The 2020 election has been one for the history books. It featured record-smashing turnout amidst a deadly pandemic. Votes are still being tallied in a handful of states, final state certification of results are a few weeks away, and run-off elections in Georgia in January will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. While the final chapter of this election cycle is still being written, here are a few takeaways that pertain to Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition priorities around the Great Lakes, drinking water, and public health:
- Unprecedented assault on clean water and environmental protections is coming to an end. With control of the executive branch shifting to President-elect Joe Biden, the assault on clean water and environmental protections will cease. Donald Trump has led the roll-back of more than 100 environmental protections – including those for streams and wetlands. The Coalition looks to the new Biden Administration to swiftly halt and reverse the rollbacks to clean water protections and regulations that communities rely on to keep their water safe. This includes reinstating or reimagining the clean water rule, stringent regulations that hold polluters accountable, and much more. We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden on these and other priorities in the months and years to come.
- Environmental justice will be prioritized. Pollution and environmental degradation disproportionately impact people of color, low-income communities, and indigenous people. The rollback of environmental protections over the last four years only adds harm on already vulnerable communities. President-elect Biden has already offered up a plan to elevate environmental justice priorities in his administration . And, while federal investment decisions will have to be made in collaboration with the U.S. Congress, the new administration wants to advance – not scale back – programs that impact vulnerable communities. The HOW Coalition is ready to help in efforts to ensure that environmental justice remains a top priority.
- The GLRI and Other Bedrock Great Lakes priorities are on safer ground. While the next Congress may be divided many of the Coalition’s funding priorities continue to enjoy broad bipartisan support. These include investments in, and expansion of, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and drinking water and sewage treatment infrastructure. The question before Congress is whether investments in these clean water priorities can be boosted to meet the needs of all communities We look forward to working with bipartisan members of Congress on these and other important priorities.
- Progress on climate change requires action. Global warming is wreaking havoc on our environment, economy, and public health. It is causing increased toxic algal blooms, more destructive flooding and untold costs to people, businesses and communities. While it is expected that a Biden Administration will re-join the global Paris Agreement to combat climate change and use executive authority to help control climate pollution, it remains hard to see how executive action alone will meet climate reduction goals. Cooperation with Congress will be key.
- There is still unfinished business for this Congress that must be addressed. Though the election is over, the congressional session is not. COVID-19 continues to ravage Great Lakes communities, disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income communities. Blown-apart state and local budgets require urgent remedy. And the day-to-day business of government – the services that Great Lakes communities rely upon – must be funded. Foremost among these priorities must be a moratorium on drinking water utility shutoffs. No one should have to go without the basic need of clean water because of an inability to pay. The Coalition will be working with Congress in the coming weeks to advance clean water and Great Lakes priorities in the Water Resources Development Act, end-of-year federal budget, and COVID-19 relief.
Stay tuned for updates from Washington in the coming weeks as the Coalition continues to navigate the results of the 2020 election and its attendant transfer of power.