If money to replace lead pipes comes in a package, it could be one of the administration’s few bipartisan victories on environmental issues. The White House says replacing the pipes would reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities and improve the health of American children and communities of color.
“With this bipartisan infrastructure framework, we are still committed to 100 percent lead line replacement,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told CNN on Thursday, “and we are confident there is a need to invest in other water infrastructure projects as well. Billions of dollars for that.”
The deal accounts for nearly half of the total funding for water infrastructure compared to Biden’s Native American Jobs plan, but removing lead pipes is still an administration priority. In a recent memo obtained by CNN, officials in the Biden administration, including White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy, still remain committed to the administration’s original goal of replacing 100 percent of these pipes and service lines with funding from the bill.
Regan said Biden’s pledge to eliminate lead pipes and service lines from the nation’s water systems is a big part of the president’s environmental justice commitment to prioritize overlooked and marginalized communities.
Regan spoke to CNN from Michigan on Thursday, after finishing a multi-day trip to the Midwest, where he met with local officials about replacing lead pipes and other water quality issues.
Regan said Milwaukee still has about 70,000 lead pipes in the ground, and Flint, Michigan, is still reeling from its water crisis, which began in 2014, when officials transferred the city’s water source to the Detroit municipality. The water was turned into the Flint River. The process using the aging lead pipe.
“These communities have gone through a lot, and they are suffering from a failing system,” Regan said. “Flint has faced a lead crisis, and it is working its way out of the lead pipe crisis, but they have other water quality challenges that they wanted to discuss with the EPA as well.”
Biden is asking Congress for a 20 percent increase in the EPA’s 2022 budget, and there’s a possibility that more money for other water infrastructure upgrades could come from a budget reconciliation bill, which was approved by a simple Democratic majority in the Senate. can be passed along.
“As the president mentioned, he’s also talked about budget reconciliation as a mechanism,” Regan said. “He is looking at all the tools in his toolbox to advance the very ambitious agenda he has for this administration.”
Some of the administration’s other key climate measures, including hundreds of billions in clean electricity standards and clean energy tax incentives, were not factored into the bipartisan framework. While the American Jobs Plan initially proposed a total of $111 billion for water infrastructure—of which $45 billion was proposed to be allocated for lead pipe removal and replacement—the bipartisan deal was a framework for water infrastructure. proposes $55.2 billion to go toward the framework.
In addition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Biden White House and congressional Democrats are also pursuing a budget reconciliation bill that is likely to cover several of the administration’s key climate priorities. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN’s Victor Blackwell on Thursday that she thinks a clean electricity standard will be able to pass the US Senate through budget reconciliation.
“The bottom line is that we’re negotiating right now, and I think we can get it across the finish line,” Granholm told Blackwell.