Lawmaker Doyle seeks EPA leniency for Alcosan plan
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority's multibillion-dollar sewer project to stop overflows into rivers and streams would be a “very strong candidate” for federal funding if congressional Republicans and Democrats could stop fighting and agree on a budget, Rep. Mike Doyle said Monday.
Doyle, a Forest Hills Democrat, said bickering among politicians and the halt of earmarks for local projects has drastically changed the funding options for the authority's federally mandated $2 billion to $3 billion wet weather plan.
“I had commitments from appropriators in the appropriate committees, in the Energy and Water Committee, to be a partner with us, to help us take this project head on,” Doyle said. “Well, things have changed. ... We asked EPA to work with us to do this in a way to get the work done — we want to take care of the work; it's a health hazard, so this is something we're all committed to do — but we want to do so in a way that takes into account the cost to our ratepayers, too.”
Doyle said the Environmental Protection Agency should extend the timeline for the project and be flexible as new and environmentally-sound technologies develop.
The EPA mandated that Alcosan reduce the 9 billion gallons of sewage that flow into area rivers and streams during heavy rains each year to 4 billion to 5 billion by 2026. Alcosan raised rates this year and last year, and will raise rates for at least the next two years to begin paying for the project. Authority officials frequently point to a lack of federal funding for the project as a reason rates must increase.
Doyle helped secure about $40 million in federal funding since 1998 to start work on the wet weather plan. In 2008, Alcosan received an $825,000 EPA grant that helped fund stormwater projects in Schenley Park, West View and East Pittsburgh. The authority has received almost no federal funding since.
Alcosan awarded Doyle its Clean Water Star Award, an honor established this year to recognize people working to protect and improve rivers and streams in the area.
“Congressman Doyle has truly been a champion in this effort,” county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said when he presented Doyle the award. “We've got somebody in Washington that we can go to and that has been a great advocate working with the EPA.”
Alcosan handed out Clean Water Star Awards to Etna Manager Mary Ellen Ramage, Ohio farmers Rick Young and John Dutton, Phipps Conservatory, students from South Fayette and North Allegheny high schools, and Willard Jefferson, a long-time authority employee, at its open house last month.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.