Water sector angles for climate funds

  • 14.12.2022
  • https://www.eenews.net/articles/water-sector-angles-for-climate-funds/

Operators of the nation’s energy-intensive water and wastewater systems are eager to dip into a fledgling $27 billion program taking shape under the Democrats’ climate spending bill, the Inflation Reduction Act.

They’re now calling on EPA to make crystal-clear they can apply for that money.

Water utilities — sprawling systems that use large amounts of energy to treat drinking water and sewage while also emitting carbon dioxide and methane — are calling on EPA to ensure they’re formally eligible to directly and indirectly apply for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

“Both asserting and promoting this eligibility is essential because the water sector (which includes drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and water reuse) uses considerable energy and substantial opportunities to reduce emissions and increase renewable energy,” the American Water Works Association, or AWWA, told EPA in Dec. 5 comments.

The comments reflect a growing push across the water sector to curb emissions, even as utilities and providers of both drinking water and sewage services feel the firsthand impacts of stronger storms and flooding with disastrous effects (Greenwire, Sept. 23).

EPA has said the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, once up and running, will provide competitive grants to states, local governments, tribes and eligible nonprofit financing institutions to “mobilize financing and leverage private capital for clean energy and climate projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with an emphasis on projects that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities” (E&E News PM, Dec. 5).

Groups like AWWA and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the nation’s largest group of publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities, emphasized to EPA in written comments this month that there’s a big potential for slashing emissions in the water sector, but that action will hinge on the agency acknowledging and promoting the sector’s use of the fund.

While there’s no authoritative source of emissions data for the water and wastewater sector — no agency or group systematically collects such data — a study published last year in the Journal of Cleaner Production concluded that the water sector’s emissions are equivalent to 2.1 percent of total emissions from the U.S. power sector.

“Allowing the use of the Fund for alternative power production to serve water facilities could take a large, near-consistent demand from electrical facilities that are fired by coal or natural gas, reducing GHG emissions considerably,” AWWA told EPA in its comments