Merkley Introduces Legislation to Boost Energy Efficiency, Lower Energy Costs at Wastewater Treatment Facilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today introduced new legislation to provide necessary resources to wastewater treatment facilities—frequently the largest energy user in municipalities—to upgrade their energy and water efficiency. The infrastructure updates would curb emissions from wasted energy and reduce facility costs.

“Wastewater treatment facilities run equipment around the clock so that Oregonians’ rivers and streams are safe and clean,” said Merkley. “If we can make that equipment cleaner and more efficient we’ll stop wasting energy unnecessarily and save ratepayers money.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, American wastewater treatment facilities spend about $2 billion in electric costs every year. These costs often make up between 25 and 40 percent of a plant’s annual operating budget, and in turn, are a significant share of each municipality’s total energy costs.

The Wastewater Efficiency & Treatment Act of 2019 would allow the nearly 17,000 municipal wastewater facilities—small and large—in the U.S. to apply for grants or loan guarantees for energy and water efficiency upgrades to reduce those costs.

Small communities would be eligible to apply for grants up to $25,000, which can make a considerable difference for facilities that serve fewer constituents. Larger communities would be able to apply for millions of dollars of loan guarantees administered by the Department of Energy. These loan guarantees could be valued at up to 80 percent of loans, allowing municipalities to leverage the guarantees into millions more in wastewater infrastructure improvements. The financing could be used for the installation of power generation technology, such as biogas recovery and other innovative equipment.

“WEF is pleased to endorse the Wastewater Efficiency and Treatment Act of 2019 because it will move our nation toward a circular economy for wastewater treatment, where recovered energy will help power the treatment process and reduce our use of fossil fuels while cleaning the water and air in our communities,” said Walter Marlowe, P.E., CAE, Executive Director of the Water Environment Federation.

The legislation is endorsed by the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation.

The full text of the bill is available here.