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Booker, Menendez Push for Funding to Repair Crumbling Water Infrastructure

States, Cities Can Apply for Funding to Replace Lead, Aging Pipes

March 21, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. – As concerns over news of lead-contaminated water continue across the country, including the recent discovery of elevated lead levels in the water supply of many Newark public schools, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are pushing to boost investments in water infrastructure repairs to ensure clean and safe drinking water across New Jersey. 

 

“The crisis in Flint and the recent revelations of lead contamination in the drinking water at our Newark public schools shines a bright light on the failure to invest in our aging and often crumbling infrastructure,” said Sen. Menendez.  “No family should have to worry about the water their children drink.  That’s why we must give our states and cities the tools they need to fix, upgrade and replace these failing systems that threaten the health of our families, our environment and our economy.”

 

"Under no circumstance should we jeopardize the health of our children and families due to inadequate investment in our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure,” said Sen. Booker.  "Recent developments in Newark reinforce the fact that lead in our drinking water is a national issue that requires a robust response from every level of government. That’s why I stand committed to fighting for the federal resources needed to help finance critical water infrastructure upgrades that will create jobs, spur economic growth and most importantly protect the health and safety of our communities in New Jersey and across the nation.”  

 

In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Menendez and Booker, joined a bi-partisan group of senators to press for at least $1.394 billion in funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and $863.2 million in funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  Together, these programs provide low cost financing to states and cities for a wide range of water infrastructure development projects. 

 

Sen. Menendez joined several other Democratic senators in sending a separate letter to Sens. Murkowski and Udall, pressing for $70 million in 2016 funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)The new program provides low-cost loans to local governments that struggle with finding affordable financing options for replacing or upgrading water infrastructure.  The $70 million in WIFIA funding would help to leverage approximately $700 million in financing for water infrastructure projects across the country.

 

Earlier this month, Sen. Menendez unveiled the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016 to bring blood lead level standards in low income, federally assisted housing in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.  He has also introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, cosponsored by Sen. Booker, which would leverage private financing for large-scale water infrastructure projects like replacing lead pipes.  Both Menendez bills have been included in the federal Lead and Clean Water Agenda package currently being developed in Congress.

 

The full text of the letters follow below.

 

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski

Chairwoman

Appropriations Subcommittee on the

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Tom Udall

Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on the

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:

 

As the Senate Appropriations Committee develops spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), we strongly urge you to provide significant and robust funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  We appreciate your continued support for these vital initiatives and urge you to provide no less than the FY 2016 funding level. It is critically important to provide the most robust possible federal investment in our nation's safe and clean water infrastructure.  Each dollar invested helps to create jobs, repair crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure, and protect public health and environmental quality in our States.

 

Additionally, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates that there are 240,000 drinking water main breaks every year.  AWWA estimates the cost to replace our nation's crumbling drinking water infrastructure will be more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years.  Maintaining a state of good repair of our nation's drinking water infrastructure is critical to protecting public health by ensuring reliable delivery of safe drinking water to millions of Americans.   The American Society of Civil Engineers' 2014 infrastructure report card also provides ample evidence of the need for a continued and robust federal commitment to water and wastewater infrastructure.  The Society gave the nation's drinking water a "D" and wastewater infrastructure a "D-".  Every day, communities face significant losses and damage from broken water and sewer mains, sewage overflows, and other problems due to infrastructure that is reaching the end of its useful life cycle.     

 

The SRFs help address these conditions by investing in short- and long-term improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure in states and communities across the nation, providing significant environmental, economic, and public health benefits.

 

Given the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure to the health and well-being of the American people as well as to the national economy, it is critical that the federal government continue to be a reliable partner in meeting the nation's clean water and safe drinking water needs.  We therefore urge your continued robust investment in the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski

Chairwoman

Appropriations Subcommittee on the

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Tom Udall

Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on the

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairwoman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:

 

As your subcommittee develops spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), we strongly urge you to provide robust funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).  We believe that the severe disrepair of our nation’s water infrastructure merits an urgent investment to secure safe, clean drinking water for our communities, and to protect the public health of our nation. We urge you to fund WIFIA at $70 million in FY17.

 

In its 2013 report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nation’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure a grade of “D”.  We have neglected investments in our water infrastructure to such an extent that the American Water Works Association estimates for the aggregate investment needs for drinking water infrastructure would total more than $1.7 trillion by 2050.

 

More than ever, it is evident that our reliance on antiquated water infrastructure can and will jeopardize public health. The crisis in Flint, Michigan shows the potential consequences of systematic underinvestment in our nation’s infrastructure. While Flint is an emergency situation that deserves immediate attention and resources, it is one of many cities across the nation still dependent on lead pipes and century-old water systems.

 

However, despite the clear need, current funding still only provides a fraction of the necessary upgrades and maintenance for our water infrastructure. For example, appropriations for clean water infrastructure have averaged less than $2 billion a year since 2000.  WIFIA would augment current funding sources through lowering the cost of infrastructure investments and increase the availability of lower-cost capital for large projects. WIFIA authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to make low interest loans directly from the U.S. Treasury for drinking water and wastewater projects, fulfilling a critical need in water infrastructure financing.

 

Additionally, because WIFIA acts as a low interest loan rather than a direct grant, every dollar appropriated to WIFIA acts as a credit subsidy, and has the ability to leverage ten dollars in water infrastructure spending. By funding WIFIA at $70 million, the Senate has the ability to facilitate $700 million in loans to improve our nation’s infrastructure, and each dollar invested helps to create jobs and protect public health and environmental quality.

 

Water and wastewater infrastructure is essential to public health and to the economy. With an extensive backlog of water infrastructure investment, it is time to leverage federal funds to make a lasting impact on our communities and on our public health. We look forward to working with you to improve our nation’s water infrastructure. Thank you for your consideration of our request.

 

Sincerely,