for the wastewater sector in over a decade.
  • It provides certainty in terms of timelines, what reductions are needed, and what upgrades and investments are required while also providing greater clarity to the General Assembly and localities for future Water Quality Investment Fund (WQIF) needs.
  • It ensures that the Commonwealth will meet its WIP III obligations but does so in a manner that is cost-effective and efficient.
  • HB 2129 and SB 1354 have a broad array of support, including VACo, VML, the Virginia Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies (VAMWA), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the James River Association (JRA), and more.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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