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The Senate Version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Covers Environmental Health

Date posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Blog poster: Doug Farquhar, JD

The Senate reached a tentative compromise on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly referred to as the infrastructure bill. The $2.3 trillion package first envisioned by President Joe Biden has been reduced to a $548 billion bill that provides support over the next 5 years to many of the programs the original bill did, albeit at a lesser amount. The $100 billion for worker training found in the President's infrastructure bill (aka the American Jobs Plan) did not make it into the final version of this bill, but could be taken up in the next round of the larger human infrastructure bill slated for discussion later this summer.

Total Spending Provision: $548 billion

Transportation Infrastructure: $284 billion

  • Roads, bridges, and major projects: $110 billion
  • Passenger and freight rail: $66 billion
  • Public transit: $39 billion
  • Airports: $25 billion
  • Ports and waterways: $17 billion
  • Electric vehicles: $15 billion
  • Road safety: $11 billion
  • Reconnecting communities: $1 billion

Other Core Infrastructure: $264 billion

  • Power infrastructure: $73 billion
  • Broadband: $65 billion
  • Water infrastructure (including lead pipes): $55 billion
  • Resiliency and western water storage: $50 billion
  • Environmental remediation: $21 billion

Several aspects of the Senate's version cover environmental health concerns, both indirectly and directly. The current bill makes substantial investments in environmental health and public safety programs, primarily in water infrastructure, water resiliency, and environmental remediation (bolded above in the Other Core Infrastructure section). The infrastructure bill also keeps a focus on climate change, directing funds to clean energy infrastructure and expanding federal programs to support electric vehicle adaptation.

Although less than the $111 billion the President originally proposed, this bill invests $55 billion into clean drinking water programs. This investment includes $15 billion for the replacement of lead service lines and provides funding to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Funding is available to upgrade the nation's water infrastructure, with money dedicated to rural communities, tribal nations, and disadvantaged areas.

The infrastructure bill represents the largest investment into the nation's drinking water infrastructure since the 1970s when the federal government first began to invest into drinking water. The water systems built back then are aging and have not kept up with modern technologies. This support will aid in needed upgrades to drinking water systems in this country.

The bill provides $50 billion for the nation's water infrastructure to respond to climate events. Funds will be spent on drought and flood protection, as well as weatherization of existing systems, to make the country's critical infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters. Western water storage will also receive support.

The bill provides $21 billion for the environmental cleanup of thousands of former and abandoned industrial and energy sites, as well as cap orphaned gas wells. This funding includes support for Superfund and brownfield sites, which will be eligible for environmental remediation. Funding to clean up these sites will improve the health of people living in these communities, allowing these neighborhoods to redevelop.

Also included in the package is $11 billion for transportation safety, including a program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities, with a focus on making cycling and walking safer. It will direct funding to improve highway, truck, and pedestrian safety programs. Pipelines and hazardous materials safety efforts also will be supported under this bill.

The Senate is putting its final touches on the bill before sending it over to the House of Representatives, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has a tight majority to work with to get the billed passed. The bill is important to Pelosi but many in her party have indicated their desire to add several provisions to this version. The bill faces challenges before becoming law and could be derailed along the way. Biden and Pelosi both believe passage of an infrastructure package is vital to this administration.

The White House claims the bill will create 2 million jobs a year through the coming decade while addressing long-standing shortcomings in the nation's infrastructure. Although the majority of this bill is focused on transportation infrastructure, the Senate version promises significant investments in important environmental health programs and needs.

About the blog poster: Doug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.