Water efficiency bills move through Congress

July 1, 2009
There are several pieces of water efficiency legislation quietly moving through Congress that could have a positive effect on the plumbing industry.

There are several pieces of water efficiency legislation quietly moving through Congress that could have a positive effect on the plumbing industry.

It's a fact that Americans today use 300% more water than they did 50 years ago, putting a tremendous strain on the nation's water supply and the environment. Recurring droughts in several parts of the country are illustrating the dangers of inadequate water supplies. At the same time, consumers' desires to be energy efficient are helping to bring the issue to the forefront. Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association has capitalized on the situation by providing input and lobbying for two pieces of legislation, both called the WATER Act, that would help the country save water in a safe and sanitary manner. Both are being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

PHCC was instrumental in drafting H.R. 2368, the Water Advanced Technologies for Efficient Resource Use Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). The WATER Act provides funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, of which PHCC is a partner. It requires the EPA administrator to promote WaterSense-labeled products, buildings, landscapes and services in the market place as the preferred technologies and services for reducing water use. The legislation also has language submitted by PHCC that requires the EPA administrator to publicize the importance of proper installation of WaterSense plumbing products by a WaterSense-certified or licensed professional installer. Not surprisingly, this section of the legislation is most important to PHCC.

The bill also establishes rebate incentives to the purchaser to build or retrofit a building to WaterSense certification standards. The amount of the available rebates would be $50 million for fiscal year 2010, $100 million for fiscal year 2011, $150 million for fiscal year 2012, $100 million for fiscal year 2013, and $50 million for fiscal year 2014.

Initially the bi-partisan bill was introduced as its own legislation with 17 cosponsors. However, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) later submitted it to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as an amendment to H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly known as the Climate Change Bill. On May 21, the Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 2454 by a vote of 33 to 25 with PHCC's WaterSense language included. The bill is now waiting for action from the House Ways and Means and House Agriculture committees. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she would like to bring the measure to the House floor for a vote before the end of July.

PHCC is also taking an active role in supporting H.R. 1908, the Water Accountability Tax Efficiency Reinvestment Act of 2009. Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), the WATER Act is modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program, a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This WATER Act promotes water conservation by providing a tax credit to homeowners and businesses that purchase water efficient products. Water efficient products with EPA's WaterSense label will qualify for a 30% tax credit up to $1,500. Currently, the WATER Act affects single-family homes, however, PHCC and other coalition partners are working to include WaterSense incentives to multi-family buildings as well. As of now, the tax incentives would only be available through Dec. 31, 2010, but PHCC is working to extend that time frame.

This legislation was introduced April 2 and then referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. PHCC is working with other members of the industry to get the committee to act on the legislation.

PHCC is also taking a legislative approach to water efficiency and working to make sure the p-h-c industry is represented in the regulatory arena. PHCC is assisting the EPA with the revised Water-Efficient Single Family New Home Specification Draft. While just selecting WaterSense products can be beneficial, proper installation would insure the maximum efficiency of the product. Therefore, PHCC is working to create and define a certified professional installer partner to be included in the new home specification.

There are many issues important to the p-h-c industry being addressed. PHCC is working on both the regulatory and legislative fronts to ensure positive resolution of these issues for the industry and public, and that the opinions of the actual installer of the product are considered.

Kevin Schwalb is director of government relations for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association. He can be reached at [email protected].

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