The six appropriations bills for federal fiscal year (FY) 2024, signed by President Biden on March 9, 2024, approved $459 billion in spending by U.S. agencies. These included the FY2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but reduces overall spending by EPA during FY2024 and flat-funds water construction projects. 

Biden signed those six spending bills two days before sending his FY2025 budget request to Congress on March 11, 2024, with the Senate Committee on the Budget holding a hearing on the proposed FY2025 budget on March 12, 2024 at which Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda D. Young was the witness.  

The Interior-Environment bill was one of the six out of 12 federal appropriations bills for FY2024 that Biden signed. It approves $9.158 billion in EPA spending, a $982 million reduction in overall EPA spending compared to EPA’s FY2023 approved budget of $10.14 billion and $2.92 billion below Biden’s FY2024 budget request.

While FY2024 funding for the EPA was cut by just under 10 percent, accounts impacting clean-water agencies were spared mainly from significant spending cuts, including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which was appropriated $1.638 billion for FY2024, keeping it at the FY2023 spending levels.

However, members of Congress have directed $787 million (48 percent) of CWSRF’s FY2024 budget for “community project funding,” also known as earmarks. While CWSRF FY2024 spending directed to earmarks is slightly less than FY2023 earmarks, the funding of earmarks directly from CWSRF’s appropriation continues to be a significant policy concern for NACWA.

In addition, the FY2024 allocation for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)—a federal-state partnership that provides funding and technical assistance to help water systems and states achieve the health protection objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act—is $1.126 billion, but $609 million (54 percent) of that appropriation is directed toward congressional earmarks.

The percentage of earmarks for CWSRF and DWSRF is the clean-water advocacy group, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), concerned that the earmarks will be paid for from the DWSRF capitalization grants. “Our concern is that any dollar going towards earmarks won’t be available for the states to loan out to the municipalities that have water projects,” Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s managing director for government affairs, told The Driller.

However, suppose CWSRF and DWSRF did not contain any earmarks. In that case, NACWA does not believe those programs would face cuts like other EPA programs “because the level (of funding) provided by Congress for those programs is similar to recent years (allocations),” Surfus said.