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EPA Budget Cuts Will Affect Texas Environmental Programs

Texas faces a hefty reduction in federal funding for drinking water and sewer projects as a result of a recent budget cut to the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington.

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Texas faces a hefty cut in federal funding for some environmental projects as a result of the recent budget deal in Washington.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency mean that during the current fiscal year, Texas anticipates receiving $25 million less for drinking-water projects and $30 million less for clean-water (ie, sewer) projects than in fiscal 2010, according to the Texas Water Development Board, the state agency directly affected by these cuts. That translates to a reduction in the neighborhood of 30 percent for both programs, which provide low-interest loans.

Currently, TWDB says 161 drinking water projects totaling $710 million are in the queue for funding, as are 207 sewer projects, totaling approximately $1.5 billion. Drinking water projects include building new water lines or wells. Sewer projects tend to involve building or expanding wastewater treatment plants.

"We don't know exactly which projects will be affected and won't for some time," says Merry Klonower, a TWDB spokeswoman.

Because it's a big state, Texas faces one of the heftiest cuts, measured by dollar amounts. On the sewer side, Texas will not lose quite as much as two other big states: California faces about $40 million in cuts to its sewer program, and New York faces nearly $60 million in cuts, according to Patricia Sinibropi, the legislative director for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The cutbacks are likely to continue during the next fiscal year: Funding for fiscal 2012, as proposed in President Obama's budget, would be approximately similar to the newly reduced drinking water and sewer numbers for this fiscal year, according to an analysis by Sinibropi and Dan Hartnett, the legislative affairs director for the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

The cuts will mean that some Texas projects must either "wait a little longer," or seek money from ratepayers, says Scott Slesinger, the legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

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