Senate Water Privatization Bill Splits Environmental Community

“Senate Water Privatization Bill Splits Environmental Community: The private water organization is using NRDC to advance the bill (S. 2596) they favor in the Senate, while Food & Water Watch has organized a coalition of over 300 advocacy groups and unions to oppose the bill. NRDC and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) did not join the coalition against S. 2596 and LCV was urging other environmental organizations not to join the opposition coalition. In their latest defense of the legislation, private water claims, “Failure to pass this legislation would deprive millions of Americans of the opportunity to obtain safer drinking water.” They also imply that they are a solution to problems in “low-income communities and communities of color.” The private water groups do not respond to the main criticism of the bill in their defense of it; the bill provides a federally codified preference for only one type of SDWA compliance process (“partnership” as defined in the bill). The other compliance processes that a mayor or community may prefer (and could be more economical for citizens) are not provided the special preference (i.e. the bill’s enforcement immunity provided only to the partnership compliance process). These other non-preferenced compliance process options include new treatment, operations modifications, extra-time to meet deadlines, technical assistance, variances, exemptions, bi-lateral compliance agreements, SRF & USDA funding, etc. The only compliance option provided the enforcement immunity preference in the bill is the option preferred by the private water industry interested in acquisitions. Water attorney Elizabeth Dietzmann commented, “Removing compliance options takes away power from local government as well as the users and forces them into a more costly solution. I have never seen water rates decrease after a for-profit water company takes over management or ownership of a system. I have listened to hundreds of hours of testimony over rate increases and have never seen rates go down. Privatization of public infrastructure has been demonstrated again and again to be a failure. Why not require that the consolidated entity be a benefit corporation or a true non-profit. All operational costs and salaries would be covered but “profits” would have to be rolled back into the reserves of the system.”

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