Statement on Signing the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grant Amendments of 1981

December 29, 1981

I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 4503, the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grant Amendments of 1981. To date, this is the most significant piece of environmental protection legislation enacted by this Congress and represents the combined efforts of both the Congress and this administration to ensure that the goals of our construction grants program will be the improvement of water quality, the enhancement of our environment, and an emphasis on effectiveness in federally funded treatment works. This legislation represents a rededication to environmental goals and a turn away from public works for the sake of public works.

Although it is impossible to single out all the people responsible for H.R. 4503, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate some of those individuals whose guidance on this bill was indispensable. Senator John H. Chafee, with support from Senator Robert T. Stafford, provided strong leadership in this environmental legislation. Also vital to this success in the House were the concerted efforts of Full Committee Chairman James J. Howard, Ranking Minority Member Don H. Clausen, Subcommittee Chairman Robert A. Roe, and Ranking Minority Member John Paul Hammerschmidt.

With the critical support of these key legislators and the unselfish efforts for reform from those involved from the private sector, we have, together, achieved a significant redirection of the construction grants program in a record period of time. The consultation and cooperation from State and local officials was especially helpful in focusing attention on key areas of concern. The efforts of Governor Scott Matheson, on behalf of the National Governors' Association, were particularly worthy of note.

In April of this year, we proposed reforms to the construction grants program. Our proposal refocused the program on those projects necessary to meet existing high priority water quality improvement needs. H.R. 4503 substantially incorporates our recommendations.

H.R. 4503 focuses Federal funds on treatment-related needs, giving the States a high degree of flexibility to address local needs. In addition, it allows for a 3-year phase-in of these major reforms. In this way there should be very little disruption in ongoing construction. States and localities will have ample time to plan rationally for their enlarged role in planning for improved water quality.

The primary objectives of this administration's construction grants reform proposal were to emphasize the need for water quality improvement, to incorporate greater cost-effectiveness, and to provide more flexibility to the States and localities. The agreement reached by the Congress achieves the administration's fundamental objectives while ensuring minimum dislocation to the program.

For all these reasons, I am pleased to sign H.R. 4503.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 4503 is Public Law 97 - 117, approved December 29.