On January 29th, House Democrats released the framework of the long-anticipated infrastructure package, which reflects the first of what will be a broad range of proposals aimed at repairing and rebuilding American infrastructure.
At a morning press conference to introduce the “Moving Forward” framework, chairs of three House Committees discussed the five-year, $760 billion proposal that would address the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. The framework put forth by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) would “bolster the Federal role in order to help communities around the country undertake transformative projects that are smarter, safer, and made to last,” according to a joint press release.
The framework outlines major investments in surface transportation, rail and transit systems, airports, ports and harbors, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, brownfields, and broadband.
Democratic leaders focused on the “greener” measures in the infrastructure frameworks in their press statements, highlighting provisions that would reduce emissions and combat climate change.
“There is no better way to strengthen our economy for the future than to modernize our badly aging infrastructure. This bold framework not only helps us rebuild our nation, it also combats climate change by reducing carbon emissions and moving us towards a clean energy future,” E&C Committee Chairman Pallone remarked. “It will also create good paying jobs, ensure that no community is left behind in the digital economy and help protect Americans’ drinking water. These are investments that we must make for the American people, and I look forward to moving this proposal forward.”
T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio also emphasized the strong climate change provisions in the package. “Our country has changed dramatically since the 1950s, yet people and goods are now literally stuck trying to move on transportation networks first developed nearly 70 years ago. It’s past time to for transformational investments to make our infrastructure smarter, safer, and resilient to climate change, or else we will keep throwing money at an antiquated system that is only holding us and our economy back,” Chair DeFazio said.
Republican reception to the package was cooler. The committee’s Republican ranking Member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) remarked, “I may not agree with all of the principles in the majority’s outline, but as the Republican leader of this Committee, I expect to play a constructive role in the development of infrastructure bills before us this year, including expected surface transportation and water resources legislation. Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well. The time for partisan posturing from House Democrat Leadership is over. On this Committee, we know the recipe for success in addressing America’s infrastructure needs is through partnership, so let’s get to work.”
Of particular interest to NUCA, the framework includes the following provisions:
Clean Water — $50.5 Billion
• Addresses $270 Billion backlog in critical clean water needs by providing $40 billion to the State Revolving Fund
• Establishes minimum allocations for rural and small communities for water infrastructure investment authorities, and directs the newly-created EPA Municipal Ombudsman to provide technical, financial, and planning assistance to said communities.
• Funds water utility workforce development and apprenticeship programs.
Clean Energy— $34.3 Billion
• Invests in electric grid modernization to accommodate more renewable energy and to make the grid more secure, resilient and efficient.
• Encourages local communities to invest in energy efficient infrastructure including retrofitting and weatherizing buildings and funding energy efficiency and conservation projects to reduce carbon pollution and put people back to work.
• Strengthens existing energy supply infrastructure and expands renewable energy infrastructure in low-income and underserved communities to increase climate resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas pollution across the country.
• Supports the development of an electric vehicle charging network to facilitate the transition to zero emissions vehicles from coast to coast.
Broadband & Communications — $86 Billion
• Invests in expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities across the country – connecting Americans, creating strong small businesses, more jobs and strengthening economies in communities that have been left behind.
While there are other provisions NUCA will likely support, and others we will likely oppose, these provisions are certain to be priorities in future advocacy related to infrastructure legislation.
Last week, the EPA released a new, clear definition for “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) with the announcement of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which aims to end uncertainty over the extent of federal jurisdiction relating to the Clean Water Act. Under the new rule, the agency and the Department of the Army will now draw a distinction between federally protected and state protected wetlands.
The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: territorial seas and navigable waters (i.e. the Atlantic Ocean, the Mississippi River); perennial and intermittent tributaries, certain lakes, ponds and impoundments, and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters. The intent is to protect the nation’s navigable waters as well as the core tributary systems that flow into said waters.
The new rule additionally clarifies which waters are not subject to federal control. These include features that only contain water after rainfall, groundwater, ditches including most farm and roadside ditches, converted cropland, farm and stock watering ponds, and waste treatment systems.
According to the EPA press release, “The agencies’ Navigable Waters Protection Rule respects the primary role of states and tribes in managing their own land and water resources. All states have their own protections for waters within their borders and many already regulate more broadly than the federal government. This action gives states and tribes more flexibility in determining how best to manage their land and water resources while protecting the nation’s navigable waters as intended by Congress when it enacted the Clean Water Act.”
Situation in U.S.
Imported cases of 2019-nCoV infection in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of 2019-nCoV also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.
The U.S. government has taken unprecedented steps related to travel in response to the growing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus, including suspending entry in the United States of foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days. Measures to detect this virus among those who are allowed entry into the United States (U.S. citizens, residents and family) who have been in China within 14 days also are being implemented.
While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
- For everyone: It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting vaccinated, taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
- For healthcare professionals:
- Be on the look-out for people with travel history to China and fever and respiratory symptoms.
- If you are a healthcare professional caring a 2019-nCoV patient, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
- For people who may have 2019-nCoV infection: Please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others.
- For travelers: Stay up to date with CDC’s travel health notices related to this outbreak.