“This Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.” –The White House
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also referred to as the “Act,” or Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a landmark piece of legislation that delivers significant new federal investments into America’s infrastructure to address a wide range of issues including drinking water access, availability of high speed internet, improved highway systems, and more.
The Act is one of many steps needed to work towards a cleaner and more equitable future by investing in clean water and clean energy. Here are some key highlights:
The Act includes crucial investments in our national water infrastructure. It sets aside over $55 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs which address broad water and wastewater projects through 2026. It provides $10 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency to study and address PFAS and other drinking water and wastewater contaminants. The bill also includes a $15 billion investment that funds the replacement of lead pipes and extends a grant to the Environmental Protection Agency that will provide testing and cleanup for schools with lead contamination. Access to clean water is a key part of environmental justice advocacy and the infrastructure bill addresses this with a five-year pilot program to help improve water systems, with priority going to underserved communities.
For wastewater, there is an annual $280 million over five years to support planning and projects to address combined sewage overflows that requires at least 25% to be allocated to rural and economically disadvantaged communities.
Natural Resources Infrastructure
In order for us to ensure a cleaner future, we must clean up the pollution of our past. Superfund, which is shorthand for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) that was established in 1980, creates a pathway for cleaning up contaminated sites, either by the responsible party or the Environmental Protection Agency . There are currently 24 sites in Delaware listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List and Superfund Alternative Approach Sites. In the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $21 billion is invested to address the need for contaminated sites to be cleaned up across the country. The focused efforts of these investments include Superfund and brownfield cleanup, recovery of abandoned mines, and plugging up abandoned, or “orphaned,” oil and gas wells. These efforts go past environmental cleanup and address the pattern of uneven exposure to hazardous waste and contaminated sites in communities of color.
The Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act also funds the Environmental Protection Agency watershed programs for the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to those investments, the Act includes an additional $26 million dollars for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the course of five years. This investment will provide much needed funding for projects that would further protect our waterways and crucial habitats. On top of those major investments, the Act allocates $132 million over five years for the National Estuary Program which boosts the funding available for the Delaware Estuary Program. These are just a few of the landmark investments that support Delaware’s path towards securing clean water for all Delawareans.
Resilient infrastructure is one of the first lines of defense against disaster and climate change, and there is significant funding within the Act to improve America’s bridges, highways, and roads. By improving the resilience of our infrastructure now, we can protect ourselves from additional disasters caused by the failure of crucial infrastructure during environmental crises. In addition to this, the Act invests in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for several programs, projects, and grants related to dam safety, disaster relief, flood insurance, improved evacuation routes, and risk reduction for natural disasters.
As we wrestle with the uncertainties of climate change and energy demands it becomes clear that updated and resilient transportation infrastructure provide stability during future severe weather events, large scale evacuations, and even the uncertainty of energy access. These are just a few of many important commitments to increasing our nation’s resilience for the future.
The Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act is the largest investment in national infrastructure to date and is a great bipartisan effort to move the country forward. We have highlighted a few of many incredibly important parts of the Act in this article. Below are some useful links to get more information about specifics of the Act.
- Visit the White House’s Fact Sheet here to learn more.
- For more information about environmental appropriations in the bill, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s factsheet here.
- The National Association of Counties created useful graphs to illustrate the many investments of the bill that you can view here.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures has a breakdown of the different sections of the bill that you can read here.
Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Campaign’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!