ANN ARBOR, MICH. (July 1, 2021) – Today, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive infrastructure legislation, advancing work to bring billions of dollars of new investment to communities across the Great Lakes region. H.R. 3684, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, which passed the House by a 221-201 vote, would provide over $168 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and affordability measures over the next 10 years. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition applauds the House for taking this important step forward, and in a letter sent earlier this week, the Coalition urged members of the House to ensure legislation to address the region’s water infrastructure crisis reaches the President’s desk this summer.

There is a nationwide water infrastructure crisis impacting the health and safety of people and communities. For the Great Lakes region states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, a staggering $188 billion over the next 20 years is needed to improve, upgrade, and repair drinking water and wastewater systems. This work is increasingly unaffordable for communities and residents, as the federal contribution to water infrastructure has declined precipitously over the last four decades, falling from 63 percent of water infrastructure spending to 9 percent today. Too often these costs are being passed on to those who can least afford it, disproportionately impacting communities that have historically borne the brunt of environmental injustice with water utility bills doubling or tripling over the last decade.

Coupled with the threat of climate change, failing infrastructure will only continue to get worse and more expensive the longer it takes to be fixed. We are already seeing these disastrous effects, as evidenced by the recent flooding in areas across the basin.

“Fixing our region’s failing infrastructure will put people to work, revitalize our communities’ economies, and ensure safe, clean, and affordable water is available to all,” stated Laura Rubin, director of the Coalition. “Our communities need action now.”

The INVEST in America Act is a good step for addressing our regional and nationwide needs. In particular, the bill:

  • Reauthorizes EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, increasing program authorizations up to $8 billion and $5.5 billion annually (respectively), expanding subsidization for our most disadvantaged communities, workforce development, and prioritizing investments in resilient and natural wastewater and stormwater infrastructure solutions.
  • Reauthorizes EPA’s Sec. 221 Sewer Overflow and Storm Reuse Municipal Grants at $400 million annually, enhancing assistance to financially distressed cities.
  • Establishes a Household Wastewater Grant Program, providing $100 million annually for EPA to address the threat of wastewater pollution from failing or overwhelmed systems.
  • Authorizes $45 billion over 10 years to for full lead service line replacements.
  • Establishes water rate assistance programs for low-income households and promotes near-term debt relief for households that have borne the economic brunt of the pandemic.
  • Reauthorizes and increases funding for additional programs that further support the operation of public drinking water systems, state implementation of clean water protections, address the threat of toxic contaminants including PFAS, and enhances water system resilience.

The Coalition applauds the efforts of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee for getting these robust investments to the floor. With the passage of the House bill, Congressional and Administration leadership must now move ahead with negotiations on a final package. News of an agreement between the Senate and Administration last week provides hope for ongoing efforts to reach a final agreement in the coming months.

Since 2004, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 160 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at HealthyLakes.org or follow us on Twitter @HealthyLakes.

Contact for media: Lindsey Bacigal, BacigalL@nwf.org, (734) 887-7113

Contact for policy: Alexis J. Lopez-Cepero, Senior Legislative Analyst, lopez-cepero@npca.org