Advocacy

House Passes $1.2T Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Sending it to Biden’s Desk 

On Friday, November 5, 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, approving a signature part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. It will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, touching everything from bridges and roads to the nation’s broadband, water, and energy systems. The package marks one of the most significant investments in the country’s infrastructure since Congress responded to the Great Recession. It seeds new funding in the hopes of delivering urgently needed fixes to the country’s outdated inner-workings while setting the U.S. on track to tackle more intractable future challenges, including the fast-worsening climate crisis. The legislation includes several authorizing bills, including the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (S. 1931), Surface Transportation Investment Act (S. 2016), Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (S. 914), and the Energy Infrastructure Act (S. 2377), among others. In addition, the bill provides supplemental appropriations for many of these authorized programs, both existing and new. The infrastructure bill will cost $1.2 trillion over eight years, and offers more than $550 billion in new spending, including:

  • $110 billion toward roads, bridges and other much-needed infrastructure fix-ups across the country; $40 billion is new funding for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation and $17.5 billion is for major projects;
  • $73 billion for the country’s electric grid and power structures;
  • $66 billion for rail services;
  • $65 billion for broadband;
  • $55 billion for water infrastructure;
  • $21 billion in environmental remediation;
  • $47 billion for flooding and coastal resiliency as well as “climate resiliency,”;
  • $39 billion to modernize transit, the largest federal investment in public transit in history;
  • $25 billion for airports;
  • $17 billion in port infrastructure;
  • $11 billion in transportation safety programs;
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicles and EV charging;
  • $2.5 billion in zero-emission buses, $2.5 billion in low-emission buses, and $2.5 billion for ferries.

Drinking, Waste, and Stormwater

The bill appropriates $55 billion for various new water infrastructure programs. The following are some of the key programs authorized and, in some cases, appropriated by the bill:

Capitalization of State Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving Loan Programs

The bill provides distinct appropriations to capitalize the Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving Loan programs for different purposes.

Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program 

  • $11.713 billion to capitalize loan program for eligible purposes and $15 billion to capitalize loan program and be used to subsidize lead service pipe replacement. Forty-nine percent of funds for both buckets are for grants or forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities.
  • $4 billion to capitalize the loan program and be used to address emerging contaminants, including perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). Funds can be provided to applicants as forgivable loans or grants with no matching requirement.

Clean Water Revolving Loan Program

The bill appropriates $11.713 billion to capitalize loan program for eligible purposes. Forty-nine percent of funds can go to grants or forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities. The bill also provides $1 billion to capitalize loan program and be used to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS. Funds shall be for forgivable loans or grants with no matching requirement.

Emerging Contaminants

The bill makes $5 billion available for a grant to states to address emerging contaminants in disadvantaged communities. There is no matching requirement for the funds.

Underground Injection Control Grant

There is $50 million available for Underground Injection Control grants for activities.

Assistance to Small Disadvantaged Communities

The bill includes $250 million for competitive grants to states to distribute to small, disadvantaged communities for drinking water infrastructure improvements.

Reducing Lead in Drinking Water

The bill appropriates $500 million to replace lead drinking water service lines with priority going to disadvantaged communities. The bill includes $10 million for a Lead Inventory Utilization Grant Program for municipalities served by a community water system or a no transient non-community water system in which not less than 30 percent of the pipes are or are suspected to contain lead to inventory and carry out lead reduction projects. Priority is to be given to projects in disadvantaged communities.

Operational Sustainability of Small Public Water Systems

The bill establishes a grant program to improve the operational sustainability of small water systems through the identification and prevention of potable water loss due to leaks, breaks, and other metering or infrastructure failures. The term small system means a system that serves fewer than 10,000 people and is owned by a governmental entity, public corporation, nonprofit corporation, public trust, cooperative association, or Indian tribe. The federal share for grants will be 90 percent. The bill authorizes $50 million (over five years) and is subject to appropriation.

Midsize and Large Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Program

The bill authorizes $250 million for a grant program to plan, design, construct, implement, operate, and maintain programs or projects that increase resilience to natural hazards and extreme weather events or reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Eligible entities are public water systems that serve communities with populations of 10,000 or more. The bill requires EPA to award 50 percent of the funding to entities that serve populations greater than 10,000 and fewer than 100,000 and 50 percent to entities that serve populations greater than 100,000. The program’s funds are subject to appropriation.

Rural and Low-Income Water Assistance Pilot Program

Subject to the availability of funding, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator is directed to establish a pilot program within two years after the bill becomes law to award grants to entities to develop and implement programs that assist qualifying households with need in maintaining access to drinking water and wastewater treatment.

Wastewater Efficiency Grant Pilot Program

The bill authorizes $100 million for a new pilot program to award grants to owners or operators of publicly owned treatment works to carry out projects that create or improve waste-to-energy systems. The maximum grant is $4 million, with all funds subject to appropriation.

Pilot Program for Alternative Water Source Projects

The bill reauthorizes $125 million for the pilot program, which exists in current law. The bill expands eligibility to treatment of stormwater in addition to water and wastewater, subject to appropriation.

Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants

The bill reauthorizes $1.4 billion for this program that exists in current law whereby funds go to the states, with all funds subject to appropriation. The bill requires states to report to Congress on how they distributed grant funding.

Clean Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Program

The bill establishes a new grant program at EPA to increase resiliency of publicly owned treatment works against natural hazards and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Funds can be used for planning, design, or construction. The federal portion of the grant may not exceed 75 percent except grants to projects in small or disadvantaged communities can be for up to 90 percent of the costs. The bill authorizes $125 million to support this new program and is subject to appropriation.

Small Publicly Owned Treatment Works Efficiency Grant Programs

The bill requires EPA to establish a grant program within 180 days for small publicly owned treatment works (that serve a population of not more than 10,000 or are in a disadvantaged community) or nonprofits for the replacement or repair of equipment that improves water or energy efficiency of small publicly owned treatment works as identified in an efficiency audit. The program is an authorization and subject to appropriation.

Connection to Publicly Owned Treatment Works Grant Program

The bill authorizes $200 million and requires EPA to establish a competitive grant program to award grants to assist individuals in covering costs incurred by the individual in connecting the household to a publicly owned treatment works.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)

The bill authorizes $250 million and appropriates $75 million for the WIFIA program through which EPA makes loans and loan guarantees to water infrastructure projects. The bill eliminates the requirement for an applicant to obtain final rating opinion letters from two rating agencies and instead requires only one opinion letter. Of the $75 million appropriated, $64 million is for loans and loan guarantees for safety projects to maintain, upgrade, and repair dams identified in the inventory of dams with a primary owner type of state, local government, public utility, or private.

Stormwater Control Infrastructure Project Grants

The bill establishes a new competitive grant program for state and local government, local, regional, or other public entities that manage stormwater or wastewater resources or other water infrastructure to carry out stormwater control infrastructure projects that incorporate new and emerging but proven stormwater control technologies. EPA is required to prioritize applications submitted on behalf of a community that has municipal combined storm and sanitary sewers in the collection system of the community or is a small, rural, or disadvantaged community. The bill authorizes $50 million (over five years) and is subject to appropriation.

Bureau of Reclamation Water Programs 

The bill authorizes $8.3 billion for DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation to fund western water infrastructure projects. The Bureau of Reclamation has the authority to fund projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Funding authorizations and appropriations include:

Water Storage, Groundwater Storage, and Conveyance Projects

$1.15 billion is authorized and appropriated for grants of which $100 million is for small surface water and groundwater storage projects. This program funds feasibility studies and construction projects for large-scale projects that Congress authorized in prior law or this bill. The bill also requires the Bureau of Reclamation to establish a competitive grant program for small water storage and groundwater storage projects. Eligible projects must have water storage capacity of not less than 2,000 acre-feet and not more than 30,000 acre-feet and increase surface water or groundwater storage or convey water directly or indirectly to or from surface water or groundwater storage. The bill directs DOI to issue guidelines for feasibility studies within 60 days of enactment of the bill into law. Once a project sponsor completes a feasibility study, it can submit an application for construction funding to EPA. The maximum federal share is 25 percent of the total project cost or $30 million, whichever is less.

Water Recycling and Reuse Projects

The bill appropriates $450 million for a competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling and reuse projects. Eligible applicants are state and local governments, Indian tribes, water districts, wastewater districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority. Eligible projects are those that (1) reclaim and reuse municipal, industrial, domestic, or agricultural wastewater or (2) impaired groundwater or surface water and have a total cost of $500 million or more. EPA is required to consider water supply benefits to drought-stricken states. The bill directs the Bureau to prioritize projects that provide reliable water supply; are likely to increase water management flexibility; are regional; have multiple stakeholders; or provide multiple benefits. The federal share for projects is 25 percent. EPA is required to issue guidance on implementing the program within one year.

Dam Safety Program

The bill authorizes $500 million for the dam safety program authorized in accordance with the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978.

WaterSMART Grants

The bill appropriates an additional $400 million for WaterSmart grants of which $100 million is for projects that improve the condition of a natural feature or nature-based feature.

Multi-Benefit Projects to Improve Watershed Health

The bill appropriates $100 million for a new competitive grant program to design, implement, and monitor conservation outcomes of habitat restoration projects that improve watershed health in a river basin adversely affected by a Bureau of Reclamation water project. Funding is capped at 50 percent of project costs. Eligible applicants include a state, tribal, or local government, organizations with power or water delivery authority, a regional authority, or nonprofit conservation organization.

Federal Assistance for Groundwater Recharge, Aquifer Storage, and Water Substitution Projects

The bill authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation to provide technical and financial assistance for groundwater recharge projects, aquifer storage and recovery projects, or water source substitution for aquifer protection projects. Projects that have a total estimated cost of $500 million or more must be authorized for construction by an act of Congress.

*Article provided by WDBC advocacy consulting firm, Venn Strategies