Wednesday, December 21, 2022

EPA Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Grants

Over the past couple of weeks there have been a series of announcements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the selection of dozens organizations to receive a total of more than $26.7 million in grants funded through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These grants were all for environmental job training programs across the country under the Brownfield program. The grants will be dispersed through EPA’s Brownfields Jobs Training Program will recruit, train, and place workers for community revitalization and cleanup projects at brownfield sites. 

In the various press releases EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe said “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is supercharging EPA’s Brownfields Program, which is transforming blighted sites, protecting public health, and creating economic opportunities in more overburdened communities than ever before.”  

This is apparently all being done by Job Training. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, allocated more than $1.5 billion to EPA’s Brownfields Program which seeks to redevelop former industrial and contaminated sites. This historic investment enables EPA to fund the advancement of the environmental curriculum in job training programs that support job creation and community revitalization.

The Brownfields Jobs Training Program also advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the benefits of certain government programs to disadvantaged communities. Based on data from the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, approximately 97% of the communities selected to receive funding have proposed projects in historically underserved areas.

Brownfields Job Training  grants are made to nonprofits, local governments, and other organizations to recruit, train, and place unemployed and under-employed residents of areas affected by the presence of brownfield sites. Their graduates develop the skills needed to secure full-time, sustainable employment in various aspects of hazardous and solid waste management. All good, but not what I imagined infrastructure to be. I had thought that infrastructure money would go to infrastructure-  pipes and equipment- all the things that make up our infrastructure. Not job training programs.

Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure system is made up of 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that deliver drinking water to millions of people. There are more than 148,000 active drinking water systems in the nation, thought just 9% of all community water systems serve 78% of the population- over 257 million people. The rest of the nation is served by small water systems (about 8%) and private wells (about 14% of the population). There is a water main break every two minutes and an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water is lost each day to leaks and water main breaks.

Funding for drinking water infrastructure has not kept pace with the growing need to address the aging infrastructure. Despite the growing need for drinking water infrastructure, the federal government’s share of capital spending in the water sector fell from 63% in 1977 to 9% of total capital spending in 2017. This is just on tiny corner of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but an example of how money moves around the government into favored programs. I was hoping more of the infrastructure money would go to renewing our long neglected physical water infrastructure for future generations.

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