Rep. Peters and Colleagues Call for Urgent Additional Funding to Address Cross-Border Wastewater Pollution
August 31, 2023
Washington, DC – Yesterday, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50) led two requests with his colleagues to the Biden Administration for critical information and urgent funds to tackle dangerous cross-border wastewater pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. These requests were prepared before news broke yesterday that pumps at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) had completely failed spilling sewage onto streets.
The first letter, with members of the California Delegation, asks why the Administration did not include additional assistance to the SBIWTP in its recent supplemental funding request and how they will direct future funding to the plant. The second letter, co-authored with Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16), asks the Administration to provide all necessary funding to the United States International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) to address emergent infrastructure construction needs like those at the SBIWTP.
In the first letter, the members write, “We write to express our disappointment that the administration did not include additional funding for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in its supplemental funding request. SBIWTP plays a critical role mitigating the impact of transboundary flows from Mexico into Southern California. Unfortunately, years of underinvestment have left SBIWTP in dire need of emergency repairs and complicate the planned expansion of the plant to meet international treaty requirements.”
They continue by demanding the following information:
- How will the administration commit the funding needed to meet the SBIWTP’s requirement to process 50 million gallon per day of untreated water as outlined in international treaty Minute 328?
- Why did the administration not include additional assistance for SBIWTP in its supplemental funding request given that this crisis clearly poses a threat to our national security personnel?
- How will the administration program future additional funding for the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees SBIWTP?
In the second letter, the members state, “While Congress appropriated higher levels of funding for USIBWC planning and construction than the President requested in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, these funding levels are grossly inadequate and will continue to be insufficient if the administration does not prioritize higher funding requests for USIBWC in future budget submissions.”
They go on to request that the administration:
- Reprogram available FY 2023 funding to address emergent USIBWC construction as needed;
- Engage Congress to ensure any end of year FY 2024 appropriations package includes Senate-passed language that would provide USIBWC with transfer authority from Federal and non-Federal sources as well as maximum funding for USIBWC construction projects; and
- Submit a budget to Congress that consistently funds USIBWC at the levels needed to build new and maintain existing border infrastructure as well as hire the personnel needed to operate these facilities.
Last month, members of the San Diego congressional delegation requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist with directing environmental justice funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help stop the flow of pollutants and urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tour the broken plant. Earlier in July, they sent a letter to President Biden and submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 calling on the administration to declare this crisis a federal emergency. In June, Rep. Peters led a letter with other members of the San Diego Congressional delegation to the governor of Baja California urging accountability for the Mexican government’s commitments to build wastewater treatment infrastructure. In previous years, Peters along with colleagues, has secured funding, introduced legislation, called for investigations, and arranged a visit by EPA Administrator Regan in response to the wastewater contamination crisis. Rep. Peters plans to leave no stone unturned and continue this work with additional demands for funding through the congressional appropriations process and emergency supplemental funding in the coming days.