This summer, Itron saw movement in Congress on some long-standing issues that we have been working on for several years, including the Disaster Recovery Reform Act and Water Resource Development Act.

With a coordinated effort by a broad coalition of interested organizations and other parties, including Itron, Congress passed – by wide bipartisan majorities – some critical changes to the Stafford Act, which regulates how federal disaster relief funds can be spent by local municipalities. In the past, because of a “in-kind” limitation, municipalities could only use federal funds to restore damaged infrastructure with the same generation/version of infrastructure. Hence, if a wooden utility pole fell over during a hurricane, any municipality using Stafford Act funds was forced to replace it with another wooden pole, no matter the likelihood of it falling over again in the next storm. With the reforms added to the Stafford Act in the Disaster Recovery Reform Act signed by the President earlier this fall, upgraded, hardened infrastructure can now be deployed, improving the resiliency of communities subjected to a growing frequency of major storms.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on natural hazard mitigation, for every dollar the U.S. government spends on infrastructure hardening, it saves four dollars in restoration costs. While no one can stop the next storm from hitting, the Stafford Act can now ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent on the latest, most resilient technologies to minimize the impact when it does hit.

In addition, Itron, along with many other stakeholders, worked to help push the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) through months of difficult negotiations in the U.S. Congress. The bill was finally passed with nearly unanimous support earlier this fall. For the first time in decades, the WRDA reauthorizes the Safe Water Drinking Act, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) state revolving fund. The EPA provides billions of dollars in grants to states and municipalities for infrastructure projects. The WRDA also includes a new provision creating a water infrastructure resiliency grant program, which Itron supported with our Congressional delegation – i.e. states where Itron has a substantial number of employees and/or facilities.

Dan Pfeiffer
Director, Government Affairs - Itron