EPA memo steers water money to disadvantaged communities

Mar 8, 2022, 12:08 PM | Updated: 10:26 pm
FILE - Workers prepare to replace older water pipes with a new copper one in Newark, N.J., Thursday...

FILE - Workers prepare to replace older water pipes with a new copper one in Newark, N.J., Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, the Biden administration issued guidance to states to ensure that the largest-ever investment in water infrastructure doesn’t bypass disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards like pollution. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Biden administration issued guidance to states on Tuesday that it said will ensure the country’s largest-ever investment in water infrastructure doesn’t bypass disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards like pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s guidance memo applies to $43 billion in the infrastructure bill for making drinking water cleaner, improving sewage treatment and replacing lead pipes. The agency said the memo helps the Biden Administration meet its goal of addressing environmental needs in communities that often have high rates of poverty and unemployment.

The money will be distributed over five years and boost programs that give states and territories broad discretion in funding water projects — but with some parameters on how the money should be used. For example, the memo said nearly half of the $15 billion for lead pipe replacements must go to disadvantaged communities.

“Putting in place these guardrails to help ensure the funds reach the communities that need them most is essential for the program to reach its potential and for us to advance equity,” said Katy Hansen, a senior adviser for water at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center.

According to a report by the center and University of Michigan that reviewed data between 2011 and 2020, money from the a federal-state program for drinking water was less likely to go to projects in smaller and more racially diverse communities.

Hansen, a co-author of the report, said disadvantaged communities sometimes lack the resources to compete for funding and that it’s important they can upgrade their infrastructure without taking on more debt.

The EPA memo is part of the Biden administration’s “Justice40” goal of providing 40% of benefits from federal investment in areas like clean water to disadvantaged communities that are often low income or largely minority. Some advocates have asked for more details about how the program will be administered.

Many Republican officials have criticized the effort, saying the White House should not impose a policy agenda on infrastructure funding. In January, a coalition of Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying an “excessive consideration of equity, union memberships or climate” would be counterproductive.

And after federal officials issued guidance aimed at prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle safety when widening roads, a top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the new infrastructure law shouldn’t be “a vehicle for the administration’s woke agenda.”

According to the EPA memo, the funding for water projects will flow through state revolving funds and include grants and forgivable loans. States must tell the agency how they intend to use the funds and the EPA will review those plans.

“The implementation memo really gives states the rules of the road,” said Radhika Fox, head of the EPA’s Office of Water.

Money to replace lead pipes, for example, needs to be used to get rid of the entire lead portion of a pipe — not just a part of it, according to the memo.

Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council praised the requirement, noting that partial line replacements can actually increase the amount of lead in tap water.

A portion of the $5 billion for addressing contaminants like the chemical compounds known as PFAS, or forever chemicals, also has to go to disadvantaged communities and smaller water systems, the memo said.

___

The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/environment

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Feds: R. Kelly remains on suicide watch ‘for his own safety’

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are pushing back on R. Kelly’s claims that he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment last week after a judge sentenced him to 30 years behind bars for using his fame to sexually abuse young girls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers […]
11 hours ago
This image filed May 15, 2019 in federal court as part of a forfeiture complaint by the U.S. attorn...
Associated Press

Long-missing Alexander Hamilton letter put on public display

BOSTON (AP) — A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 and believed stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts state archives is going back on display — though not exactly in the room where it happened. The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece at the Commonwealth Museum’s annual July Fourth exhibit, Secretary of […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

31 bodies, some decomposing, found at Indiana funeral home

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Police are investigating after more than 30 bodies, some decomposing, were found inside a southern Indiana funeral home. Police in the Louisville suburb of Jeffersonville responded to Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center on Friday evening and found 31 bodies, including some some “in the advanced stages of decomposition,” Maj. Isaac […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Key players granted bail in Buffalo Billion corruption case

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has granted bail to a prominent Buffalo developer and other businessmen serving prison time for a bid-rigging scheme related to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic redevelopment program. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni signed an order Friday allowing developer Louis Ciminelli and three others to be released […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

DA: Late officer justified in accidental shooting death

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania prosecutor has ruled that a late police sergeant was justified in using deadly force that resulted in the accidental shooting death of a jail guard during a hostage situation at a county courthouse last fall. Authorities said an inmate had been taken from the Blair County jail to the […]
11 hours ago
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Freida Pinto, left, and Zawe Ashton in a scene from "M...
Associated Press

‘Minions’ set box office on fire with $108.5 million debut

Families went bananas for Minions this weekend at the movie theater. ” Minions: The Rise of Gru ” brought in an estimated $108.5 million in ticket sales from 4,391 screens in North America, Universal Pictures said Sunday. By the end of the Monday’s July Fourth holiday, it will likely have earned over $127.9 million. The […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
EPA memo steers water money to disadvantaged communities