Next Up: Federal Recognition of Green Infrastructure as a Preferred Stormwater Tool

credit-USEPAThe U.S. House  of Representatives has recognized green infrastructure’s tremendous potential for clean water, energy, jobs and community health with the introduction of the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009.

Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH) introduced federal legislation (HR 4202) on December 3 that authorizes up to $300 million annually in green infrastructure (GI) planning and implementation grants. The bill will also establish “GI centers of excellence” in planning, implementation and policy, and help states establish Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standards that would incrementally grow states use of green infrastructure stormwater management, akin to renewable energy portfolio standards.

“This is an opportunity to extend federal investment in green infrastructure’s ecologically and economically effective water conservation approaches,” said Steve Wise, CNT’s Natural Resources Director. “Green infrastructure returns rainwater from a stormwater problem back to the most critical, valuable resource we have. Green infrastructure protects and restores clean water, saves energy embedded in water treatment and pumping, and enhances communities’ health and vitality through expanded natural areas.

HR4202“Communities across the country, from Chicago to Los Angeles, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, Toledo, and many more, are expanding their use of sustainable, permeable practices like rain gardens, green streets, roofs, alleys, tree planting and permeable pavement. This legislation will help expand the opportunity and effectiveness of green infrastructure nationwide.”

The Act would authorize up to $100 million per year for planning grants and up to $200 million for implementation grants, officially establishing a green infrastructure program in EPA’s Office of Water to administer the grants, centers of excellence and associated programs.

CNT has worked with a coalition of conservation groups—National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), American Rivers, the American Public Works Association (APWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), Clean Water Action, and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA)—on developing the proposed legislation.

The federal legislation follows passage earlier this year of Illinois’ Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, which instructed Illinois EPA to develop statewide standards and goals for green infrastructure. CNT is a partner in developing policy recommendations for that study.

The bill’s GI portfolio standard definition:

“GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE PORTFOLIO STANDARD.—The Administrator, in collaboration with State and local water resource managers, shall establish measurable goals, to be known as the ‘‘green infrastructure portfolio standard’’, to increase the percentage of annual water managed by eligible entities that uses green infrastructure.”

More information from congressional press releases:
Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH)
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO)

(photo by USEPA)