Washington Weekly: October 20, 2021

Washington Weekly: October 20, 2021

The Past Week in D.C.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a federal “PFAS Road Map,” announcing  that it will work to set mandatory standards limiting the number of PFAS chemicals allowable in drinking water, designate many of them as hazardous chemicals under the federal Superfund law, and other steps (other federal agencies like Department of Defense need to step it up!) 

Speaking of PFAS, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell will be joining a virtual town hall event on Thursday at 6:30pm that Michigan LCV is hosting with the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network and FLOW (For Love of Water) focused on the PFAS contamination in the Grand Traverse region — register here

Last Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced plans to develop large-scale wind farms along almost all of the U.S. coastline. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that her agency plans to lease federal waters in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Gulf to the wind power developers by 2025.

Build Back Better Act update: Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) continue to undermine provisions in the budget reconciliation effort, such as Manchin’s opposition to the important Clean Energy Performance Program, leading negotiators to write up alternatives into the bill. We remain optimistic that there is still a path for the Build Back Better agenda to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, and reports following key meetings at the White House yesterday indicate that our congressional champions are also hopeful.

Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?

The important climate provisions in the budget reconciliation bill aren’t the only important investments at risk of being left on the cutting room floor. Michigan LCV and our partners continue to demand that critical environmental justice measures be included in the Build Back Better Act, such as policies to address toxic pollution (see the full list of priority environmental justice investments included in the House’s bill).

One of those absolutely critical investments is to prevent lead-in-drinking water contamination. Thankfully, President Biden has prioritized $45 billion in lead pipe removal across the country, representing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address this problem NOW and not wait for things to inevitably get worse. 

As the residents of Flint, Michigan know all too well, disinvestment in public drinking water and not prioritizing health in decision-making can yield disastrous results for people, especially children. Like many states, Michigan is dealing with multiple water crises. The cities of Benton Harbor, Hamtramck, and several others continue to struggle with dangerous levels of lead found in public drinking water systems, in homes, and in schools, leaving children at risk of lifelong challenges from lead poisoning (there is no safe level of lead exposure).

Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak wrote at length about Benton Harbor last week in her weekly “Three Things Thursday” (check that out here). Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Benton Harbor community leaders and advocates, we are now seeing increased attention on the problem and actions from government at all levels to ramp up solutions like bottled water distribution, a study on filter effectiveness, and money from the 2022 state budget going to lead service line removal (with a commitment by Governor Whitmer to get all lead lines out in 18 months).  

Despite the all-hands-on-deck approach now driving the response in Benton Harbor, we need more action — and more investment — to repair and replace our aging and degraded water infrastructure across Michigan. Benton Harbor’s lead crisis highlights just how important it is for Congress to pass a budget reconciliation bill that lives up the Biden Administration’s Justice40 commitment to deliver at least 40% of the benefits in Build Back Better agenda to low-income and communities of color. 

Lawmakers at all levels now have the chance to deliver. The state legislature and Whitmer Administration are in active talks about how to spend supplemental funding, and water infrastructure is high on the list of priorities. In Congress, the U.S. House version of the Build Back Better Act is chock-full of critical provisions to protect our water and address climate change, including $30 billion for lead service line removal (secured thanks to the efforts of several members of Michigan’s delegation). The bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate includes $15 billion for lead service line removal. 

We are partnering with groups and individuals like never before to elevate stories and information from right here in Michigan to demonstrate the urgent need for elected officials to take action and Build Back Better…for us. Many of those stories include some of the frontline leaders, like Reverend Edward Pinkney and Sylvia Orduño, that are fighting for clean, affordable drinking water every day — you can check them out here at our Build Back Better For Us storyteller page. You could also attend a live streamed event called “Imagine a Day Without Water,” hosted by We The People Of Detroit, along with other allied water activists from Flint, Benton Harbor, Oscoda, (and more) — you may register here.

I hope you can join together with us to call for Congress to pass a strong version of the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill together, as soon as possible. I believe that we will win and begin to eliminate toxic pollution once and for all. 

A Deeper Dive

In recent years, more and more satellites have gone into orbit for the purpose of locating and measuring greenhouse gas emissions on earth. This technology has shown that many companies and countries consistently miscount or misrepresent how much fuel-based methane they emit. Check out this interactive article from the Washington Post to see how the Copernicus Sentinel 5-P satellite recently detected an undisclosed methane leak in Russia as one example of how satellite technology is helping to fight climate change. 

On Saturday, 10/23, Michigan LCV and a number of partners are holding a Build Back Better rally with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell at 1pm at ACCESS Social Services (2651 Saulino Ct Dearborn, MI 48120). Please feel free to attend or spread the word! This rally comes on the heels of events this past Monday featuring Congresswoman Tlaib and others and generated media coverage on the importance of passing the full Build Back Better Act.

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