Menendez, Booker, Pascrell: Flint a Wake Up Call for America to Invest in Aging Water Infrastructure

Menendez, Booker, Pascrell: Flint a Wake Up Call for America to Invest in Aging Water Infrastructure

Legislation will spur capital investment in crumbling water systems, ensure reliability, safety of NJ’s, nation’s water supply


HACKENSACK, NJ – U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) today outlined legislation they will introduce in both Houses of Congress to address New Jersey’s and the nation’s aging water infrastructure, while creating jobs and economic opportunity.

“Flint has taught us all that ignoring our aging water infrastructure has dire consequences,” said Sen. Menendez. “We’ve under-invested in our infrastructure, certainly we’ve underinvested in water systems, and now we’re paying the price. These systems are old and badly degraded. Many of them are waiting to fail, and they need to be fixed. We can’t sit back, do nothing, and fail to address the public health dangers of an aging infrastructure.”

“The fact that we are jeopardizing the health of our children and families in communities like Flint due to lack of adequate investment in our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure is simply reprehensible,” said Sen. Booker. “This legislation is one step to help finance critical water infrastructure upgrades by facilitating private investment in projects that will create jobs, spur economic growth and most importantly protect the health and safety of our communities.”

"It's not just burst mains we need to worry about: About a quarter of the treated water in this country is lost as it travels to our homes and businesses," Rep. Pascrell said. "Fixing these aging systems is a pressing need and upgrades can help alleviate threats to public health and also create needed construction jobs throughout the country."

The Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2016 would stimulate billions of dollars in private-sector investment to fund much-needed, large-scale repairs and upgrades to our water systems. The bill modifies the federal tax code to remove caps on the issuances of government private activity bonds (PABs) for water and wastewater projects. Currently, annual volume cap exemptions exist for PAB financing of airports, seaports and certain intercity rail projects.

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell have introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act in each of the past four Congresses. They agreed to reintroduce the measure, now with Sen. Booker as a cosponsor, amidst the increased attention on our nation’s water infrastructure needs following the Flint, Mich. public health crisis. In 2012, Sen. Menendez successfully pushed a PAB amendment through the Senate as part of the MAP-21 transportation bill, but Republican leaders pulled it from the final House version.

Communities across the nation face major challenges over the next 20 years to replace their nearly century-old water and wastewater infrastructure, but due to mounting state and local government budget deficits, capital investment for such projects will be difficult.

"The situation in Flint, Mich., shows how important it is that Suez is making the critical investments we need to ensure the water we provide to our customers in New Jersey is safe,” said Suez North America Executive VP Robert Iacullo. “A water main breaks every two minutes in the United States. The nation’s water infrastructure, especially the pipes underneath the ground we walk on, is aging and in need of significant investment. We at Suez know that cities across New Jersey—and across our nation—need high levels of investment for water infrastructure. That is why we support the swift passage of this important legislation.”

“The recent attention to the problems with America’s water infrastructure underscores the need to address them. All over America cities are facing steep challenges with regard to aging pipes, population growth, and severe drought. This legislation would provide a big and immediate step in the right direction. Lifting the state volume cap on private activity bonds that fund water and wastewater projects would open the door for more public-private partnerships and inject significant private capital in infrastructure markets across the country.”

“With the volatile nature of federal water infrastructure funding, it is vital that state and local governments have access to all the tools to better fix the country’s aging infrastructure and meet the water challenges of tomorrow,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, Chief Executive Officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “This legislation could unlock billions in private money for the economy, public health, and the environment.”

“Associated Equipment Distributors and its members commend Senators Crapo and Menendez for working in a bipartisan manner to address our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure,”  said Associated Equipment Distributors President & CEO Brian McGuire.  “The legislation will address years of underfunding in one of our nation’s greatest resources—clean water.  The plight of the nation’s water infrastructure network grows worse every day. The construction equipment industry looks forward to working with you to invest in our nation’s water infrastructure to create jobs, grow the economy, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.”

The federal lawmakers today visited Suez’s maintenance yard in Hackensack to make the announcement. The company maintains PABs would significantly reduce the cost of infrastructure projects, allowing it to pass savings on to its customers.

The senators and congressman also pushed for federal programs that support public water system infrastructure repairs and upgrades to have greater funding.

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