HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the city of Hattiesburg.
The National League of Cities has selected Hattiesburg Mayor, Johnny DuPree, to travel to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 18 to testify before Congress on the challenges local governments face in meeting Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements, as well as balancing environmental protection with economic feasibility.
Mayor DuPree's testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, will occur during Infrastructure Week and will focus on "Building 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Improving Water Quality through Integrated Planning."
"I am grateful for the chance to advocate for Hattiesburg and cities across the U.S. that are plagued with unfunded mandates which, too often, place a financial strain on the budgets of city officials, residents, and businesses," said Mayor DuPree. "As city budgets struggle to recover from the Great Recession, many of us are making tough choices about the services and maintenance that we can afford and in some instances taking actions to borrow and finance funds to addresses critical needs," he said.
DuPree said the Integrated Planning Framework and the Financial Capability Framework have been positive steps by the Environment Protection Agency to address the high costs of meeting CWA regulatory requirements, but there is more work to be done to ensure that these policy frameworks are useful tools and are implementable in Hattiesburg and communities across the country.
"With regard to affordability, flexibility, and the use of the permitting process within the Integrated Planning Framework, we can minimize these conflicts and pursue the best solutions for the environment and our nation's communities," said DuPree. "Additionally, with the consideration of socio-economic factors, in determining the financial capability of a community when developing compliance schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet CWA obligations, communities have the opportunity to address the particularly high financial burden that water rates have on low- and fixed-income residents," he said.
DuPree said as he highlights to Congress options to improve both frameworks, he will share the obstacles and opportunities Hattiesburg encounters when working to meet CWA requirements, upgrade aging infrastructure, and protect water sources.
DuPree said he will also implore lawmakers to refrain from proposed budget cuts to critical programs as they would further reduce the ability to meet the everyday needs of communities, and add to the burden that unfunded mandates have on the Hattiesburg community, and other cities across the nation.