Senate Dems introduce water bill in light of Flint crisis

Senate Dems introduce water bill in light of Flint crisis
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A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wendesday to invest in water infrastructure and remove lead from pipes around the country. 

The bill would pump $7 billion a year into water infrastructure repair work and lead programs through loans, grants and tax credits for states. It would boost funding for two major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean water programs, which members of both parties have said should receive new funding in light of the Flint, Mich., water crisis. 

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In a statement Wednesday, the Democrats, led by Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Democratic gains mark setback for Trump on Medicaid work requirements | Senate Dems give Warren 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder | Judge strikes Trump rule on health care 'conscience' rights Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE (D-Md.) said Flint was a driving force behind the new funding. The city of 100,000 has been suffering after officials switched the city’s water supply from a municipal facility to the Flint River, where corroded pipes have increased lead levels in drinking water.

The incident has promoted new scruitiny for American water infrastructure, which has received a “D” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

“What happened in Flint never should have happened,” Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOvernight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging Democrats ask for investigation of Forest Service grant related to logging in Tongass National Forest Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-Mich.) said in a statement. “This crisis has brought awareness about the dangers of lead in other communities in Michigan and across the country and a sense of urgency about the important investments needed so families have safe, clean drinking water.”

The bill introduced Wednesday is sponsored by 28 Democrats. It features a host of reforms to clean water laws, creates a grant program for reducing lead in tap water and increases funding for EPA state funding programs for clean drinking water. 

The Obama administration has proposed cutting an EPA clean water fund program — which provides loans for water infrastructure improvements — by 30 percent in his 2017 budget, a move both Democrats and Republicans have slammed during budget hearings this week. Obama has also proposed increasing a separate drinking water fund next year.

“We urgently need to minimize the risks to our communities and our children. Urban, rural and suburban neighborhoods – in every community in America – all rely on safe, clean water. Our health and our livelihoods will continue to be in danger if we do not act swiftly and decisively,” Cardin said in a statement. 

Senate Democrats tried earlier this year to attach to an energy reform bill a $250 million water infrastructure improvement fund. They couldn’t overcome a hold from Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Senators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech MORE (R-Utah), who was concerned about the way the aid was paid for, and the energy bill passed on Wednesday without the funding.