Sen. Toomey Heralds EPA Decision To Eliminate Unfunded Mandate
Agency adopts Sen. Toomeys proposed changes
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today heralded a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to permit water authorities to send consumer confidence reports electronically, thereby eliminating an unnecessary government paperwork mandate, saving local communities across Pennsylvania millions of dollars .
The agency's decision embraces a change in regulation that Sen. Toomey proposed in The End Unnecessary Mailers Act, which he introduced in September 2011. The proposal received bipartisan support in the Senate, garnering 58 votes during the Senate's consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill. The EPA announced their decision last week.
Since 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency has required water authorities to mail annual non-emergency consumer confidence reports (CCRs) on water quality. These highly-technical reports are quickly disregarded by most households and are mailed at great expense by water authorities each year. Under the EPA's proposed change, water systems can now fulfill their reporting requirements by posting the information online and directing customers to the information via their bill. This proposed change does not alter regulations for emergency water contaminant notifications or the type of information contained in CCRs.
"I'm pleased that the EPA has adopted the framework from The End Unnecessary Mailers Act. Their decision removes excessive paperwork burdens from Pennsylvania's local communities and will save water authorities tens of thousands of dollars a year," said Sen. Toomey. "By allowing water authorities to post their reports online instead of paying for mailers few will read, these utilities will be able to pass on the savings to consumers or improve their services by investing in infrastructure."
Water authorities across Pennsylvania thanked Sen. Toomey for introducing this money-saving legislation:
"Not having to send out CCRs will save the PWSA several thousand dollars each year, money that could be better spent on improving our infrastructure. We send out nearly 100,000 CCRs a year and only receive a few complaints and/or comments. The CCR is always posted on the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority's website and could be mailed to PWSA customers on request," said Thomas Gigliotti, director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
"Elimination of the mailing of the CCRs will save the Beaver Falls Municipal Authority $10,000 per year in mailing and printing costs. The authority sends out 17,000 CCRs per year and receives fewer than 10 calls per year about them," said Jim Riggio, general manager of the Beaver Falls Municipal Authority in Beaver County.
"It has been my experience that most customers do not read the reports. I would like to have the option of posting the report online, with a paper copy available upon request. This action would save the authority time and money while still making customers aware of important water quality information," said Matthew A. Cranmer, manager of the Municipal Water Authority of Adams Township in Butler County.
"I fully supported Sen. Toomey's legislation - the Erie Water Works spends more than $16,000 in printing and postage yearly, as well as several thousand dollars extra on designing the publication. I have personally fielded questions from customers questioning why we continue to publish this report when posting it to our website is so much more cost effective," said Paul Vojtek, chief executive officer of the Erie Water Works.
"Eliminating the requirement to mail a CCR to each customer will allow the authority to replace at least an additional 1,000 feet of outdated infrastructure each year. The information is still available to those who are concerned, and the authority will still be required to notify the affective customers in case of an emergency," said Bob Softcheck, general manager of the North Fayette County Municipal Authority in Fayette County.
"It is important for consumers to have access to information about their water quality, but the federal mandate to mail a printed copy to every household is restrictive and expensive. Each year, the Lehigh County Authority spends almost $10,000 to fulfill the mail-delivery requirement. This cost to our customers could be avoided if electronic communications were allowable, as Sen. Toomey is suggesting. In addition, allowing electronic communication of these important water quality messages would allow utilities to communicate with consumers more often and more effectively, thereby better achieving the original goal of building consumer confidence in public drinking water," said Aurel Arndt, general manager of the Lehigh County Authority.
"Allowing consumer confidence reports that show compliance with all drinking water standards to be posted online and mailed only to customers who request a printed copy would save tens of thousands of dollars in printing and postage costs for our company alone. Those savings would accrue to the benefit of customers, many of whom have expressed a preference for the efficiency and timeliness of online communications. This change also reflects our commitment to sustainable operations and conservation of natural resources," said Thomas O'Connor, senior manager of customer operations at Aqua America in Montgomery County.
"I strongly support Sen. Toomey's efforts. This unfunded mandate costs the authority thousands of dollars to mail these reports, usually resulting in only confused and/or scared customers," said Jeff Kovach, manager of the Tri-County Joint Municipal Water Authority in Washington County.